By Josh Choronzey | 02/02/2015
It’s curing season in the Great Lakes and a perfect time to recap how to cure winter steelhead skeins. This method is effective everywhere in the Great Lakes and can be used on the West Coast, too, even though most anglers out West fish pieces of skein. There are many ways to cure eggs. I like this cure because it’s fast and can get me fishing again quickly. Others use processes that take more than a day. Those work, too, but the below method works great for me.
The first key to good cured eggs is the egg itself. It’s important to know that very immature eggs in the skein may not cure that well if you scrape them off the membrane. These young eggs will break apart and look like creamed corn. Also, ripe/loose eggs are very hard to cure because they have a solid shell and will not accept a cure. Winter steelhead eggs (December-March) that are in the skein scrape easily and cure the best.
There are many other factors that contribute to a quality end result. I use Pautzke BorX O Fire exclusively for steelhead. The cure works great, but the eggs must be in good shape to start with to be a viable curing product. Consider the following points and you’re on the path to a good, cured egg.
*Bleed your egg-laden fish immediately after you kill it
*Remove the skeins, do not let water touch them
*Take the eggs home and scrape the eggs off the membrane with a spoon
If you follow the following steps properly you’ll come up with great looking eggs. Mind you, if you deviate from the steps laid out, the eggs will not turn out as they should. The steps to curing and creating the perfect bait are so simple it is silly. Here is my how to procedure to serving up some fine steelhead baits for the early season here in the Great Lakes.
I lot of guys on the West Coast like curing eggs and fishing whole skeins. Meanwhile, here in the Great Lakes we scrape our eggs. What this means is we want to get the eggs that are tight to the membrane into a single form off the skein. The easiest way to accomplish this is to take the skein while there’s still some moisture on it and massage the skein with a spoon. You’ll want the membrane, which is holding the eggs together, to face you and the eggs touching the paper towel. Then I’m going to rub the membrane with the back of the spoon, which releases the eggs from the skein.
Once I start scraping them off I transfer them to paper towels and file them into a single layer. This takes some of the moisture and blood off. Although you will get the odd clump at this point the eggs will now be in a single form.
Note: Others use a screen to remove the eggs from the skein. See Kyle Buck’s technique here https://www.pautzke.com/fireblog_read.php?read=99.
Now that we have the eggs off the skein, I’m going to explain how I like to cure them with Pautzke’s BorX O Fire. BorX O Fire comes in an array of colors and the great thing is you can mix and match your colors to produce whatever lethal combination your local river likes. I use several of the colors, but natural is one of my favorites.
Curing these eggs with this cure does several things. It’s going to set the egg, make them less sticky to tie, provide them with bite stimulants, drive the fish crazy and on top of that these eggs are going to last in your fridge for months.
I start by taking a spoon and filling it with the cure before sprinkling the cure on the eggs, just as you would sprinkle strawberries with sugar. Ideally, you want all the eggs in the batch covered in the cure so feel free to spoon them around to ensure each egg has enough cure on it. You don’t need much, but feel free to apply more if there are eggs that haven’t been exposed to the cure yet. Keep in mind, this is a borax based cure, so you can’t ruin the eggs like you can with a sulfite based cure (like FireCure). BorX O Fire is more forgiving.
It will look like white on the eggs, but this natural cure is going to do what I want it to, which not dye the egg at all. I use natural when I’m fishing low and clear water and want to give the eggs a natural presentation. Natural eggs are best when the water is on the drop and we aren’t looking to fire up the fish too much.