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When I got into meat dragging several years ago it didn’t take too long to realize that trolling w/ herring was going to be a bit on the expensive side since I fish off my meager retirement and my Social Security Insurance.  I started with some old frozen Ales that I had salt/soaked in the freezer for cut-bait. I “re-brined” them using the method I’d seen in a video.

Living in S/W Michigan I’m lucky to live within 20 miles of 2 river systems so during the June/July Skam run I’d go to the pier to soak a few shrimp with some old friends. I’d take a couple of 2-gallon zip bags with 3 cups of borax and 3 cups of canning salt in each bag and a sabiki rig or cast net and while I had  a bobber rig in the water I would jig-up/net Ales until I had about 2 dozen in a 5gallon bucket. Then I’d drain the water and put the Ales (still flopping) in the bag and mix them around and then put the bag in the cooler and then repeat the same process. When I’d get home I’d sort them for size and finish the process.

 

But if I’m going to fillet some for sushi-flies or cut-bait heads I’ll basically use this idea;

 http://www.michigansportsman.com/Tips_n_Trix/Cut_Bait.htm

Caution!! Some wives don’t take too kindly to a bunch of bait
jars in the frig for the summer.

I did that maybe 3 or 4 times over the summer Skam season and had more than enough bait for the trolling season plus a lot of extras to get started this year in the freezer.

When I get too many jars in the frig I’ll take and drain them and place the “Ales” on sheet pans and flash freeze them.  I’ll place 4 fish in those small snack bags and when I’m all done I’ll put those snack bags in labeled by color in freezer bags.   

Quick, simple and CHEAP. Now there is nothing wrong w/ commercial brines and they work faster but I have a lot of time on my hands.
If ya go to a pier to do this, DO NOT use a wire basket to hold your fish as it tends to rub the scales off the fish, you want that sparkle from the scales. And it is better to salt bag them at the pier because by the time you get home with a bucket full of dead ales they will start to “slime” and you’ll lose that natural scent. But that’s just my take on it and it works for me.

Martin

 

 

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Great info Martin, have you had luck netting any ales this year yet?

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Sorry Ole Friend, ain't been to the "Joe" since the 1st part of April.  We haven't marked any bait balls out of South Haven yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Martin

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I have not been fishing since early April either and that was pier and beach then. Have not splashed my boat, latest ever in my life. Looks like Im missing the entire spring trolling at St Joe. That has been due to turkey hunting and both my kids going now. I'm going to start fishing Memorial day weekend in Pentwater and in past years when we had lots of bait, they would be in the harbor and the mouth of the Sable. I'm taking my cast net so I hope I can find some. All the best! Ed

Sent from my SM-G920V using Great Lakes Fisherman Mobile App

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Does the brine work all the way through the fish without having to fillet them first? I like using cut bait but if I can brine them before filleting them that would prevent the "sliming" issue I've had in the past.

Sent from my iPhone using Great Lakes Fisherman mobile app

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I knew there were one or two points I forgot.  The reason I dry brine them at the pier is to set the scales and "slime".  If I have a couple of 6''ers when I get home I'll fillet my A and B sides and then brine them.  Ales aren't as tough or re-useable as a herring.  I like to brine them for 2 weeks and a whole Ale will last up to 4hrs with good color and scale retention.  Guess I'll have to try to fillet one or two tomorrow while I'm fishing.

Martin  

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Nice post & tutorial, Martin.

Question for you:  I haven't had much luck freezing alewives that have been brined -- they turn to mush after about 15 minutes trolling time.  Do you re-brine them after thawing or have you not seen the 'mush' problem?

One more thing:  The YouTube link doesn't work for me.  Could you try the link and if you find the same problem, re-post the correct link?

Thanks!

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Brad

Here ya go partner, sorry for that bad link.  This is the one that I use for 2 weeks preferred or less on whole Alewives and my A/B fillets.

Give this one a try;

Martin

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" I haven't had much luck freezing alewives that have been brined -- they turn to mush after about 15 minutes trolling time.  Do you re-brine them after thawing or have you not seen the 'mush' problem? "

Brad,  , No I have not had a "muss" problem. I'm rather liberal with the borax and canning salt, well water and I'm rather anal when it come to keeping everything COLD even when I'm fishing.  One thing, I live in the country so I'm on a well.  And just like curing salmon eggs, you NEVER want to use city water.

I see you're up in Tulip Town.  If ya are ever down by St. Joe/Benton Harbor or even South Haven, give me a shout and I'll spot ya a few of mine.  I'll send ya a private message.

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