If you're an angler looking to up your game when it comes to targeting salmon, steelhead or trout, egg fishing may be just the technique you need. In this guide we'll cover everything you need to know about egg fishing, including the best techniques, gear and strategies for success on the water.
Egg fishing is a technique that involves using real or imitation salmon eggs as bait to attract salmon, steelhead and / or trout. Because of the mess, hassle and expense of natural salmon eggs, many opt for artificial or fake salmon eggs.
The goal is to mimic the appearance and texture of real salmon or trout eggs, which are a favorite food source for these fish. We've literally spent 13+ years perfecting the look, feel and scent of natural eggs and the results have been fantastic!
By using our imitation eggs, anglers can increase their chances of catching these prized fish.
When it comes to egg fishing, having the right gear is crucial for success. In this next section we'll walk step by step through the equipment you'll need with specific details to help you dial in that perfect setup for landing these prized fish!
Let's walk through it....
Spinning rods will work just fine for all of these but some may opt for a bait casting setup for Salmon, which works well if you know how to use one. If you're just starting out, stick with a spinning rod and reel, you'll be just fine!
Specs Salmon Steelhead Trophy Trout Hatchery Trout (16" and under) Rod Rating 8-17lb 6-12lb 6-10lb 2-6lb Power Medium Medium Light Light Ultra Light Action Moderate Moderate -or- Slow Slow Slow or Moderate Length 9' 9' - 10' 6" 8' - 9' 6" 5' 6" - 7'
There can be some variation here for sure, especially when it comes to egg fishing for Salmon. For big fall Kings, for instance, you might want to go with a heavier rod, but for Coho or Pink Salmon, a Steelhead rod will work just fine.
Another thing I want to point out is that the 6-10lb rod mentioned above for Trophy Trout is actually a side drifting rod built for Steelhead but they work GREAT for big trout too! The 6-12lb rods are also a good choice for big Trophy Brown Trout.
I do want to briefly talk about what 'Action' means, in case you're not familiar with that term....
The 'Action' of a rod refers to what I would call the "flex point" of the rod. A fast action rod is one that is stiff, only allowing the upper 6 inches or so to move. This makes for a very sensitive rod but it's not the style we're looking for in an egg fishing rod.
A Moderate action rod is one that would flex pretty much at the halfway point. This makes for a decent egg rod, especially for bigger fish.
A slow action rod is one that will flex all the way to the butt of the rod. This is ideal for egg fishing because it allows the fish to pick up the bait without feeling anything. The downside to these rods is that they are rarely built with enough backbone to fight really big fish.
For the Salmon rod mentioned above I would recommend a 3000 series reel. A 3000 series is a 2500 series reel with a larger spool. This is a good idea with Salmon as they are known to take a lot of line.....you just might need it!
For Steelhead and Trophy Trout, a 2500 series reel is good.
For Hatchery Trout setups, a 500 series is good on the Ultra light 5' 6" rods and a 1000 series on your 7' light rod is perfect!
For Salmon, you can use anywhere from 12 - 15lb mainline and 8 - 12lb leader. For Big Fall Salmon, you might want to stick with bait casting setups (again, if you can handle it) with 20lb main line and no less than a 12lb leader. If bait casters aren't your thing, another option is to use 30lb braided line as your main line. Most 30lb braids have an 8lb diameter, making this a great option for handling bigger fish on spinning gear.
For Steelhead, if you know what you're doing and how to fight fish, 8lb mainline and 6lb leader but you might be better off with 10lb mainline and 8lb leader. Keep in mind though that every time you go up in mainline you have less line on the spool. If 10lb mainline is what you're using, just go with the 3000 series reel as that spool will allow for more line.
For Trophy Trout you're best bet is typically 8lb mainline and 6lb leader.
For good ole' cookie cutter Hatchery Trout you can either run 6lb mainline and 4lb leader or just run straight 4lb line. These fish are fun to catch but they typically don't break things like the big boys mentioned above.
Whatever you do, don't buy cheap line! Gamma, Ande and P-Line are all reliable brands.
Specs Salmon Steelhead Trophy Trout Hatchery Trout Size #8 - 5/0 (see below) #6 - 1/0 #6 - #4 light wire #8 Style Sickle / Octopus Sickle / Octopus Sickle / Octopus Sickle / Octopus
Salmon & Steelhead hooks can vary greatly in size, based on the region you're fishing. The main reason for this is water flow and water current. If it's Salmon you're after, check out this in depth article for the full scoop on the best hooks for salmon fishing:
The only thing I'll mention here is that a rubber net is always the best practice. Rubber nets don't harm the fish and it's easier to handle fish when using a rubber net because, unlike the nylon or knotted style, hooks don't get stuck in rubber nets. This is key, especially when you want to release that Trophy fish unharmed.
Selecting the Best Eggs for Fishing.
When it comes to egg fishing, selecting the right eggs can make all the difference. This means having not just the right size, but also colors that closely resemble the natural eggs of the fish you are targeting. Colors like Peach, Steelhead Orange, Shrimp Pink and Brown Trout Roe would all be considered natural colors.
Other colors like Hot Pink, Hot Red, Bubblegum, Atomic Yellow, etc. also have a place, however. Even though these colors are anything but natural, they still catch a lot of salmon, steelhead and trout. One reason for their success is the fact that fish are curious. Unlike you and I, fish don't have hands. Sometimes when they see something interesting they'll pick it up with their mouth and then.....BAM, FISH ON!
Some would say Hot Red is natural but really the red eggs you see online or in glass jars in the tackle shops are actually cured and dyed red, they didn't start off that way.
It's also important to note that there are six types of salmon; chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, pink and atlantic, making the discussion on natural salmon egg color less than straight forward.
Another thing to remember is that salmon eggs will change color not only as they sit in the water but also from varying water temps as well as other factors such as age of the fish, etc.
Lastly, keep in mind that as water clarity goes from clear to dirty, those bright colors will be your best bet at catching fish because they can see them from a greater distance, increasing your chances of a bite.
Don't let this info confuse or overwhelm you though, there is still a range of colors and sizes that you should always have on hand to ensure your success on the river.
Keep reading for more info on egg size....
Best Egg Size
When it comes to size, in very general terms we can look at our egg sizes like this:
- Mini Egg Clusters are best for trout and steelhead
- Medium Egg Clusters are best for Steelhead
- Large Egg Clusters are best for Salmon
- 8 and 10mm Single Eggs can be used for all of the above, depending on conditions
Please keep in mind that this is just a basic starting point. Plenty of Salmon have been caught on the Mini Egg Clusters as well as the 8 and 10mm Single Eggs and lots and lots of Steelhead have been caught on all three sizes, it just depends on water flow and water clarity.
Here's another general rule:
- Natural / lighter colors for low / clear water
- Bright colors for high and dirty water
Because Salmon, Steelhead and Trout hold on the bottom on the river, we need to make sure our egg baits are down and in front of them in order to get them to bite! The easiest and most effective way to accomplish this is by drift fishing or "bouncing the bottom" of the river.
With this technique we use a weight to get our gear down to the bottom (where the fish are). The weight bounces on the bottom of the river, drifting with the current, and carries our egg baits down river just like it eggs do naturally. Any interruption in that 'bounce, bounce' pattern could be a fish, set the hook!
This takes a little practice but even a total novice can get the hang of it in just a couple of hours of practice. I've seen it first hand with clients that I have guided on the river for trout. They struggle at first but once they get it it's like a light bulb goes off and then they're catching fish one after another! It's fun to watch!
For more info on this as well as a 'How To' on rigging check out this video on this technique that walks you through all things 'Drift Fishing':
When egg fishing, it’s important to know where the fish are likely to be located in the river. Look for areas with current breaks, such as behind rocks or in eddies, where fish can rest and wait for food to come to them. Also, pay attention to the depth of the water. If it's low and clear steelhead and trout will move to deeper water where they can hide as well as riffles where they can not only hide but also get more oxygen.
Don't be discouraged if the fish are feeding near the surface. This is common all year (not just in times of specific bug hatches) but those fish will return to the bottom of the river where they can rest. In deeper holes (10 feet or more) they may be suspended in the water but most of the time you'll be fishing water that's 2 - 8 feet deep.
Riffles, pools and tailouts all hold fish. Seems, where faster and slower water come together, are also places you need to be fishing no matter what the flow is.
As we close, always keep this in mind:
In low water they'll be sitting on the fast side of the seem, in high water they'll be sitting on the slow side of the seem.
By reading the water and adjusting your approach, you can increase your chances of success when egg fishing.
So, what are you waiting for? Gear up for your next adventure here:
God Bless and Fish on!
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