Tips & Techniques >
Processing Salmon Roe for Sturgeon Fishing
Salmon roe is one of the best known baits for sturgeon fishing in
the California Delta and Suisun Bay. On this page I'm going to
show you a few ideas for processing salmon roe for sturgeon fishing.
Salmon and steelhead anglers prefer to cure their roe with borax,
sugar, salt, or commercial curing products. This will toughen
up the roe so it can endure repeated casts in fast currents.
Most sturgeon anglers prefer uncured roe, since we only make casts
every 15-30 minutes. This allows the roe to be presented in
its natural state which allows for the maximum amount of scents to
be released into the water. Be sure to check out my sturgeon
tips and rigging
suggestions for salmon roe.
Finding Salmon Roe
If you are lucky enough to catch a female salmon, you will most
likely get some pretty good roe. Roe is made up of salmon
eggs held together by skin inside of the salmon's
underbelly. Check out my salmon
tips for some techniques used to catch salmon.
When you catch a salmon, it is very important that you bleed it
right after catching it. This is done by first knocking the
fish out with a small club, commonly referred to as a
priest. After a few sharp whacks, cut the gills on each side
of the fish. I'm not talking about the gill plates - I'm
talking about the actual red feathery gill structures. This
is most easily done twisting them with a pair of pliers or cutting
them with a really sharp knife. This can be messy, so I
normally do it to the side of the boat. All of blood in a
fish flows through the gills, and by cutting them you can bleed
out a fish rather quickly. Once you have the gills cut, hang
the fish over the side of the boat on a stringer for about 5-10
minutes to allow the heart to pump the blood out of the
fish. Once the fish is bled out, immediately put the fish on
By bleeding the fish, you remove the blood from the meat and
roe. Blood will cause the meat to taste bad and the roe to
spoil easily. When you clean the fish, carefully slice open
the belly and remove each mass of eggs. You might have to
cut some connecting skin to get the roe to detach from the
body. Put the roe into a cooler or refrigerator immediately!
I you can't catch your own salmon, you will have to buy some
roe which can be very expensive. Try local bait shops
or you can order it online.
A common method for presenting roe to sturgeon is in the form
of roe balls. A roe ball is a glob of roe surrounded by
netting. This prevents small fish from picking your roe off
the hook. This is much more of a problem when water
temperatures are warm (above 56 degrees) and small fish are
To make a roe ball, you will need the following items:
- Salmon Roe
- Scissors (or a Knife)
- Cheese Cloth (or Netting)
- Start by cutting a piece of cheese cloth into a 6"x6"
square (see top of photo above). I like to use cheese cloth
because it's cheap and really soft. You can use nylon
netting or any other type of material that is porous. I feel
more confident with cheese cloth because it's soft and less likely
to be spit out by a feeding sturgeon.
- Now cut a ping-pong ball sized piece of roe and place it into
the middle of the cheese cloth square. Scissors work the
best for cutting roe, but you can also use a knife.
- Draw the four corners together until you have a ball of
roe. Now cinch up the top of the ball by wrapping some
thread to secure it. I like to use elastic thread made for
fishing like Magic Thread or Miracle Thread because it doesn't
come unraveled. Normal thread will also work.
- Now use your scissors to cut off the remaining material above
the roe ball. There you have it - a finished roe ball!
When water temperatures cool down and small fish become
inactive, I switch over to roe chunks without any netting. I
precut my salmon roe into bait sized chunks which are about as big
as a ping-pong or golf ball.
If you don't use your fresh roe within a few days, you will
need to freeze it. I prefer to freeze my roe in vacuum
sealed bags. Roe sealed in this fashion will keep for over a
year. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, freezer storage
bags will also work.
Some people partially freeze their roe before vacuum sealing it
to prevent the vacuum sealer from crushing the eggs. I don't
have this problem with my vacuum sealer, so I seal it before
I seal my roe into bags of five pieces of bait. This
makes is convenient to thaw out small packs of roe as
needed. This keeps the roe fresh and prevents unneeded
thawing and refreezing of unused roe.