the Tailout July 2020 - Page 23

the day restocking your bait supply. Properly rig a well-cured prawn on your hook, and it will stay there until it gets chewed off. It will bring peace of mind, and maximize your time on the water. An added bonus which further benefits durability, is that prawns seem to draw less interest from “bait pickers” such as smolt, trout and chub, meaning the only bites you’ll be getting are the ones that matter most. Perhaps the most notable feature of prawns is their potent scent. If your friend opens a tub of herring in the back of the boat, you may catch a whiff of it. If someone three boats over from you cracks the lid on a container of prawns, it’ll get your attention. They are strong, and when you are targeting fish that rely most heavily on their olfactory system, strong is good. Often, having a scent or bait that stands out in the crowd around you will draw more bites, especially on tough days. The availability of prawns is also superior to other baits, especially for those of us who don’t live near civilization, let alone a quality outdoor retailer or bait shop. As long as you have access to the Internet, or a grocery store with a seafood department, you can acquire good prawns. But don’t just walk up to the display case and expect to find whole, head on prawns. Most often the head on Arctic prawns that we use are for specialized markets and are not carried on daily inventory and must be special ordered. This usually only takes a couple days, and the only requirement is you meet the minimum order requirements. Last but certainly not least is cost. I started fishing prawns back in college, not because they were great bait, but because they were cheap. Bait costs can border on ridiculousness. A few trays of herring a day at seven bucks a pop, or a couple quarts of eggs pushing $30 a jar, trip after trip, puts a serious dent in your wallet. Bulk prawns, purchased by the pound, typically sell for $5 to $7 and yield between 30 and 50 prawns. The end result is great, homemade bait at less than $2 per dozen. Getting started curing and brining your own prawns is a relatively easy process that brings a great deal of reward and satisfaction from creating your own unique baits. By following these steps, referencing the provided proven recipes, and adding a pinch of creativity, you’ll be producing top quality salmon and steelhead baits in no time. Brine or Cure Brining consists of compiling a mix of dry and wet ingredients together in a jar, then adding prawns to the mixture, where they slowly marinade over the course of a few weeks before being fished. Many people prefer brines because the uniformity of the preservation and bold color. Brined baits also seem to produce a much stronger, longer lasting scent. Brines will commonly last several batches of bait before a new mixture must be made. With some brines fresh baits can be added in as space allows, and prawns may stay in quality, usable form for up to a year when kept refrigerated. Brines are considerable more labor intensive to create, and typically involve many ingredients that increase overall cost as well as requiring more advanced prep to make sure you can acquire all the ingredients. Brines, like many of the finer things in life, require time to properly ‘age’. They must be assembled well in advance of their intended use. Brines should be prepared and stored in glass containers. Long term exposure of brine to plastic may cause scent and chemicals from the plastic to taint the brine. Wide mouth Mason® jars are perfect. Do not re-use jars which previously held strong smelling foods such as pickles or spaghetti sauce, as such scents may linger and contaminate the brine. Curing is a relatively simple, straight forward process that produces fishable baits in as little as two days. Most cures use a powered bait or egg cure which is added to prawns and then allowed to react with juices from the prawn as the container is rolled or turned several times a day for the next 48 to 72 hours. Curing is very simple and works well for small batches of prawns, with minimal cost, and can get you out on the water quick with great bait. Many people will choose to ‘spice up’ their cures by adding additional scents or stimulants such as amino acids or sulfites to create unique scents. The shelf life of cured prawns is considerably less than those that are brined, and the colors and scent can also be a bit weaker, but if you are curing fresh batches between uses, this isn’t an issue. Some diehard prawners feel that simple cures are too ‘bland’ and lack the complexity of scents and flavors of brined baits, and may not stand out amidst a crowd of other anglers who may be using the same simple cure. Whether you brine or cure is really a matter of personal preference, just be sure to follow these simple steps in order to get the most from your bait. Acquisition The biggest hurdle to overcome is simply finding good quality, whole bulk prawns. Smaller tackle shops and outdoor retailers commonly only carry prepackaged smaller amounts, and the cost can be quite www.salmonandsteelheadjournal.com 21