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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
Trout and salmon eggs, salmon eggs and trout, they go together like cookies and milk or baseball and hotdogs. Trout have been gobbling eggs for eons and trout anglers have been using salmon eggs to catch trout for a century, perhaps longer.
While salmon eggs remain as effective as they ever were for tempting trout, in our era of downriggers and Power Bait, computer designed spoons and pheromone enhanced baits, many anglers overlook salmon eggs.
This being the case and with springtime trout mania mere weeks away from erupting up and down the Golden State, I’m going to devote this week’s How To column to extolling the virtues of the simple salmon egg, while at the same time outlining some salmon egg fishing tactics that will undoubtedly help you put more trout in the frying pan this spring.
Maybe the first question we should ask is, “Why salmon eggs?” As near as I can tell the salmon egg fetish that trout display is based largely on instinct or genetic predisposition if you will, since trout living in rivers that feature spawning salmon and roundtail reservoir planters that have never encountered a “natural” salmon egg both gobble up the bottled variety with equal zeal.
And it isn’t just salmon eggs that grab the interest of trout. It’s really any sort of eggs in general whether they are trout, sucker or salmon eggs. The bottom line seems to be that trout recognize eggs as an easily obtained nutrient rich meal and eat them pretty much anytime they get the chance.
Fishing salmon eggs in rivers and streams is pretty easy as a result of the current. To hook rainbows, browns and brookies residing in current all you need to do is present them with an egg drifting along the bottom at the same speed as the current.
This was the method my Dad employed when he subtly hooked my first trout and handed me the rod and I’ve used the approach in the intervening decades to put hundreds perhaps thousands of stream trout into my creel.
A spinning rod ranging from 6 to 7 feet in length matched with a small spinning reel spooled with 4 to 6 pound fluorocarbon line is the best tool for fishing salmon eggs in rivers and streams. For terminal tackle all you’ll need is a few No. 10, 12 or 14 octopus hooks, depending on the size of the eggs you are using and a selection of split shot in various sizes.
For my egg fishing I employ Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp hooks. I like a hook that is small enough such that I can hide the entire hook inside a single egg with only the hook eye partially exposed.
When presenting an egg in a stream you want to pinch on just enough split shot about 14 inches above the hook to get the egg to the bottom. Pitch this rig up stream of likely holding water and allow it to drift back toward your position on a semi slack line. If the line stops or twitches or if you feel a tug, lift the rod and set the hook.
Effectively fishing salmon eggs in lakes and reservoir is more complex due to the lack of current. Certainly you can cast salmon eggs into a lake on the same rig I’ve outlined for stream fishing and catch the occasional trout while allowing your eggs to lay on the bottom, but in general you’ll enjoy the best results by getting your egg up off the bottom.
Before I go into the actual presentations used for fishing eggs in still water, I’ll first touch on the tackle. I like a long 7’ or 7’ 6” spinning rod teamed with a spinning reel spooled with standard 4 or 6 pound monofilament. I don’t usually spool my lake fishing rods with fluorocarbon because fluorocarbon sinks, making it a poor choice for fishing with bobbers. This isn’t to say that I shun fluorocarbon and its low visibility properties when fishing salmon eggs in lakes. While I don’t spool up with fluorocarbon I still use it for constructing leaders. Okay now that we have a rod set up let’s look at a couple methods that allow us to float eggs off the bottom. To fish eggs off the bottom you’ll need to rig your rod with a sliding sinker rig. Take you mainline and pass it through the tapered end of a 3/8 ounce bullet weight. Next pass it through a plastic bead and then tie on a small swivel. To the swivel attach a 20 inch 6 pound fluorocarbon leader tipped with a No. 10 Octopus hook.
One of the tried and true bottom fishing offerings is the “Shasta Fly”. To set up the “Shasta Fly” pass your hook through the length of a small white marshmallow and then bury the hook in one or two salmon eggs. The marshmallow will float the eggs up off the bottom. This rig has been used for decades at Lake Shasta and beyond and it has accounted for a lot of trout. To me a Shasta Fly isn’t pure salmon egg fishing, since it relies heavily on a marshmallow. That’s a bit like teaming eggs with Powerbait. This method works too, but you can’t really classify it as “salmon egg fishing”.
I use a hybrid Shasta Fly that employs a small foam puffball rather than a marshmallow. I pass the hook through a puffball that matches the color of the eggs I’m using and then pin a single egg on the hook. This rig floats off the bottom and little do the trout know that one of the apparent salmon eggs is actually made of buoyant foam.
Mooching eggs is probably the most effective salmon egg fishing technique employed by still water anglers. If you fish from a boat, and want to mooch eggs, simply anchor or drift in an area that holds trout, pin an egg or two on the same basic terminal rig you’d use for stream fishing and drop the rig to the bottom. Once it settles, reel up enough line so that the egg is suspended a few inches above the bottom and get ready for action.
When shore fishing you’ll need to employ a slip bobber rig to mooch eggs. To set up the slip bobber place an adjustable bobber stop on your main line and then slide on a bead followed by a bobber. Below the bobber attach a small swivel and between the bobber and swivel pinch on two or three split shot. To the swivel attach a 20 inch fluorocarbon leader and tip in with an octopus hook. The distance you slide the bobber stop up your line determines how deep your egg will be suspended below the bobber after you cast the rig out. Once again you want the egg to be suspended a foot or two off the bottom.
In closing I’d like to touch on salmon egg color. When most trout anglers picture salmon eggs they visualize flaming red eggs. Red eggs work great, but you don’t want to ignore subtler yellow, orange or natural colored eggs. At times an orange or natural colored egg will tempt trout that turn their noses up at old school red eggs.
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