By: Dustin Slinker
We are well into ice fishing season in North America and I continue to load up on bait. When packing my gear before setting out on an adventure to target multiple species I make a trip to the grocery store and pick up uncooked shell on tail on shrimp from the seafood section. Brined shrimp is my go-to ice fishing bait. Surprising to some almost any fish caught beneath the ice eats shrimp. I use shrimp more than eggs and worms because it stays on the hooks longer and you can catch multiple fish on the same bait after brining it.
Even with the success it brings not everyone ice fishes with brined shrimp. Meanwhile, I don’t hit the ice without it. Why? Brining shrimp gives me several advantages: other anglers haven’t discovered the success with it, I can accumulate several different colors of shrimp, which helps bring in curious fish and it makes the shrimp more durable. Having bait that lasts longer and gives the shrimp vibrant bright color is critical to success.
Brining shrimp couldn’t be simpler. I prefer to brine shrimp in Fire Brine because it’s easy to use. If you follow this brine process properly the brine cures the entire shrimp, meaning from the shell to the center of the meat. In fact, the color doesn’t wash out even after long soaks beneath the ice. The end result is valuable to any ice angler.
It’s important to have a few colors of Fire Brined shrimp. We never know what color is going to grab the fish’s interest. Once you find a particular color that is working well you can switch to that color. Consequently, when that bites turns off you can switch to a different color of Fire Brine shrimp. Hopefully, that extends the bite. I normally bring a Tupperware of Natural, Pink, Red, Orange and Chartreuse Fire Brine shrimp. Achieving these UV colors (all but natural are UV) couldn’t be easier.
Fire Brine Made Simple
Step1: Got Shrimp?
Head to the grocery store and purchase uncooked shrimp. This works with salad and other types of shrimp, too, but I prefer the larger shrimp.
Step 2: Thaw
I prefer to thaw them before brining. I think the brine absorbs better through the entire shrimp when it’s thawed. If you are short on time you can put the shrimp in the Fire Brine frozen. The brine will absorb into frozen shrimp, but it may take a little longer.
Step 3: Brine
Place shrimp into a container. Add enough Fire Brine to submerge the shrimp. What color you choose is personal preference. They are all effective.
Step 4: Magic Time
Seal the container. Then let it sit in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. This allows the brine to fully penetrate the shrimp and paves the way for rich colors. The longer the shrimp soaks the deeper the more vibrant the color.
Rigging For Ice Fishing
The size of shrimp you use should reflect the size of the fish you are targeting. When chasing pike I use the entire shrimp. On the other hand, for char and trout I’ll cut the shrimp into thumbnail size pieces. You can use the shrimp on jig heads, tip them on tube body jigs or on a size four hook. This is personal preference, too. Experiment and see what works for you and the fish that you’re targeting.
Editor’s Note: Dustin Slinker operates The Bait Shack in Anchorage, Alaska. For more info on his guide services please visit https://www.facebook.com/thebaitshack.