By Chris Shaffer | 10/19/2011
Floating down Western New York’s Niagara River, with the bow positioned on the US/Canada border and the smell of cured skein embedded in Ted Kessler’s boat, it didn’t take long for the veteran guide to decide what he’d be using to catch king salmon on this cool fall day.
“We are going to be using some of our darker eggs today. These salmon have been going after the darker colored eggs lately,” Kessler told me.
Kessler has a skein of cured eggs sitting on white paper towels on the floor, but I couldn’t find the dark ones.
“You aren’t talking about those, are you?” I asked him. “Those are the lightest colored dark eggs I’ve ever seen. Those aren’t dark. They look orange to me.”
To anglers in Western NY, these eggs are considered dark.
Kessler, a Pautzke pro staffer, chuckled.
“Come on. Light?” he said. “Those are the darkest eggs I’ve used in a long time. The guides around here laugh at me because my eggs are so dark!”
Like most river salmon guides, Kessler is an egg junkie. He takes pride in his eggs and shows them off the same way a child would his favorite birthday present.
“You really don’t think those are dark?” he asked me.
Coming from the West Coast, Kessler’s orange eggs looked pale to me. In fact, they were almost dry; the opposite I’m used to seeing when I fish for salmon on the Smith River with Mick Thomas, the Humptulips in Washington with Bill Swann and Duane Inglin or with Andy Martin on the Chetco River in Oregon. Kessler’s eggs looked like something we’d toss to a steelhead.
“Are there steelhead in the river yet?” I asked.
“No. Why?” Kessler said.
Kessler’s Western New York mentality is foreign to most anglers who salmon fish from Alaska, through British Columbia on down to Northern California. A dry, small piece of pale orange skein wouldn’t be the bait of choice in the West. Meanwhile, his concoctions work wonders in the Niagara River, where adverse conditions have made salmon fishing somewhat of a challenge this fall.
Salmon Fishing on Western NY’s Niagara River
In late September and early October bites were tougher to generate than one might expect. Of the dozen boats on the river drifting bait with us most didn’t get bit due to warm water. We managed to go three for six with Fire Cured and BorX O Fire cured skein, top boat that day.
“These eggs are a medium to a dark for what we use around here. Because of the clear water the salmon want an orange to lighter colored egg. I hate to say natural because they aren’t natural, but a lighter orange to pinky colored egg is what works,” says Kessler, owner of Rivermaster Fishing Charters. “They don’t want a red or a cherry bomb colored egg. Those dark red, purple eggs and the red eggs that you use out West generally don’t work here. And, it all stems back to the clear water.”
Orange, nevertheless, isn’t the only color Kessler uses. In fact (as shown here in the photo) Kessler invests his time curing three types of eggs; a batch with
BorX O Fire, another in Fire Cure and the third a lengthy process that combines both.
Top to bottom (Fire Cured eggs, BorX O Fire Cured eggs, Fire Cured/ Wet Brined and BorX O Fire Cured Eggs)
“I need to be ready for changing conditions. Sometimes the water will get a little cloudier and sometimes it will be clearer than the day before,” explains Kessler. “It will change day to day. If the water is gin clear they’ll want a light, pale egg and when it’s green they’ll want a darker shade of the pinkish/orange.”
Kessler’s Speciality: Fire Cured/ Wet Brined and BorX O Fire Cured Eggs
Kessler’s combination of Fire Cure and BorX O Fire would confuse many (and will be covered in my next blog) but he considers it a necessary process to remain dialed in. He accomplishes this feat with normal Fire Cure steps prior to placing them in a wet brine. When removed from the wet brine he lightly rolls them in BorX O Fire to dry them out. (The end result is what you see in the above photo.)
“It makes them a drier egg. The drier egg makes them milk out less and stay that pale color longer for the clear water we have,” he says.
And so we ask, what color are you eggs?
Pautzke Pro Staffer and guide Ted Kessler of Rivermaster Fishing Charters shows off a Niagara River king he caught on Fire Cured eggs.
Note: Chris Shaffer is the Director of Operations at Pautzke Bait Company. To learn more about Ted Kessler of Rivermaster Fishing Charters please visit www.rivermastercharters.com or call (716) 725-8955