Salmon eggs have always been a popular option to use as bait, especially for people who want a natural option that they can prepare themselves. Cured salmon eggs work as excellent bait for catching trout, salmon, and other types of fish.
Unlike other bait alternatives, natural cured roe doesn’t need any added excessive coloring, attachments, or heavy artificial scents to attract fish. Roe is a common sight, smell, and source of food for many fish species, so it’s no wonder that it works so well.
But, while many fishermen would be happy to use salmon eggs as their preferred bait year-round, finding high-quality cured roe can be difficult and/or costly. And, while there are quite a few brands selling artificial roe, they tend not to perform as well as the real deal.
The great thing about making your own cured roe is that you can customize them to your preferences and experience. The curing products you use, the length of the curing process, and the presentation of your final bait all can be varied based on your target catch, where you’re fishing, and your style of fishing.
Extract Salmon Eggs Quickly and Carefully
Once you’ve caught fresh salmon, the preparation for your properly cured salmon eggs must begin within the first day post-catch. If you’re still in the middle of a long fishing session, the best thing to do would be to have an ice chest on hand to store the fish to keep it from getting too warm and potentially spoiling the eggs.
Make sure to carefully and bleed and clean the salmon and store it in a cool, well-sealed container, as contaminating with blood or allowing it to start decaying at a warmer temperature can ruin the quality of your bait.
By making sure that you clean and store the salmon properly, you’ll prevent the salmon eggs from over-developing moisture or starting to break down in a way that will minimize the longevity of your bait.
The skeins where female salmon store their eggs are located in the head region, and they are covered in a deceptively thin, translucent membrane that holds the hundreds to thousands of salmon eggs together in a sack. Despite the skeins’ delicate appearance, once you cut open the fish, you can remove the egg sacs by hand.
To gain access to the egg skeins, you’ll want to first cut a long slit in the salmon’s belly. Insert your knife a just inside the tail end of the fish, only penetrating about a centimeter inward, and make a cut all the way up to the start of the salmon head.
Supplies to Prep Fresh Salmon Eggs for Curing
Once you’re ready to extract the eggs from the salmon, you’ll need to carefully grasp the thin skeins that contain them and remove them by hand. These translucent pouches keep eggs contained and held together, and they can be used to hook larger sections of bait.
So, make sure that you take care not to rip apart this layer, as it can prove useful later, especially if you’re fishing for something that tends to go for larger pieces of bait. Although you’ll have likely bled the fish already, you’ll also want to use your knife to cut blood vessels running over the skein to make sure that any remaining blood can be drained away.
This is when you’ll want to place the skein on paper towels as you prepare to open them up and add your curing products. Once you’ve extracted the skeins and cut the blood vessels, carefully split them open with the tip of a knife or one side of a pair of scissors. Then, lay the newly filleted skein flat on one set of fresh paper towels and pat them dry with another set.
Next, you’ll need to cover the exposed surfaces of the egg skins in your chosen cure. You can choose between several types of cures, including these two main types:
- Wet brine cures
- Dry or powder cure mixes
There are many companies out there that make great pre-made brines and/or curing mixes, and many people get great mileage out of coming up with their own recipe out of several different pre-made curing ingredients. If you’re unsure, start out with a brine curing product, as these can be the easiest to work and tweak.
Work in Your Salmon Egg Cure Thoroughly
Before adding a cure to your salmon egg skins, choose a location that will stand up to quite a bit of mess, as many brands offer cures with added dyes and scents that can linger in your workspace.
Once you’ve laid down any needed coverings, add the cure until all of the exposed eggs are covered in a light layer. Then, using gloved hands, massage the egg skeins so that the product is evenly distributed. You may want to add more in stages and massage the skeins as you go.
Making sure that all of your eggs are properly cured will ensure your bait is preserved to last and work well for as long as possible. Then, you’ll need to allow the chemicals in the cure enough time to extract the moisture, harden the eggs, and excrete then reabsorb the liquid containing the dyes, preservatives, salt, sugars, and other materials.
What to Do If You’re Curing Loose Salmon Eggs
If you’re working with loose salmon eggs, you’ll need to adjust this process slightly. Unlike eggs already contained in skeins, loose eggs have nothing connecting them, but they can become bound to one another during the curing process.
However, achieving this means that the curing process can take longer with loose eggs, which also need to be packed tightly and wrapped together with cheesecloth for the entire curing process.
Only Store Cured Roe in the Fridge for Immediate Use
Once you’ve applied your curing products to the roe, the eggs will need to have any additional liquids drained, as needed, which is something we’ll go over later on. Then, the curing salmon eggs should be placed in the fridge for at least 24 hours, where the curing process we’ve described above will take place.
However, don’t let the fact that there are “preservatives” in the cure fool you. Despite the name of those ingredients, you’ll still have to follow careful storage rules if you want your custom-cured salmon eggs to last.
If you know that you’ll be used up your brand-new bait within a couple of weeks, then keeping them in the fridge for the duration should be fine. Otherwise, you’ll want to freeze your cured roe to keep the bait in good condition for future use.
Keep that in mind when you’re deciding exactly how you want to fashion your bait for your preferred choice of fish. With some fish, you want to make sure that you’re storing the excess liquid that may drain from the cured eggs.
Salmon in particular will be more attracted to bait that gives off a stronger scent, which is when having a more delicate, liquid bait can help with. If that’s what you’ll need when fishing, storing and freezing your cured salmon eggs in jars will be the best way to store your bait.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for drier, more durable bait, you’ll want to use paper towels and/or cheesecloth to drain off as much excess liquid as possible. That way, your cured egg skeins can be used over and over until they attract the more scent-indifferent kinds of fish
As You Repeat This Process, Customize Your Cured Salmon Eggs for Your Fishing
Preparing your own cured salmon eggs can be a great way to get the best bait for your favorite fish and fishing spot. Different species and even populations of fish will respond to different features in bait. Based on your experiences with different batches of homemade cured roe, you can test out various combinations of scent, color, and moisture levels.
The great thing about learning this process is that you’ll always have access to high-quality, effective, and natural bait. As long you make sure to carefully prep the fish and allow time for the eggs to cure fully, you can save time, money, and frustration when fishing by having access to dependable bait that you know will reliably attract your next catch.
And, the same bait that you’re making can help you replenish your supply if you make sure to at least occasionally fish for salmon eggs to gain more eggs to cure for future use. The more you fine-tune your curing technique, the more success you’ll have caught the next salmon to renew your bait supply.
As you gain experience creating your own cured egg supply, you’ll get to know what kinds of bait you need for fishing in different locations, for different species, and in different seasons. You can vary how much, what type, and what combinations of cures that you use and find the exact recipes that make your fishing the most productive it’s ever been.