Monday, November 28, 2011

How To Cure Salmon Eggs

There are a lot of excellent fisherman on the Kenai River and a big key to their success is their bait. I watch guys like Mack Padgett, Will Jahrig, and Greg Davis (The Beaver Creek All Stars) consistently catch fish when others don't and it's not hard to figure out that they have the "right stuff". Sure they're savvy and know the river well but without a doubt they know how to cure eggs and that sets them apart from other fisherman. In this post I will explain the egg curing process I use and hopefully, in turn, help increase your overall fishing success. I happen to be on the pro staff for Pro Cure and favor their products but there are quite a few commercially made egg cures on the market and they're all very good. Besides Pro Cure there's Pro Glo, Pautzke, Cure All, Nitro, and Nate's Bait, to name a few. How to use their products are easily explained on their labels but like most recipes there's a certain amount of "tweaking" that can be done. Before a cure is used, in my opinion the most important step of the egg curing process happens before the cure is used and that is TAKING CARE OF YOUR EGGS. What I mean by this is after you catch a female salmon you need to bleed it. This is as simple as cutting one of the gill rakers and this takes a short amount of time to do. If you don't do this blood will pool around the eggs and the potential for contamination increases. This is a significant, after all, salmon smell in parts per billion and a contaminated egg will not get bit. Notice how clean the eggs look in the photo above. They came from a properly bled salmon.
After the eggs are bled, the next important step is to remove the eggs as soon as possible and start the curing process. One of my very successful guide friends says he won't cure and egg that has been dead for more than 6 hours. Sometimes this is not possible but I do use this as a general rule. Anyway, I remove the eggs from the salmon using latex gloves and place them on a clean surface. Once again, this is all about contamination. In the photo above you can see I'm using a garbage bag on top of my fish cleaning table. Next, I'll use a scissors and cut the eggs, making sure that there is enough skein (skin) to keep the individual eggs attached. Depending on what salmon I'm targeting the size I cut the eggs will vary. For king salmon it's the size of a golf ball, and for silver salmon it's the size of a quarter. Some people cure the whole skein but I find that the cure works into the egg better when they're cut to size and, in addition, it saves me an extra step of not cutting bait when I'm out fishing.
Next, I place the eggs in a gallon zip lock bag filling it about a fourth of the way up. At this point I add about 3-4 ounces of egg cure. If you want to "tweak" your eggs with additional scent this is the time to do it. You could wait until after the eggs have cured but I have found that the adding scent at this point allows absorption into the egg much better than applying topically later. Secret scents that are added include anise, garlic, or Pro Cure products such as Monster Bite or Kenai Cocktail. After your eggs are combined with cure and scent in a zip lock bag seal the bag leaving plenty of air inside and shake gently. Make sure to get the cure spread throughout all the eggs. Write the date the eggs were cured and if you used any scent other than the cure make sure to write that down as well. Place the bag in a refrigerator. After the first day flip the bag upside down. On the next day flip it back upright and on the third day flip it back down. Flipping the bag allows better absorption of cure and scent into the egg. Eggs cured this way could be used after a day, but they'll be wet. I find that three days is the perfect amount of time for a drier egg. Make sure to use these eggs within 10 days or freeze them (to be used later). Through trial and error I have found that after 10 days mold will appear and that is a recipe for a no fish day. So, that's it. This is how I do it. There are plenty of other ways to cure eggs (jar method, air dry method) but I have found this process works well for me . It's fast and convenient. Whatever method you use or cure try not be set on just one scent or color. On different days, different conditions, different times of the season salmon will show a marked preference for different cures and colors. Bring several different cured eggs when fishing and let the fish tell you what they want. Another thing that will improve your odds: make sure to change your bait often. I find the more bait I use the more I get back!Let me finish this post with this thought. Years ago I was taught how to cure eggs from a long time guide and through time have found the method taught to me was not very good. Back then I would start out each trip fishing both eggs and sardine wrapped kwikfish and after getting bit a couple of times on kwikfish would conclude that the fish didn't want eggs that day. However, always a keen observer on the water, what I thought was a kwikfish bite would be dispelled by the fact that I would notice certain boats who fished nothing but eggs consistently catching fish. I'm not shy when it comes to asking questions about fishing and luckily a few of these guys shared with me their knowledge about curing eggs. Taking in all the information I could, I found my catch rate improved dramatically . During this learning curve I found it ironic that the more freely a fisherman shared information with me the more confident they were are about catching fish. In other words, a tight lipped fisherman seemed to be afraid if others found about "their secrets" they'd lose their edge and never be able to have the same success again. So, here's paying it forward and sharing some of my guiding secrets. I hope what I've learned will help you have a more successful day on the water.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Food, family, and football. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kenai Rainbows

Bet you thought this post was going to be about rainbow trout. See, I'm not always about fish, I do have a soft side too, but you won't see me posting pictures of unicorns and ponies.
Both of these photos were taken in September. Photo one is near Eagle Rock and photo two is taken from our dock. If you're an admirer of rainbows there's no doubt that September is the best month.