By: Duane Inglin
It’s almost fall in the Pacific Northwest and salmon have started entering rivers in effort to reach spawning grounds. Typically, once salmon reach our rivers they have mature eggs. Veteran egg curers know mature eggs can be loose in the skein. This is because the skin surrounding the eggs has started to break down as salmon creep closer to spawning. The good news is when cured properly mature eggs fish well.
Take a look at the photo below: this is a tight skein exhibited by the amount of skin that still surrounds the eggs on the skein.
In this blog I’m going to focus on curing eggs like this. In my view the process creates the perfect bait for fall in river salmon. The egg will have everything a fall salmon wants: sulfites, deep red colors, durability and scent. It has the necessities and is what salmon respond to.
Tight skein and mature salmon eggs make ideal salmon bait. However, I want the egg to be durable so it can handle our PNW rivers. As a base cure I start with Fire Cure. Meanwhile, to extend the egg’s durability I utilize the properties of Fire Brine. In this process I turn to Liquid Krill for added scent and Fire Dye for long-lasting, deep-red coloring.
One additional note to help you recognize tight skein eggs vs lose is the amount of actual eggs (berries) that fall off your egg skein. As you can see very few eggs have detached from the skein. Intact skin and few eggs coming off the skein equal a good quality tight egg skein.
As always creating a quality bait starts with proper prep. Remove all the blood from your skein. Do this by simply putting a small cut in the main vein that runs along the inside of the skien. Cut the vein towards the end of the skein and with the flat edge of a knife or scissors, push the blood down the vein to the opening and wick the blood away with a paper towel.
These are tight skeins. To ensure even curing throughout the entire skein butterfly the skein. This is no different than butterflying a cut of meat.
With the egg side up simply run a sharp knife laterally down the middle of the skein. Make a couple passes down the middle and press lightly. Only separate your skein approximately three quarters of the way. Don’t cut the skein all the way through. These are coho skeins, so butterflying is appropriate. If you have large Chinook skeins cut all the way through, separating the skein in half.
Adding sand shrimp or ghost shrimp to your cure is effective. Natural baits and their oils added to the curing process can be a game changer. Never add manufactured oils or scents during your bait curing as it interrupts or halts the curing process. I find that natural baits, such as sand or ghost shrimp do not.
With scissors simply cut the sand shrimp into small pieces and spread them out on blood free, butterflied prepped eggs. Notice the eggs are laid onto paper towels egg side up, skin side down. When it comes to the sand or ghost shrimp cut them up, shell, guts, oils and all.
Next sprinkle on Fire Cure. Remember, this is a sulfite-based cure. A little goes a long way. To much cure and sulfites can over-cure and ruin eggs. A light dusting (as seen here) will do the job. With your eggs on paper towels pick them up and dump them into a container. Doing this will expose the skin side once in the container.