By: Mike Ainsworth
The rain is finally falling in Washington! This means it’s time to start curing eggs for fall salmon and winter steelhead. While many factors lead to having quality eggs I believe anglers would have better eggs if they didn’t overlook the crucial care of eggs leading up to the curing process. To achieve a great cured egg for future fishing it’s important to preserve the eggs before curing.
Catch a salmon. Keep in mind, this is a pink salmon year. They are willing bitters and yield a great egg for salmon and steelhead.
Bleed and ice your fish. If you are going to clean your fish at the water’s edge keep a clean, dry container or Ziploc to put your eggs in. And, keep them in a cooler with ice for your trip home.
Follow this simple, but effective egg cure recipe for a perfect egg every time.
Proper Pre Cure Care:
Make sure to bleed your fish before it dies. This is achieved by cutting the fish’s gills, thus allowing the salmon to bleed out. This will keep blood from flowing into the skeins of the eggs. Some people like to hit the fish over the head before doing so. This is fine, but try not to go too crazy with bat killing the fish. You do still want the heart beating so it pumps the fish dry of blood when you cut its gills. The gills are like major arteries. Cutting them will empty the fish’s body of blood while the heart is still beating. However, if you hit the fish too hard with a bat or club this will kill the fish resulting in less blood loss when cutting the gills.
Consequently, some anglers don’t believe that blood in the eggs is a game changer. I prefer to error on the side of caution and hold faith that at least some fish do not react well to lots of blood in the eggs. In addition, this is an easy step to do while on the water to produce a better- cured egg.
Now that you have a properly bled the salmon there will usually still be a little blood left over in the skein. This is easily removed by cutting the end of the egg sac (or cutting them in half) and then using the back of your scissors to push it down the vein onto a paper towel, which will absorb the egg’s blood.
Cut & Cure:
Cut your egg skein into quarters, or thirds, to allow for better egg cure absorption. For the past few years when curing salmon eggs I have been doing a 70/30 blend of BorX O Fire and Fire Cure.
I prefer more borax to sulfites. Keep in mind you can always add more sulfites later down the road if you feel it’s needed. I have I found that steelhead do not prefer a heavily sulfite cured egg as much.
In addition to the BorX O Fire and Fire Cure I like to add Fire Brine. This results in a wetter egg, which I like for added movement in the water. The Fire Brine makes for a much more moist and plump egg.
Especially in the PNW the kicker is Fire Power (powdered krill). Pacific salmon and steelhead eat krill, which is why I add the Fire Power in my egg cures. It can also be sprinkled on the morning of your fishing trip.
Add all these ingredients into a Ziploc, seal the bag and tumble thoroughly to allow the mixture into all the nooks and crannies of the eggs. Then place in the fridge to keep cool and allow the cure to work. I tumble the mixture every hour, or so, to allow a thorough coating on the eggs. Typically, I allow the eggs to soak for at least 24 hours, but I’ve also fished them the next day with an overnight soak and caught fish. Follow these easy steps with your favorite Pautzke colors to achieve a great egg for this upcoming fall and winter fisheries.
Editor’s Note: Mike Ainsworth operates First Light Guide Service. For more info on his Western Washington guided trips please visit https://firstlightguideservice.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/First-Light-Guide-Service-465494153638629/.