By Scott Feist | 09/05/2013
The Sacramento River is unique. Everybody thinks of California as Hollywood and warm, soft beaches, and really there’s a whole other side of it. Northern California is a beautiful place that hosts some of the largest runs of king salmon in the world. Besides the beautiful scenery, fishing can be spectacular. There’s heart-stopping, big kings here, which are a lot of fun to catch.
While all cured eggs work to a certain degree on The Sac, there’s a specific egg I’ve found works best. For years I’ve tried endless colors and cures, but I’ve found an egg that consistently produces. That egg is engineered with Fire Cure, BorX O Fire and Fire Power. What I want in that egg is scent and color. The Pautzke lineup has done that for me. Texture, scent and color are vital.
The Sacramento River various likes most rivers. We have fluctuating flows, but all in all it’s a gravely, cobblestone bottom that eats up eggs. When it comes to quality eggs that are going to last cast after you need to cure them correctly or you’ll be let down.
If you drift an egg through one pass and it’s already white and washed out the egg is useless. I want an egg that can sustain many drifts, until it’s either bit or truly time to change it out. I expect to get at least 15 minutes of soak time with each piece of bait. If I don’t get that my eggs aren’t cured correctly.
I’ve seen guys in Alaska and places in the Northwest where they use golf ball size chucks of roe. We don’t do that here. The size baits depend on if we are back bouncing or drifting, but I never use anything larger than a quarter. The golden rule is when back-bouncing you want a quarter size and when drifting roll it back to a dime.
And, those gooey, wet, soapy eggs aren’t made for this river. Do one drift with a wet, drippy egg on this river and it’s gone. Our flows, rocks and volume would confiscate it. I need an egg that’s denser and cured tighter and you’ll see here how we create that.
My curing process isn’t the easiest out there and requires a lot of time and effort, but you need good bait on this river to consistently catch fish. I get asked a lot why is there so many steps in my process and my response is you need a good egg to catch good fish.
Sure you can cut corners and there are fasters ways to produce a better egg, but I’ve yet to find a better method for our fishery. I’ve tried the shorter cures, and sure they will catch fish, but you can never get the quality egg you get with this recipe. It’s almost like a fine wine; age and time matters.
The Feisty Cali Style Cure
Step 1: Bleed The Fish Right Away
First off, most importantly, is egg management. This is the process from when you bonk the salmon over the head to when you get it home. Bleeding your fish is vital. There’s different ways to do it. Personally, I cut both sides of the gills all the way through and let the fish bleed out. When I clean the fish at the end of the day I like to pull my eggs out and roll them in paper towels before I travel home. This helps reduce the amount of moisture in the eggs.
Step 2: Butterfly
When I get home and I want to start curing the eggs I cut out any blood and butterfly them open.
Step 3: Add Lots Of Krill
After they are butterflied, I’ll shake Fire Power (krill powder) over them before I add the cure. Note that there is Fire Power is Fire Cure, but I like to add more. Salmon are driven to bite krill based eggs.
Step 4: Time To Sprinkle on Fire Cure
I sprinkle Red FireCure in between each flap, coating the eggs completely. Make sure to do front side and skein side.
Step 5: Put Skeins In Jar
Now place the eggs in a jar, seal the top and write the date on it.
Step 6: Rotate The Jar Daily
I’ll let them sit three days in the fridge, rotating them twice daily, once in the morning and the other in the evening. This keeps the juices flowing, moving around and doesn’t let anything get stagnant. I want the juice flowing into the eggs. It’s okay to wait for a forth day. The longer, the better. I never pull them before three days unless you absolutely have to.
Step 7: Let ‘em Dry
Drain excess juice out of the jar. Lay the eggs on a paper towel, or screen, and let the egg dry for an hour, or so. Depending on temperature this can vary from a half-hour to multiple hours. The longer you leave them out, the drier they’ll get. I like a drier egg on the Sac. If I know these are going to be all drifting eggs I’ll let them sit multiple hours.
Step 8: Reapply Fire Power
After they’ve dried some, I’ll re-blast them with Fire Power. I can’t stress enough how important krill is in this fishery.
Step 9: Add BorX O Fire
I don’t just use Fire Cure. I double cure my eggs in order to make them firmer, which enables them to remain more durable. Now I take Natural BorX O Fire and shake it through the eggs like I did with the Fire Cure. This is also going to help dry the eggs out and re-cure as well.
Step 10: Make A Burrito
Now I roll two to three skeins in what I like to call a burrito.
When I have all my eggs in burritos, I’ll place them in Ziplocs and date them. The date is crucial. They need to be in burritos in the fridge for three days. This is a six-day minimum cure with 10 days being optimal.
Note: Usually after the first or second day of being in the burrito you’ll notice the paper towels have absorbed a lot of moisture. I’ll do a diaper change and apply new paper towels. At the end of three days they are ready to fish.
Editor’s Note: Pautzke pro Scott Feist operates Feisty Fish Guide Service on California’s Sacramento River. For info on his trips please visit http://www.feistyfish.net/.