Salmon Fishing With Eggs: Guide Tips

And assortment of spawn sacs used for salmon fishing with eggs.

Having been an avid angler for over three and a half decades, with more than two decades of experience as a salmon guide, I’ve tested and used just about every bait option for salmon in just about every condition. Many guides and anglers with tell you that salmon fishing with eggs is the best way to catch salmon, however, there are times when other baits will excel and I’ll tell you why.

Rigging your eggs properly is also essential since the rigging can make the eggs more effective or less effective.

Are all fish eggs good bait for salmon? Which types and sizes of eggs are the most effective? Can eggs help you catch more salmon? Should eggs be your first choice when fishing for salmon? Do professional guides rely on eggs for salmon fishing? In this article, I’ll address these questions and provide insights to help you make informed decisions.

Salmon Fishing With Eggs

Salmon fishing with eggs usually requires eggs to be tied into spawn sacs or spawn bags.
Salmon fishing with eggs usually requires eggs to be tied into spawn sacs or spawn bags.

Eggs, primarily salmon eggs and steelhead trout eggs, are a very effective bait for salmon fishing when tied into what anglers will call spawn bags or spawn sacs, or roe bags or roe sacs. Whatever you call them, they are effective.

The spawn sac is made from a fine mesh or scarf material that often comes in many colors. These colors add more color to the eggs. There are times when certain colors will trigger more bites which is why you will sometimes see guys using many colors. There are three types of eggs used to salmon fish.

Coho and King Salmon will eat a well-presented spawn bag.

Salmon Eggs For Salmon Bait

A close up of the top of an open jar of Pautzke Balls Of Fire Salmon eggs
A jar of store-bought salmon eggs.

Salmon eggs are larger than trout and steelhead eggs and often the most accessible egg to obtain. They are also preferred by many fishermen. 4 to 8 eggs tied into a sac is ideal. Some guys will cure the salmon eggs or dye them. I’ll discuss that more below.

Rainbow Trout Eggs For Salmon Bait

Rainbow trout or steelhead eggs are smaller and are also very good for salmon fishing. Often, rainbow trout eggs will be a deeper orange color which some fishermen like. Because the roe from trout is smaller, more eggs will be needed for your spawn sacs to get the right size of bait.

Brown Trout Eggs For Salmon Bait

In the great lakes area, brown trout eggs are a favorite for many salmon anglers who claim that brown trout spawn works much better than rainbow and salmon spawn. Brown trout spawn is similar size to rainbow trout spawn but they tend to be a lighter orange or yellowish color. This may be the reason why they are more effective.

Cured Salmon Eggs And Trout Eggs

I get asked if it’s better to use cured eggs. The answer is no, cured eggs are not better for salmon or steelhead. Unless you need to store eggs for a really long time or you want to change the color of your salmon or trout eggs, I have found that uncured eggs are best.

I change the eggs color with the mesh I’m using and this seems to be more than enough. After all, the free drifting eggs the salmon eat are not cured.

Advantages Of Cured Salmon Eggs

The primary advantages to curing salmon eggs or trout eggs is to change the color and to preserve the eggs.

Uncured salmon eggs left in the fridge will go bad within two weeks. However, cured eggs can often last for months in the refrigerator and for years in the freezer.

Types Of Cures For Salmon Eggs

There are several options for curing salmon eggs and trout eggs.

Some anglers will use and swear by commercial egg cures from companies like Pro-Cure and Pautzky. I’ve used these with good success. Cures improve firmness which is better for tying bags.

Homemade salmon egg cures are also popular. My favorite salmon cure is simply salt curing them with coarse salt. Salt is a natural preservative that will improve the fridge and freezer life expectancy. The salt cure is also pretty simple. The salt will also firm up the eggs so they don’t break as easily when tying them into egg sacs or when fishing with them.

Cured eggs made with combinations of salt and sugar are also popular. Both white and brown sugar can be used.

Borax is another popular cure however, this is the one I use the least. Some guys really like it since the borax preserves the eggs and keeps them firm.

The color and the cure type do not affect the way the eggs drift but they might change the scent and taste.

You can also buy salmon eggs there are already cured.

How Do I Prepare My Salmon Eggs? No Cure

Salmon eggs in a container
Salmon eggs in a container

If I harvest my own eggs from a salmon I have caught, I use what is known as a water cure. Salmon eggs exposed to river water or spring water for 5 to ten minutes will firm up the eggs so they don’t break easily. (don’t use chlorinated water).

Do not leave the eggs in the cold water for too long or they might turn white.

These water-cured eggs are about as natural as it gets with a good scent or smell, and I have found that water-cured eggs work are hard to resist and are slightly better than cured egg clusters.

Water-cured eggs might last a week in the refrigerator so I freeze mine in small day use sie jars or bags.

Fresh spawn in bags that are ready to be stored in the freezer.
Fresh spawn in bags that are ready to be stored in the freezer.

To cure them in water I’ll put them in a sip lock bag and poke a few small holes with a hook and let it drain slowly.

Other angers will use pantyhose or a fine mesh bag. It’s important to drain them off well, after the water bath and before storing them in individual bags reader for the freezer.

Storing them in small day-use-sized bags or jars in the freezer is best. When doing so try to keep as much air out of them as possible.

Do Eggs Really Work as Bait for Salmon Fishing?

Some anglers claim salmon do not eat once they enter the river. However, studies of spawning salmon indicate that collected salmon had single eggs in their bellies, indicating that they feed on salmon eggs once they enter the river. This is why anglers will use single eggs or egg clusters as bait with good results.

Some anglers believe salmon grab eggs out of natural instinct, others say it out of aggression, and others claim they eat for added nutrients to help them have more energy to spawn. Either way, salmon eggs are a natural bait that works. There are p[plenty of other great salmon baits I use that work well.

Single Eggs For Salmon

A mix of salmon eggs and salmon beads
Real salmon eggs are great but there are times when imitation eggs like beads are even better.

When salmon eat eggs in the river they are usually grabbing single eggs that have dislodged from the gravel during the spawn and are free drifting in the current.

These single eggs can be replicated by using special single egg cures, store bought single eggs, and my favorite which is beads. See Salmon Fishing With Beads.

Skein Eggs For Salmon

Skeins are eggs that are still attached to the membrane. Skein is a secret weapon of many guides, and you will hear them say that skein is better than loose salmon eggs. In some cases, skein can be better and in other cases, loose eggs are best.

I discuss this in my article salmon fishing with skein, check out: Fishing With Skien and Rigging.

Make Salmon Eggs More Effective

I’ve watched hundreds of anglers fishing right beside me or my clients and they catch ten percent of the salmon I or my clients catch even though were are all using salmon eggs for bait. There are ways to make salmon eggs more effective, which I will discuss below.

Choosing the Right Hook for Eggs

Selecting the appropriate hook type and size and properly baiting the hook is crucial for increasing your chances of hooking salmon.

A short shank hook with a wide gap and a sharp point is best. Not all hooks are created equal, so choosing wisely is essential. A good hook should easily penetrate the fish’s mouth and provide a firm hold during the fight, and it should be strong enough not to bend or break.

Seasoned guides often prefer hooks that they know will significantly increase the chances of hooking and landing big salmon.

For salmon fishing with eggs, I recommend using Raven Specimen Hooks or Gamakatsu Octopus hooks in sizes 2 to 8.

It’s advisable to avoid treble hooks, as they can harm fish and are challenging to remove when deeply lodged. Opt for high-quality single hooks instead, as they provide excellent hooking and holding percentages.

Choosing the Right Hook Size for Eggs

The hook size should correspond to the size of the eggs you’re using.

Using a too-large hook may deter salmon from taking the bait due to the salmon seeing the hook. On the other hand, using a hook that is too small may result in a weak hold when hooking the salmon or even bending or breaking with larger fish.

I will use smaller hooks for smaller egg sacs, and larger hooks for larger egg clusters.

Properly Rigging Eggs on the Hook

two spawn sacs with a small and large hook.

Proper bait rigging is crucial for increasing your chances of success when using any bait, including eggs. Many anglers who claim they “didn’t get a bite all day” may have actually received bites without realizing it.

To maximize your success rate, it’s important to ensure that the hook point is fully exposed and not obstructed by the eggs or any other bait. This allows for a higher chance of self-hooking the salmon. I have personally observed numerous instances where salmon were self-hooked simply due to the current pulling on the line and bait once the bait was in the salmon mouth.

If the hook point is not exposed, self hooking is less likely.

Additionally, the gap of the hook should be wide enough to securely hook the salmon so spend sac placement is important. Do not close up the gap completely.

Leader Setup For Salmon Eggs

If you are fishing salmon eggs, it is critical to use a properly set up leader. The leader will depend on the method you use which I’ll discuss below.

Critical parts of a salmon leader that will work constantly include using a leader line that is made from Fluorocarbon and is thin enough that the salmon won’t see it, yet thick enough that the salmon won’t keep breaking you off.

I’ve seen many anglers use very thick leaders and not catch any fish, so don;t make this mistake.

Another key element is using the right type of weight for the method you are using and using enough weight to get the bait down and into the strike zone.

Methods for Fishing Salmon with Eggs

There are a few effective methods that I employ when fishing for salmon with eggs.

Bottom Fishing or Plunking

A good salmon plunking rig used with baits like spawn sacs and skein.
This is a good salmon plunking rig used with baits like spawn sacs and skein.

This stationary rig, also known as the bottom rig or plunking rig, involves casting your line and allowing the bait to sink to the riverbed or bottom of the area you’re fishing.

Keep a slightly slack line to give the salmon an opportunity to swim with the bait.

Pay attention to your rod tip and the line, as a live bait being pulled indicates a potential bite. This approach can significantly increase your chances of a successful hookset. If you notice any movement or the line being pulled, quickly close the bait and set the hook firmly.

Float Fishing

salmon leaders for float fishing

Float fishing is another effective method when using eggs as bait in rivers. When fishing in still or deep water, use a slip float to easily cast and achieve the optimal depth.

In rivers or water less than 12 feet deep, a stationary float is preferable. Opt for pencil-style or thin-style floats, such as the Raven FM float, which is widely used by experienced guides and anglers.

For more detailed information on effective salmon setups used by guides, I recommend checking out my article on the “5 Most Effective Salmon Fishing Rigs Used By Guides.

Be sure you use the right size leader for great lakes salmon and for West Coast salmon.

Advanced Tips and Techniques

To further increase your chances of catching salmon using eggs, consider the following tips:

  1. Proper Hook Baiting: Thread the hook through the egg in a way that ensures the hook point is always exposed. This improves the likelihood of a successful hookset when the salmon strikes.
  2. Reduce Line Visibility: Salmon have sharp vision and can spot fishing lines, especially thicker ones. Using a fluorocarbon leader of around 10 to 14 pounds, which is less visible underwater, can enhance your success rates.
  3. Consider Weather Conditions: Salmon are typically more active during overcast weather, early mornings, or late evenings. Angling during these periods can boost your chances of success.
  4. Fishing at the Right Depth: Salmon tend to swim about 1 to 3 feet from the riverbed. Position your bait at this depth to increase your chances of attracting salmon. Use a floating bead to suspend the eggs off the river bottom at the desired height.
  5. Enhance Attractiveness with Scent: Some anglers find success by adding commercially available scents or substances like garlic oil to enhance the allure of their bait.
  6. Change colors: There are times when salmon want a chartreuse colored spawn sac, and other times when they don’t. For this reason, I will change colors frequently until i find a color the salmon want.
  7. Change Size: There are times when the salmon want a huge sawn sac and other times when they won’t touch it if it’s too big. I will change sizes frequently until I find the size they want.
  8. Use A Jar: Most guys will carry their eggs in a small jar or plastic container. I’ve even used pill containers.

Do Salmon Guides Use Eggs?

Most top salmon guides do utilize eggs or egg imitations like beads each time they fish. Since a river guides primary objective is to ensure their clients have the best chance of landing a significant number of salmon, they will use multiple baits to try to find one the salmon wants and then they will stick to it.

Since salmon eggs are one of those baits that are constantly good most good guides will use eggs often.

Salmon Fishing with Eggs: Q&A

If you have any questions, insights, or advice regarding salmon fishing with eggs, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Happy Fishing!


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