By Josh Choronzey | 10/18/2013
I love October. Not for the same reasons as many of my West Coast American friends, however. For me, as a Great Lakes steelhead junkie, October brings about the beginning of my steelhead season. While the Pautzke Fire Blog has been hot with fall salmon topics, I have been busy perfecting the perfect egg approaches for early season steelhead here in Southern Ontario.
Pautzke brass Chris Shaffer has been a busy man as of late. The continual flow of email requests from the “Shafdog” asking that I pen a Great Lakes Fall Salmon blog has fallen on deaf ears. I do not chase Chinooks in Great Lakes rivers often. In my neck of the woods, Chinooks enter the majority of our river systems stale, dark and usually off the bite.
Instead, I spend late September and early October on the hunt for the freshest chromers on Lake Huron, and they have arrived early this year with some heavy rainfall over the past few weeks. My home river is raging as I write this, slowly on the drop from a major rainstorm that has opened the flood gates to major pushes of fall steelhead.
Nothing compares to the tug of an early fall chromer hooked in the big water flows of my local river (the Saugeen). I have been chasing steelhead for two decades, and no fish can go ballistic like an October chromer, fresh in the river after spending a season feeding in the big water. The term “having my ass handed to me” is often muttered from my lips during this time of year. Hooking bullet chrome steelies on centerpin float gear during their early arrival is like latching onto the bumper of a Nascar at Daytona…HOT. This is an addicting time for me, and the only rehab is more time on the river.
No matter where you are across the Great Lakes, there are hot steelhead making an appearance at a river near you. Erie, Lake Ontario, Huron, Superior and Michigan all have rivers that begin to see numbers of catchable steelhead this time of year. These early arrivals also coincide with the largest portion of local salmon runs. This means big chromers are normally gorging on fresh salmon roe that is free drifting downriver in the current. For Great Lakes steelhead (and in my area of Owen Sound, Ontario), salmon eggs are the number one item on the menu right now. For that reason, my early season presentations are meant to mimic the deluge of roe that is blowing about in our local rivers.
Early fall water conditions usually mean low and clear flows on my home rivers. Rainfall events bring run-off and some color, but most systems drop and clear quickly this time of year. This forces local anglers to present baits that mimic the real deal: fresh eggs. For my October chrome smashing, I depend on Chinook roe cured in Natural Pautzke BorX o’ Fire. 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 Owen Sound, Southern Ontario and anywhere in the Great Lakes.
The Steelhead Addict Choronzey Cure
- Start with fresh eggs.
On the Great Lakes, we tie and fish “bags” not chunks of roe, which is common out West. Therefore, I catch and kill late summer Chinooks while trolling the big water and save the skeins. Skeins are then scraped by a spoon or with a screen (see Kyle Bucks technique here https://www.pautzke.com/fireblog_read.php?read=99). This scraping technique separates the eggs into a single form to be tied in bags.
2. Let Em Dry
After I have scraped my Chinook skeins, I transfer the eggs to a paper towel and allow them to air dry for 10-15 minutes. This removes some extra moisture, which will help the cut down the curing time.
3. Add the cure.
After the eggs have dried for a short time I begin to add the Natural BorX o’Fire. Each skein worth of eggs receives roughly 2 tablespoons of cure. That isn’t much, mainly because the eggs are now in single form, without the membrane, which soaks up lots of cure. I dust the eggs, like sprinkling sugar on berries. I spoon the eggs around, ensuring each one receives the cure.
- More Dry Time
Once the eggs have been sprinkled, I allow them to air-dry further on paper towel. You will notice that the shells on the eggs begin to toughen up. Depending on how moist the eggs are and how much cure you added, the drying process my take up to an hour.
Once the eggs appear to be “dry”, you can roll them around with your fingers to see if they are no longer sticky. Sticky eggs are NOT what you are looking for with this process. I like a dry egg for my early season chrome. Once they are dry, I transfer the eggs to small Ziplocs as the curing process is now done. At this point, I begin to tie my bags.
- Tie Em Up.
For early season steelhead, I tie my Natural BorX o’ Fire eggs in Redwing scarf material. I like the natural cure because the steelhead I am targeting are keying in on eggs fresh off the redd. Hot colored eggs come into play later in the fall and in high stained waters. My “bags” usually only incorporate a few eggs (say 3 to 6 Chinook eggs) in order to keep my presentation on the minimal and realistic.
I tie bags in peach, white and soft pink scarf. These eggs can withstand the abuse of the heavy flows I fish them in. I do not have to worry about breaking eggs and having to re-bait on a regular basis.
Editor’s Note: Josh Choronzey lives in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada and would rather steelhead fish than eat. His passion is chasing chrome.