Hook’d Up Bar and Grill: Mastering the Art of Curing Salmon Eggs

Video cure for salmon eggs

If you’re an avid angler looking to conquer our rivers, then it’s time to get your egg curing program dialed in! Cured salmon eggs are an incredibly effective bait for catching Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout. Whether you’re targeting Chinook Salmon in the tidewater, Trout in the high mountains, or Winter Steelhead, home-cured salmon eggs are a must-have in your fishing arsenal here in the Pacific Northwest.

The Magic of Salmon Eggs

Let’s start by demystifying the process of curing salmon eggs. Female salmon develop their eggs in a delicate skin sack called a skein, resembling a purse filled with plump salmon berries. This thin layer of skin holds the eggs together, allowing us to bait a hook and present a juicy offering to our targets. As the salmon approaches spawning, the skein enlarges, and the individual eggs grow to the size of a pea. With thousands of eggs in each skein, it becomes the perfect bait for river fishing.

Essential Tools for Curing Salmon Eggs

To get started, you’ll need a few key items:

  1. Salmon eggs from a freshly caught fish.
  2. One Gallon Ziplock Bag.
  3. Egg Cure: Zilla Baits, Pautzke, Cure-All, Pro-Cure, or Beau Mac Cure.
  4. Knife or Scissors.
  5. Paper Towels.

Mastering the Curing Process: Step by Step

To achieve perfectly cured salmon eggs, follow these simple steps:

  1. Take good care of your catch by bleeding the salmon and keeping it cool.
  2. Remove the egg skeins from the salmon.
  3. Butterfly the egg skeins to ensure proper penetration of the cure.
  4. Place the salmon egg skeins in a bag.
  5. Shake on the desired amount of cure. Remember, not too little, not too much, just enough to coat the eggs evenly.
  6. Gently shake or rotate the bag to ensure the cure is evenly distributed.
  7. Allow the eggs to rest, letting them juice out and slowly reabsorb the cure.
  8. Drain excess juice and refrigerate the eggs for a day.
  9. If you plan on fishing within a week, keep the cured eggs in the refrigerator. Otherwise, freeze them for later use.
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Loose Salmon Eggs and Fishing Spawn Sacs

Loose eggs can also be cured but need to be clustered in a cheesecloth. Although it takes time to create these clusters, they are highly effective and last for multiple casts. The size of the skein varies depending on the size of the salmon and its proximity to spawning. Remember, salmon eggs are delicate treasures that every river fisherman cherishes.

Make sure to bleed your catch immediately, keep it cool, and start the curing process within 24 hours to preserve the quality of the roe.

A Delicate Art: Preparing the Roe

The true work begins after landing a female salmon. To produce top-notch bait, start with quality ingredients. Bleed the fish immediately after landing, as salmon eggs must be as blood-free as possible. Placing the fish on ice will preserve both the meat and the roe.

To remove the roe, carefully cut open the underside of the salmon from the anal vent to the throat. Take care to make a shallow cut, ensuring you don’t slice through the egg skeins. Each female salmon has two egg skeins attached near the head, which can be easily removed by hand.

Prepare the roe for the curing process by making sure it’s blood-free and exposed to the cure. Puncture any blood veins on the outside of the skein with a fillet knife, removing as much blood as possible. Butterfly the skein to expose all the eggs, patting it dry with a paper towel to remove any remaining blood or liquid.

The Art of Curing: Applying Salmon Egg Cure

The right bait cure performs several functions: it preserves the fragile roe, increases durability, adds attractive colors, and enhances the bite with enticing chemicals. When applying the cure, ensure you’re in an area where a few permanent pink stains won’t cause any trouble. Place the prepared skeins in a small plastic bucket or a gallon plastic bag.

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Sprinkle the cure over the skeins until they are lightly covered. I like to add a little, lightly massage it into the skeins, and then add a bit more if needed. If I’m feeling lazy, I might drop the eggs and cure into a bag and give it a good roll. Remember, the right amount of cure is crucial. Too little won’t preserve the bait, while too much can burn the roe. Once the skeins are evenly coated, they need time to complete the curing process.

The Curing Process Unveiled

Salmon Egg Cure is a delicate mixture of borax, salt, sugar, dye, and other preservatives. After coating the skeins, the cure draws out liquids from the eggs. Within a few hours, the eggs shrink, and the container fills with a soupy colored juice. As time passes, the liquid is reabsorbed into the eggs, incorporating the preservatives and dye. Once this juicing and reabsorbing process is complete, the eggs can be prepared according to your desired fishing technique.

The Final Touches: Perfecting Cured Salmon Roe

Cured Salmon Roe is incredibly versatile, catering to various fishing strategies. After completing the curing process, you’ll need to decide on the final presentation. For fishing Chinook Salmon, a wet egg that releases juices into the water might be preferable, sacrificing durability for an enticing scent trail. On the other hand, if you’re targeting Steelhead, a more durable bait that can withstand numerous casts could be the way to go.

For Wet Cure Eggs, simply place the entire finished product in a glass quart Mason Jar and freeze, juice and all. If you’re preparing Salmon Eggs for Steelhead fishing, strain the eggs in a colander and air dry them on a rack to toughen them up. For extra durability, you can roll them in borax.

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The Art of Curing: A Neverending Journey

Curing salmon eggs is a delicate and constantly evolving process. There are numerous variables that can impact the quality of the finished product: the age of the eggs, the temperature during curing, the cure recipe, the amount of cure used, and the intended use, just to name a few. Even experienced fishing guides encounter batches that don’t turn out as planned. The key is to be patient, attentive, and closely follow the basic process.

So, good luck on your journey to master the art of curing salmon eggs! We hope this article helps you understand the process and sets you on the path to success on the water. Visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill for more fishing tips and tricks!