The Fish Sniffer - Brining: The Key To Creating Top Quality Trolling Baits
Brining: The Key To Creating Top Quality Trolling Baits

Written By: Cal Kellogg, April 12, 2013
Species: Albacore Bass Catfish Crabs Halibut Kokanee Landlocked Salmon Landlocked Stripers Mackinaw Panfish River Salmon Rockfish Saltwater Salmon Saltwater Stripers Saltwater Sturgeon Shad shark Steelhead Stripers Sturgeon Trout
Location: American River - Lower, American River- Middle Fork, American River- North Fork, American River- South Fork, Anderson Reservoir, Bass Lake, Baum Lake, Bear River Reservoir, Beardsly Reservoir, Berryessa Reservoir, Black Butte Reservoir, Boca Reservoir, Bodega Bay, Bowman Lake, Bridgeport Reservoir, Britton Lake, Bucks Lake, Bullards Bar Reservoir, Calero Reservoir, Camanche Reservoir, Camp Far West Reservoir, Caples Lake, Carmel River, Chabot Reservoir, Cherry Lake, Chesbro Reservoir, Chetco River, Clear Lake, Collins Lake, Consumnes River, Contra Loma Reservoir, Convict Lake, Coyote Lake, Crescent City, Crowley Lake, Davis Lake, Deer Creek, Del Valle Reservoir, Don Pedro Reservoir, Donner Lake, Eagle Lake, East Carson River, East Park Reservoir, Eastman Lake, Eel River- Main, Eel River- Middle, Eel River- South, Englebright Reservoir, Eureka Lake, Fall River, Fallen Leaf Lake, Feather River- Lower, Feather River- Upper, Folsom Lake, Fort Bragg, French Meadows Reservoir, Frenchman Lake, Fuller Lake, Garcia River, Gold Lakes Basin, Golden Gate, Grant Lake, Grouse Ridge Lakes, Guadalupe Reservoir, Gualala River, Gull Lake, Half Moon Bay, Hat Creek, Hell Hole Reservoir, Hennessy Lake, Hensley Lake, Humboldt Bay, Huntington Reservoir, Ice House Reservoir, Indian Creek Reservoir, Indian Valley Reservoir, Iron Canyon Reservoir, Iron Gate Reservoir, Jackson Meadows Reservoir, Jenkinson Reservoir, June Lake, Kings River, Kinney Reservoir, Kirkwood Creek, Klamath River, Lafayette Reservoir, Lahontan Reservoir, Lake Almanor, Lake Alpine, Lake Amador, Lake Edison, Lake Merced, Lake Oroville, Lake Pillsbury, Lake Solano, Lake Tahoe, Lake Valley Reservoir, Lee Vining Creek, Lewiston Lake, Lexington Reservoir,

Brining: The Key To Creating Top Quality Trolling Baits

Brining is a means of preserving and toughening baits, primarily baitfish, for trolling and other applications. Brining bait offers many benefits, provided you start off on the right foot and follow a few simple principles.

While the primary focus of brining is preserving and toughening baits to withstand the rigors of trolling while maintaining the proper shape, brining can also add strike triggering scent as well as various colors and UV qualities to your bait.

The bottom line is that if you’re a serious ocean salmon angler, halibut troller or if you enjoy trolling for trout and king salmon in lakes, the ability to properly brine and rig baits like herring, anchovies and threadfin shad is absolutely critical.

From an execution standpoint, the brining process creates confusion for many anglers because there are a bunch of different techniques to choose from and most of them involve several steps and a list of different ingredients.

In the broad view bait brining is one of those upper level techniques that many veteran anglers don’t like to talk about, because they don’t want to give up the secret kinks and tricks that they perfected with years of trial and error experimentation.

When it comes to fishing technique I have a total transparency policy, meaning that if I know something, I want all my readers out there in Fish Sniffer Country to know it too.

If you read my work regularly, you know that I love trolling rigged baits whether I’m pulling full size herring for ocean run kings or tiny 1.5 inch shad for trout and kings at Lake Shasta or Don Pedro.

Over the years I’ve tried a bunch of different brining products and techniques to care for my natural baits, but at the end of the day I kept coming back to the old school favorite formula of ice, water, bluing and salt.

Last year I was introduced to a new product that revolutionized the way I brine baits. The product is called Fire Brine and it is produced by the Pautzke Bait Company up in Ellensburg, Washington. In 2012, I played with Fire Brine and testing it on herring, anchovies and shad. The results were outstanding. Let me give you the lowdown on Fire Brine and how I’ve been using it.

The thing I love about Fire Brine is the simplicity it offers. To brine bait with Fire Brine all you need is a bottle of Fire Brine, a 1 gallon Ziplock bag and some quality bait, be it herring, anchovies or shad (the stuff also works great on shrimp and eggs from what I hear, but I haven’t actually tried it on these baits yet. I’ll let you know when I do).

Fire Brine is a liquid that comes in a 32 ounce plastic bottle. It is available in clear, blue, red, chartreuse, orange and purple. Fire Brine eliminates, multiple ingredients and mixing. Everything you need is right there in that bottle.

What’s in the brine? I don’t know and the guys at Pautzke aren’t talking, but here’s what I do know. Since 1934 they’ve probably cured about a billion salmon eggs so right there they’ve got an unmatched bait processing and preserving resume. When guys with a track record like that put their minds together and come up with a brining agent, you know there’s a high probability that it’s going to be the real deal!


Let’s Brine!

Before I describe how to use Fire Brine, I should make the point that for top-notch results you’ve got to start with top notch bait. Freshly dead bait that has been treated gently to preserve the scales is always best. Tray bait runs a close second and bag bait runs a distant third. The better your baits look going into the brine the better they’ll look coming out and good looking baits almost always out fish so so looking baits.

If your bait is fresh simply put it into a gallon Ziploc, shake your bottle of brine vigorously, pour in enough Fire Brine to cover the baits (a half bottle will take care of one package of tray bait) and place the bag in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours. After that you can remove the baits from the brine, put them in an airtight container and keep them cold.

I’ve kept the brined baits for up to 72 hours with no problems. If I’m keeping them longer then that, I’ll freeze them. Bait brined and then frozen works just fine. You’ll want to partially thaw them prior to rigging.

If your bait is frozen, run water over the bait for a few minutes so you can separate them without damaging the scales. Place the separated baits in your bag and cover them with brine. At that point seal the bag and let it set at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours, allowing the baits to completely thaw. Then place the bag in the refrigerator.

There was a time when I only trolled natural colored baits, but I’ve come to realize that baits died various colors can be deadly. I still rely on natural colored baits the majority of the time, but I use blue and chartreuse baits a lot too.

As near as I can tell when using Fire Brine, maximum color absorption is achieved after about 8 hours. While extending the stay in the brine beyond 8 hours doesn’t result in bolder color it does result in tougher bait.

The color transferred to baitfish by Fire Brine is excellent. The entire bait takes on the color of the dye, but the natural flash of the baitfish is retained. The brines are also UV so you don’t have to worry about applying UV gel or spray to your baits.

To make your brined baits even move attractive to the fish you can add scent to the brine. Krill scent is always a great choice for salmon fishing. If you want to add krill scent to your baitfish, simply get a bottle of Pautzke Fire Power krill powder and add about a table spoon full to your bag of baits and brine. Gently tumble the solution to ensure all the baits are exposed to the krill.

In addition to krill you might also consider adding a few drops of either garlic or anise oil to your batches of bait. Anise works great anywhere and everywhere and at times landlocked kings flock to the smell of garlic.

I’m not finished testing Fire Brine yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, Pautzke Fire Brine looks to be the simplest and one of the most effective approaches to brining bait.

Fire Brine toughens your bait and makes good bait better. If you choose to use colored Fire Brine to cure and dye your baits you can expect consistent rich color that does nothing to decrease the natural flash of the bait. Since Fire Brine is UV enhanced you can rest assured that the fish will see your bait no matter how deep you go.

Fire Brine is available at fine tackle shops throughout the West Coast. If your favorite tackle shop doesn’t have it, tell them to order you a supply of Fire Brine from the folks at the Pautzke Bait Company.

To learn more about Fire Brine and Pautzke’s full line of products, visit the Pautzke website at


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