Shrimp It Up!

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Salmon and steelhead bait for summer

Sports: The Angle
By Lucas Holmgren, Contributing Writer

Cured coonstripe shrimp have not been popularly used as a fishing bait until somewhat recently, but they have changed the game for salmon and steelhead anglers. For the bait world, there are pros and cons to the options out there. Eggs are one of the best, but dialing in a cure can sometimes be an unending task, not to mention the mess and their tendency to fall off the hook. Sand shrimp seems to work for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon, but keeping them alive or getting them fresh can be a difficult task. It’s hard to beat bait in almost any fishery, and especially so when it comes to Columbia and Willamette River salmon and steelhead!

A specific kind of shrimp, coonstripe shrimp, is a popular and extremely effective bait for a handful of reasons: higher durability than sand shrimp; consistent color retention; can be refrigerated and re-fished; and effective on catching salmon and steelhead.

About Coonstripe Shrimp

Coonstripe shrimp are a pandalid shrimp with a long, spiny rostrum that protrudes forward from their eyes and carapace. They are the second largest shrimp in Alaskan waters, typically ranging between 3 and 6 inches in length. They can be distinguished from other similar shrimp (like spot shrimp) through the darker striped markings on their abdomens. They have a heavier, more robust appearance that is arched more than other Alaskan shrimp.

Taking Care of Coon Shrimp

Some anglers cure their own shrimp. Addicted Fishing has a cure that I rely on for making my own special blend. If you can’t make your own, commercially packaged coon shrimp are very effective (with the right brand). My particular brand of choice is Washington Coon Shrimp by RiverCity Fishing Products. These shrimp are selected from the boat to the jar using gloves, never having touched human hands. Special care is taken to keep the tails and antennae intact. Subpar shrimp are thrown out so that every shrimp in the jar is fishable. Millennial Bait Co. Coon Shrimp are also an effective cure that I especially like for sockeye, but it works well for all species. Be careful not to shake your shrimp jar or turn it upside down. Keeping them intact is key.

To Scent or Not to Scent

Commercial cures don’t require scent and often are effective as is, but if other anglers are using the same or similar bait downriver from you, it’s a good idea to add scent.

Coon Shrimp Success

If you’re unsure of the coon shrimp you have available, try to bring two different cures and a few scents to play with. Some days, the fish will respond to a certain scent and others they won’t. Ultimately, the fish need to be there, but coonstripe shrimp are a great way to target them.