Even upon return to their native stream steelhead like to eat. Their appetite doesn’t shut down because unlike salmon, steelhead don’t die after spawning. They are always looking for that next protein source. It’s also true that steelhead love prawns, sand shrimp, roe, squid, etc.
Meanwhile, when you combine these baits success skyrockets. For example, an egg-shrimp combo is one of my favorites. I’m going to show you how to create the perfect steelhead bait. This bait looks good, smells great and has that gummy consistency that steelhead bait needs.
Eggs from small to medium size steelhead make great steelhead baits. Sand shrimp or ghost shrimp (depending on what part of the country you are in) can be either fresh or frozen. Pictured above is a sand shrimp I had in the freezer. A few of them are freezer burned (notice the dark colored shrimp). Always remove any shrimp that don’t look good. You don’t want to add bad smelling bait to the cure.
As I always advocate, remove all the blood from your skein. Do this by placing a small cut in the vein along the bottom side of the skein. Then with the flat side of your scissors push the blood along the vein to the small cut. Patting a paper towel on the blood will absorb/remove the blood.
Next butterfly your skeins by cutting laterally along the egg side of the skein. Open the skein up so it lays flat.
The skeins pictured above are blood free and butterflied. Notice how flat they lay with the skin side down. These eggs are ready for cure.
Now lets create the sand shrimp slurry. Do this by crushing or cutting up the sand shrimp. Before you crush or cut them remove the claws. The claws are hard shell and add no oil or scent to the mixture.
If the sand shrimp are still slightly frozen smash and crush them with a large spoon. If they are fresh cut them into small pieces with a pair of scissors. Either way, the smaller the pieces the better. Take your time and make them small.
Next, pour in a small amount of Pautzke’s Fire Brine. Use the same color of brine as the BorX O Fire that you are curing the eggs with. After adding the brine shake one tablespoon of Fire Power (krill powder) into the slurry. Mix thoroughly. You want the oils from the sand shrimp and the krill powder evenly mixed in the slurry.
Place the prepared skeins into a tub, egg side up. Then sprinkle on the BorX O Fire. There are four colors to choose from. Today we are using orange.
With the skeins in the tub and the BorX O Fire applied pour on the sand shrimp slurry. Pour it evenly over the eggs.
Next pour additional Orange Fire Brine so the eggs are submerged in the wet brine. The combination of BorX O Fire and Fire Brine gives the eggs a gummy texture once the curing process is complete.
With a gloved hand gently stir the eggs in the brine. Make sure the BorX O Fire, Fire Brine and sand shrimp are mixed evenly.
Place a lid on the tub and leave it at room temperature for eight hours. Then place it in the fridge for 12-16 hours. The entire soak time is anywhere from 18-24 hours. Then the eggs are cured.
Once the eggs are cured place them in a colander to drain off the excess liquid.
Finally, place the cured skeins into plastic tubs lined with paper towels. You can stack a couple layers in each tub. Then place them into the refrigerator for a couple days. This firms up the eggs and gets them to that gummy consistency. Now the eggs are ready to fish or freeze for a later date.
If you plan to fish them cut into bait-size pieces and stack them on a paper towel lined plastic container so they are prepped and ready to fish. Also, pre-cutting them and having them in the fridge for a day or two firms them up so they are more durable.
The next time you plan to cure some eggs for steelhead give the sand shrimp wet brine a try. The results may surprise you.
Editor’s Note: Former radio host, guest speaker and seminar presenter Duane Inglin is a fixture in Northwest salmon/steelhead fishing. He spends more time in The Bait Lab than most.