Few steelhead baits work as well as a single salmon eggs fished on a small hook under a float. From the beginning of the fall steelhead run, through the winter months and ending with the late spring action, single eggs catch fish. The only problem is where do you get good single eggs?
All single eggs are not created equal. Yes, you can catch steelhead on Mikes garlic flavored salmon eggs, but better options are available. Erie tackle shops sell cured single eggs. Most anglers do not have the time to deal with getting fresh salmon eggs and curing them so buying the finished product is a good option for most of us. They work fine; however, there will be times when you may notice some anglers catching more fish while using what appears to be the same single egg bait as you.
Since we can eliminate that you are just being out-fished, the natural reaction is to say that angler has better eggs. So what then? Been there and done that! Decades later, I am still searching for the perfect single egg, but I have produced some contenders for the title.
I will assume you can get your hands on fresh, uncured salmon eggs. I always cure the raw eggs by soaking them in a "curing brine" for about 4-hours. Once that is accomplished, all that remains is selecting a curing process that makes the eggs durable enough to stay on the hook while remaining soft enough to get the steelhead to eat them by letting the natural scent milk into the water. No easy task.
One simple cure is pickling salt. Spread out the eggs, dust with salt and let them air dry until the eggs take on a raisin like appearance. Shake off the excess salt, plastic bag the eggs and store them in the frig. Called Canadian Golden - they catch fish.
A better cure is a quick dip in Muriatic [hydrochloric] acid. Use EXTREME CAUTION when handling this nasty stuff. Read some online handling instructions before getting started. No metal tools or containers - use plastic.
You need two small bowls for the acid, spoon, strainer, and small pot [this can be metal] filled with water. After you drop in a few eggs to test the length of time required to soak eggs in the acid bath* to achieve the soft, durable result, you are ready to do a batch. Put 1/4 cup of raw eggs into a bowl, pour in enough [pre-measured] acid solution bath to cover the eggs, stir for your preferred time, stop and pour the eggs and acid through a strainer over the second bowl, then toss the drained, cured eggs into the water bath. The bath stops the curing process. Get a few eggs out of the bath and prick them with a hook. If they pop - too soft, crack open - too hard, hold the hook and bleed some juice - you may have done it.
Nothing in this article is news to most anglers. The acid cure is standard procedure for most of us, but not the only/best cure method. Do a Google search and you will discover others. If you find a better one, let me know. Now that you have good eggs, no excuses!
* You need to establish how stong to make the "bath". I never did well with full strength. I like to dilute the bath by adding 20 ml of acid in 4 cups of water. Just so you know, I will adjust that formula if the eggs do not turn out properly.