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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.

Good Luck,
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Finding Salmon Roe Jump to the top of this page

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 ice.

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.

Roe Balls Jump to the top of this page

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 active.

To make a roe ball, you will need the following items:

  • Salmon Roe
  • Scissors (or a Knife)
  • Cheese Cloth (or Netting)
  • Thread

Salmon Roe and Materials

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Now use your scissors to cut off the remaining material above the roe ball.  There you have it - a finished roe ball!

Roe Ball

Roe Chunks Jump to the top of this page

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.

Storing Roe Jump to the top of this page

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 freezing it.

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.

Vacuum Sealed Roe Balls