Tempting trout beyond the madness of Opening Day with tried-and-true salmon eggs.
There was still a dozen days to go before the onset of the Memorial Day weekend, and it was evident that interest in trout fishing was waning rapidly. A Sunday prior, on this particular stretch of a heavily-stocked river there were eight other anglers. This day we were the only two, with in excess of 15 rainbows brought to net, 10 released and five destined for the vacuum sealer. And all were crazed for eggs–the salmon kind.
Forty-eight hours later, on a northern tier county still water that had not been dosed for three weeks, the tapered balsam float slipped under enough times to guarantee a campfire roasted rainbow dinner. Again, eggs were the common denominator. After the April bombast, when all manner of baits have assaulted salmonid senses, May represents a break in the chaos. The lockjaw infection afflicting shell-shocked, early-season stockie survivors eases noticeably, with the most recent recruits on the chow within hours after being loosed in optimum water temperatures. An added bonus is that angler numbers have been pruned significantly as per other fresh and saltwater angling distractions.
This portends those of us who adhere to the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Salmonid Simple) Principle. The overwhelming majority of trout stocked during the spring and autumn schedules are rainbows and browns, both which display a fondness for eggs of their own. Brook trout? Nowhere near as much. No matter how many millions of generations of ‘bows and browns that have been propagated and raised in a hatchery environment, the affinity to inhale spawn of their own has not been exorcised from their deoxyribonucleic acid, i.e. DNA, and the willingness to eat their own, be it in egg, fry or fingerling shapes and sizes. Yes, trout are cannibals, from the ova stage to whatever kin they can choke down.
There are two powerhouses when it comes to preserved salmon eggs: Atlas-Mike’s, and Pautzke. Both offer premium products of varying sizes and offshoots. Artificial eggs are players in the egg game as well, with the proprietary Mr. Twister’s Exude Roe, and Berkley’s Power Eggs and Gulp Eggs, and the anise-scented Plastic Eggs from Atlas-Mike’s, and the Pro Cure Shrimp scented EZ EggZ from Z-Man.
Predicated on the width and depth of swim, we opt for either large or medium eggs and, on those waters with narrow banksides, play small ball, i.e. utilizing the smallest ova spheres available. On a still water, the largest oil-packed eggs are recommended, and these should be fished under the smallest bobber (plastic, balsa or foam) rather than let sit in the bottom detritus, thus keeping it in the strike zone and allowing the scent to leach. The artificial varieties above are very effective in these venues as they float and can be rigged slip sinker style. The Gulp eggs are packed in a single ball format; the others are “strung out.” As such, you can fish as many at a time by merely pinching off a length.
Hook size is based on egg size. For large and medium baits, the #8 and #10 Gamakatsu light wire Octopus are fine, as are the same size Eagle Claw 038-A gold egg hooks and the L2BG Lazer Sharp in the same sizes. In still waters when using eggs (and also paste baits) we go with the Owner Mutu Light Circle 5114-031 size #8. When conditions call for the smaller eggs such as the Siberian or the jaw-stinging Pautzke Yellow Jacket, we’ve found the Daiichi 1150 curved wide gap in #14 and #16 unsurpassed, with the #12 and #14 in the gold Lazer Sharp Eagle Claw a decent substitute.
Scent And Color
This matters almost as much. No doubt both the most overall productive, thus most popular, the past two-plus decades has been shrimp. However, garlic has come on strong (pun intended) in this last six to eight years so that it is catching as many, if not more, than the shrimp scented eggs. Still, there are times when the time-honored cheese, natural, and corn varieties do their share of stringer-filling. Of course, the corn and cheese eggs are shades of yellow, but the shrimp and garlic come in pink, chartreuse, red and white. All pulse scent either on the drift or when suspended, but sometimes one color, for whatever reason, is more appealing than another.
With the majority of salmon eggs now sold in the smaller 1.1-ounce jars, it’s a simple matter to pack along a half-dozen, if not more, depending on the number of pockets in your vest or space on the bottom of the tackle box. When wading, we go with an Atlas-Mike’s Bait Holster on either hip, and slip another four varieties in the pockets. As salmonid preferences avail, we’ll simply switch from vest to hip.