Searching for water deep enough to hold a large king salmon, I walked about a half mile along the slow, shallow, glacial gray river making an occasional cast and drifting a gob of salmon roe under a #5 ESB Bobber. Most places I attempted to cast the water was extremely shallow and slow enough that my bait and hook would simply sink to bottom and catch rather than drifting. It was not until I turned around and started hiking aggressively back upriver that I saw the first sign of a fish. As I was hurrying along a sandbar, a large v-shaped wake suddenly shot ahead of me up the river. I knew what it had to be immediately, stopped and watched, then eased my way into a position where I could cast across the current and drift my bait down to where the wake had dissipated. I made about a half dozen drifts through this new spot, and discovered the water was a little deeper here, and my bait would drift about 30 yards without catching bottom.
After about half a dozen presentations, I started wondering if my bait was not getting in front of the fish, or perhaps the water was too silty for the fish to find the bait. Maybe it had swum further upstream, at a slower more deliberate rate, that did not show a wake?
Then the salmon showed itself, rolling near the downstream end of where I had been presenting my bait. No one else was even attempting to fish this silty cement – colored water, so knowing where the fish was holding, there was plenty of time for an adjustment. I cranked in my water-soaked bait, removed it from the egg loop, then reached in my bait bucket, and selected a brightly-colored, scent-saturated, juicy replacement.
After looping the new bait to the hook, I made a soft cast, landing about 15 feet from the bank, and in a direct-line toward where I had seen the salmon roll. Sinking amidst a mushrooming cloud of fushcia-colored egg juice, my roe disappeared in glacial gray murk and drifted toward its intended target. A few long moments after the bait had swept past the holding salmon’s position, my bobber hopped along the surface, then submerged completely. I pointed my rod tip toward where the bobber disappeared, reeled until my line started to straighten, then made a long, sweeping, hook set. Immediately, my rod doubled over, and I felt the sweet sensation of a salmon surging against the hook.
In Alaska it’s no secret that salmon roe is a top bait, especially when fishing for early running king and coho salmon. There are times, however, when a roe-fishing angler may need to, “Kick it up a notch,” in order to draw strikes in occluded waters or jazz heavily -pressured salmon into one more mouthful of a particularly appealing bait. In my experience as a 30- year Alaska salmon fishing guide, tougher than normal conditions may call for scent-saturated wet roe. This scent-oozing bait is easier for fish to find in silty or off-colored water, and may also produce additional hookups after drier roe and artificial lures have drawn their last strike.
If you’ve read this far, you are likely wondering how I make my scent-saturated wet roe. Below are two easy ways to fish scent-saturated wet roe that is still firm enough to stay in an egg loop for several drift presentations.
Method 1 — Quick & Easy
You will need some cured roe and a bottle of Pautzke’s Nectar.
Pautzke’s Nectar contains krill scent, roe juice, and other bite stimulants that will enhance your roe. You may have to search a bit for Pautzke’s Nectar, but Sportsman’s Warehouse and B&J Commercial are two Southcentral Alaska sources. You may use commercially purchased roe or some you have cured yourself. At the start of your trip, simply cut your cured roe into bait-sized chunks, then combine with the Pautzke’s Nectar in a plastic bucket. Note: Use only enough Nectar to cover the roe and save any excess Nectar for your next trip. Viola! It is that simple, you are now fishing a juice-oozing scent-saturated bait. Because of the wet and sticky nature of this bait I suggest wearing surgical gloves and washing gloves / hands each time after putting on a new bait.
Method 2 — 6 Steps to Wet Salmon Roe Nirvana
You will needs skeins of fresh salmon roe and 1 bottle of Pautzke’s Fire Cure. Many Alaska retailers stock Pautzke’s Fire Cure, so it may be easier to find than Nectar, but it contains the same krill scent and additional strike enhancers.
#1 Cut skein of roe into bait-sized chunks and layer into a plastic bucket. Note: bait chunks will shrink in size during the curing process, so it is helpful to cut chunks a bit larger than the desired finished product.
#2 Powder the cut roe with a layer of cure, then add additional layers of roe and cure until finished.
#3 Stir the layers of roe and cure until ingredients are well mixed, then let cure work about 4 hours.
#4 Drain excess cure juice off roe, save juice in a plastic container, and freeze juice until use.
#5 Dry roe to desired firmness (similar to the feel of a candy gummy bear). Package and freeze until ready to use.
#6 Prior to fishing thaw and combine the roe bait and cure juice in a plastic bucket. You now have firm-cured roe that will last for several drift presentations, dripping with scent-infused juice. It’s the best of both worlds. Fish On!!!
Andy Couch is a Pautzke Pro Staffer who has guided salmon fishing trips in Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley for more than 30 years.