Andy Martin

As salmon begin to show up at the mouths of the Smith and Chetco rivers, many anglers will be hoping to hook a few big hens to give them enough eggs to begin bobber fishing or back-bouncing once fall rains arrive.

Nothing works better for fall kings in rivers than quality salmon roe.

When curing those first-of-the-season eggs, it's important to know your plans for the roe before finishing the curing process. The same eggs that hammer fall Chinook when fished below a bobber may not be the best choice for drift-fishing from the bank or back-bouncing later in the season.

When I fish for fall kings, I always carry several different batches of eggs, with specific fishing methods in mind. I use two base curesthe first the hot new Fire Cure from Pautzke Bait Co., and the second the tried and true mix of borax, sugar and salt. Some of the eggs are really wet and juicy, while others have been allowed to drip and dry for a day or longer.

Curing basics

When curing salmon eggs, it's vital to remove the skeins from the fish as soon as you start to clean it, avoiding getting any water on the eggs. Roll them in a few paper towels and place in a plastic bag in an ice chest until you can cure them later that day.

When using the Fire Cure I like to make a 50-50 mix of red and pink. I slit the skeins down the middle and with a pair of gloves generously work the cure into the skeins. The eggs are then placed in a plastic container with a lid and stored in the refrigerator for three days to cure. Every eight hours or so I'll flip the container over to allow the juices to be resoaked by the eggs. You know the cure is working when the container is full of liquid the first day and then reabsorbs it during the next two days.

If using the borax-based cure, I'll mix three parts borax, two parts sugar and one part salt and work it into the eggs and then also cure them for three days in the refrigerator.

After the eggs have cured for at least three days, I'll drain the liquid. If the eggs are going to be used for tidewater fishing, they are placed in plastic zipper bags after a quick drain and stored in the freezer until I need them. These eggs will milk out quickly, creating a giant scent trail, but have to be replaced every 10 to 15 minutes.

For eggs used for back-bouncing or drift fishing, the roe must be drained and allowed to dry on a plastic rack or screen or even paper towels for eight to 24 hours. This toughens the eggs up and causes them to milk slower, but is necessary with fishing faster-moving water, which will quickly reduce eggs to a gob of white skein if they aren't dried before storing. Fast-milking, wet eggs work great in slow tidewater pools, but don't last long when there is much current. Use an egg loop to attach the eggs to the hook.

Outdoor writer Andy Martin is a former editor of Fishing andamp; Hunting News and runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast in the winter. He can be reached at