Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cured Salmon Eggs are Toxic

So something we have suspected for many years turns out to be true! Sodium Sulfite cured salmon and steelhead eggs kill fish.
When this study was made public a few well known bait guides were quoted as saying

"They should do the same smolt study with twinkies and see how many die"

"I'll quit using cured eggs if you quit using toilet paper"

One unenlightened bait guide brags about how he discards left over baits in the river to "imprint" on the juvenile salmon and steelhead what to look for when they return in a couple of years....sheer brilliance huh?
The fact is these knuckle draggers have never evolved as anglers. They cannot leave their comfort zone of bait use no matter what the consequences.
This study is just another hurdle that wild salmonid must face and so far the professional guides out on the river could not care less.
The article below was taken from Bill Bakke's Home Waters and Wild Fish


By Bill Bakke - Native Fish Society

In 2007 Jeff Misler asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to test cured salmon eggs for toxic compounds, for he was concerned juvenile salmonids were being killed by ingesting the bait.
Oregon State University and ODFW researchers conducted the study for ODFW and made the following discovery: Cured salmon eggs killed juvenile salmon and steelhead.
The research discovered that within a 23 day span 30% of the juvenile salmonids were killed. Upon further investigation, they found that eggs cured with sodium sulfite were lethal. It is this chemical that kills the fish.
They also tested the eggs by giving them a soak to see if they were less lethal. They were testing whether fishing softened their impact. Soak times ranged from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, but the results were the same: the fish died.
Salmon eggs are a favored bait used by anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead. Anglers cure their own eggs or buy them, but if sodium sulfite is used in the curing process they are fishing a poisoned bait.
Additional research on nutrient enrichment of salmon and steelhead streams has pointed out the fact that eggs are preferred by juvenile salmonids. Most salmon eggs are available in early winter months when the juvenile fish are seeking food in cold water when other food supplies are less abundant.
Juvenile fish are seeking the fat rich eggs and anglers fishing steelhead and salmon are using cured eggs. The combination is lethal.
ODFW officials said in a news release that “We’ve already talked with several manufactures and we’re encouraged by their commitment to solving this problem.”
However, ODFW researchers said they “…cannot predict what impact, if any, the ingestion of cured eggs by juvenile fish has on the final size of the adult population.”
In the research proposal to investigate the toxic effect of cured salmon eggs on juvenile salmonids, there is evidence of even more mortality than what was found in the OSU research. A 1979 study showed that consumption of borax cured eggs led to decreased growth and an increase in plasma corticosteroids in chinook and rainbow trout juveniles. Furthermore, we recently observed between 50-60% mortality in a preliminary study feeding cured salmon eggs (Clements Pers Obs).
Measuring the impact based on the effect on adult salmon and steelhead production, is like taking pins out of the voodoo doll. They can reason that not all juveniles survive to return as adults, so the loss of a few or even a gob of young fish is, at best, immaterial and mitigates any need to manage the use of eggs as bait.
At a time when most of our wild salmon and steelhead are depleted and designated a threatened species, sensitive species, and candidate species for ESA-listing, one would hope that the management authorities would recognize a problem rather than trying to minimize it.


  1. I fully feel that SODIUM SULFITE-cured salmon eggs have no place in anyone's bait bucket. THOSE are the eggs that kill.

    That said, I see no problem with using eggs cured in other ways. Elimination of sodium sulfite from egg cures isn't a big problem as there are about a billion ingredients which can safely substitute for it.

    I'm guessing that you're a fly fisherman from the disdain with which you seem to address the topic of bait use. That's all well and good, I fly fish as well, but I also drift bait, float jigs, and run plugs. I see no need to get all snooty about fly fishing.

  2. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Just like with the Government's marijuana test on monkey's done by Dr. Heath, this "test" is flawed at best. The force-fed eggs to smolts non-stop for days on end, some smolts died, some did not. I don't fish with bait, but I think if you are going to tell the story you should tell the whole story. Not just the part that you feel is the most important.

  3. Anonymous why don't you quit hiding behind your anonymity, grow a pair and let's discuss this.
    I reported the facts as I have them.
    You don't like them so you, being the brave soul you are, take shots at me?

  4. Anonymous - A couple of facts that you've apparently missed:

    1.) Most of the mortality occurred directly after feedings.. as in, within MINUTES of ingestion.

    2.) When they eliminated sodium sulfite from the food, most of the mortality was also eliminated.

  5. This is not my area of expertise and it could be just scaremongering for all I know? But rather than take any chances of further mortalities I'm considering the new aquaspawn synthetic from apparently it only contains minerals and water!