• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Salmon Skein for River Kings

    Posted on September 12th, 2015 admin No comments


    This huge male king could not resist a dead drifted gob of salmon skein.

    Although most river kings are foul hooked illegally in Great Lakes tributaries like New York State’s Salmon River, kings can be caught legally.  My drift boat clients boated many hundreds of kings on back trolled wobbling plugs like M-d Flatfish, gaudy wooly buggars fly cast to spawning fish, and dead drifted salmon skein.  For the wading fisherman, though, salmon skein drifted on a float is one of the simplest and  most effective techniques.


     The following article “Deadliest  River Salmon Bait”, by Kenny Darwin describes how to catch river kings on skein.   


    Kings go nuts for a chunk of skein drifting in the current. They strike the offering more often than coho, browns or steelies and I’m not certain exactly why. Is it the waving action of the membrane that holds the eggs together that draws their attention? Maybe the odor of fresh eggs, held tight in the natural membrane smells irresistible. Heck, I’ve seen kings in clear water streams like the Platte, Betsie, Pere Marquette, Boardman in Traverse City and more swim several feet across current to get in a downstream feeding position of the drifting candy. Sometimes they gulp the bait and you can see them smashing the eggs in their mouth, between their sharp teeth, and a cloud of milky substance is expelled through their gills. More often they slowly open their huge maw, take the bait very gently, in a non-violent feeding fashion, and the strike is less abrupt than a small trout or perch pecking at your hook.

    So, which skein works best and where can you get it? It has been this old river rat’s experience that the number one skein comes from Chinook salmon. Coho will work, steelhead is OK, brown eggs are almost impossible to find, but king eggs are the ticket. My recommendation would be to visit a salmon trolling port like Ludington, Frankfort, Manistee, and Grand Haven, anyplace that has a fish cleaning station. Go in August when king eggs are still tight in the skein. Most Great Lakes trollers catch enough kings that they simply toss the valuable bait down the grinder with the carcass. Wash the eggs to remove blood, let drip dray, place in ZipLoc freezer bag with a couple hands full of Boraxo 20 Mule team soap. Roll skein until cover with Boraxo and freeze. A skein will keep for a couple years in the freezer. I collect skein for fall and spring fishing during August when catching Great Lakes kings that have tight membrane. By September 1st I’ve got several king skeins in the freezer and when the fish are slamming spawn in Sep.-Nov., I’ve got plenty of bait for river outings.

    When you get ready to go fishing, thaw the skein, cut it with scissors into bite size bits and cover the eggs with Boraxo 20 Mule Team soap. Place the eggs on newspaper and roll until the bits are covered with soap and the moisture of the cut eggs has disappeared. Toss any newspaper that is wet or covered with egg gunk. Allow the eggs to dry for a few hours, place in clean Ziploc bag, jar or plastic container and refrigerate. Roll skein in Ziploc to completely cover all moist areas, ad more Boraxo if the powder gets mushy. Skein in the frig can last several months, provided you keep rolling it and adding new Boraxo. Take out the day you want to fish. You can reach into the bag and grab individual chunks and not cover your hands, clothing, and boat with egg juice.

    The biggest advantage of rolling cut chunks in Boraxo is it dries the membrane, makes it easier to place on the hook and the eggs toughen up. This process happens relatively quickly and you can go fishing with the cut skein almost immediately after it has been rolled in Boraxo.

    If you catch a female river king and her eggs are still tight, you can make dynamite bait pronto by cutting and treating with Boraxo powder. Some stream fishermen prefer to use skein that has not been frozen.

    One deadly trick is to use a bit of color with the Boraxo. This gives the eggs a more vivid look and salmon love eggs died red, orange, pink or yellow. One of my secret tricks is to use a pinch of Siberian Salmon Egg cure radiant orange color. Mix it 50/50 with Boraxo, stir it with eggs and it will quickly turn them a beautiful bright orange color that river kings can not resist. Some anglers prefer to mix eggs with cherry Jell-O mix and others use regular food coloring. Some coloring will dye your hands, so when using colored cut spawn make certain to carry a rag to wipe hands.

    The problem with cut spawn is it’s difficult to keep on the hook. It requires a gentle lob cast in order to prevent jerking the offering off the hook. Some Michigan anglers use a skein egg loop knot or snell on the hook. You can snell single or treble hooks. I prefer using a large single hook No.4 Mustad 92141, which has a turned up eye. The snell knot wraps around the shank of the hook out through the eye and the skein is placed in the loop of the line near the eye. The loop holds the egg cluster and because the skein is cured it will stay on the hook for quite a while. Eggs will break off the cluster and drift in the current, which is a fine way to chum salmon. When the eggs are gone and only the white membrane remains, replace with a fresh skein chunk.