HOOK: 3x or 4x long, size 4 to 10
It seems every steelhead season seems to bring more and more fish attractants to the tackle store shelves, each offering added strikes to our baits of choice regardless of plastic or natural. Squirt it on, inject it, stick it, etc. It seems a bait or lure will not catch fish these days unless it has some type of fish attractant applied to it. Some fisherman will swear their fish catching prayers have been answered by the most recent version of shrimp or crawdad oil.
Other fishermen will not even attempt to wet a line unless their favorite fish attractant has been added. Proven steelheaders can not even receive due credit for their skills anymore because of fish attractants.
After a recent fishing day I happen to overhear a fisherman´s comments after watching a top North Coast guide boat a third fish in a slow day, "He must be using some type of steelhead aphrodisiac." To make matters worse every fisherman seems to have there own fish attracting concoction. Most have simply added a pinch of this, or teaspoon of that, to the brands from the tackle store and shaken them up together. This then classifies the concoction as truly their own, which makes it a proven fish catcher. The fact is, most all fish attractants on the market come from one of four following ingredients or some combination of the four, oils, amino acids, plants, and phermones.
Fish attractants that are oil based generally are developed by, you guessed it, smashing creatures like crawdad´s, sandshrimp, herring and sardines into paste. The paste is then extracted for select compounds. These select compounds are then used to create the newest fish attracting formula. Oil based fish attractants are said to be on the low end of the scale for effectiveness in attracting steelhead or salmon. They will however, cause a fish to take a longer look at your offering or keep it in their mouth for a greater period of time before causing them to spit. Oil based attractants will mask human scent and most other offending odors. Products such as Smelly Jelly; Edge Products Hot Sauce; Fish Formula; Mike´s Shrimp Oil, Riverside Lures Real Craw; and Cossacks Bait Products shrimp, Herring, and Salmon egg oils are thought to be primarily oil based.
Those attractants which include amino acids are based on evidence that combinations of amino acids can stimulate feeding in many fish species. Amino acids come from animal proteins and all living animals have their own unique amino acid combinations, giving each a distinct taste and odor. Few manufacturers of fish attractants use amino acids solely as the active ingredients in their recipe. Amino acids rate high at attracting and stimulating fish from a distance. It is thought that Berkley´s attractants are based on amino acids along with Pharmacal´s Baitmate Live and Dr. Juice´s Elixirs.
Scents such as anise, banana oil, and garlic are extracts from plants. These plant bi-products do not seem to have the same fish attracting ability as amino acids, but can cause fish to be of interested as they provide an aroma steelhead are not accustomed to smelling in their normal lives. Plant extracts are very effective in covering human odors along with others that might be present on your offering. A few plant scents are Cossack Bait Products Anise and Garlic Gel; Mister Twister Banana Oil; Atlas Mike´s Glow Scent Jel and Anise Oil; and Fish Formula SparklScales.
Last, some fish attractants are based on phermones or better classified as the elk in rut chemical. Phermones are chemicals that animals use to communicate with members of their own species. Steelhead release their own phermones which are detected by the olfactory receptors of others. Fish in general, are thought to identify members of their species through the use of this chemical. Mating and courtship are also influenced by the chemicals presence. Phermones decompose rapidly and it seems their main function is to alert other fish of short term danger or attraction with little or nothing to do with feeding behavior. Dr. Juice Elixir is the only fish attractant that uses phermones.
When looking at scents for steelhead and salmon one has to keep in mind that most are developed for the warm water fisheries with a few northwest exceptions like Catcher Company (Smelly Jelly) who´s roots originated from northwest salmon and steelhead fishing scents. I am not to be misunderstood that steelheaders can not apply products from the bass anglers world without success, but about eighty percent of the products in the sportfishing world are oriented to the warm water creatures. For example when looking for a good attractant for steelhead one of the main items I concern myself with is how long the attractant will stay on my bait, plug, spinner etc. and be effective. I do not want to be applying the stuff every cast or every time I reel my plugs into the boat. It might be okay in the summer with warm temperatures, but in the winter during those cold icy trips, no way! Again, products that will work below the surface, or have good solubility are a must. These products tend to be mostly natural oils like shrimp, crawdad, and herring etc. They are not the most effective in attracting distant fish, but offer a pleasant taste to Mr. steelhead and increase the ironheads retention time to ones offering. It most cases, especially when pulling plugs attracting distant fish is not critical, as the offering should be hitting the fish in the nose anyway. If the water is up with color an attractant with amino acids may be a better choice as it is more effective in bringing distant fish in for a look. Now you get the idea!
It is important to note that some fish attractants with natural bi products become toxic after a period of time. This not only becomes offensive to fish, but can also be hazardous to touch. Catcher Company´s, Smelly Jelly products seem to lead the industry with a two year shelf life without spoilage. When using any fish attractant follow the manufacturers recommended application instructions which vary greatly dependending on the product. Keep all attractants out of extreme heat conditions, for example the compartments of your drift boat during the summer. This will cook the brew to a terrible stench in which the fish with the greatest phermones will pass.
As the amount of fisherman becoming increasingly attuned to the world of fish attractants, it is interesting how few are concerned with chasing the fish away with the chemicals that repel fish. Many common chemicals that ride to the river with the fisherman have a negative effect to Mr. Steelhead. Like it or not humans are stuck with scent that contains the amino acid L-serine, which fish find pretty offensive. Some fisherman unfortunately have more L-serine than others, this is most likely the problem with your fishing buddy who is in the dry spell of his life. Or it could be he or she handles such items as tobacco products, sun screens, or insect repellents, which are all taboo to Mr. Steelhead. The use of any product on the market to remove the nasty scents we bring to the river are a good idea. Berkley´s Sportsman´s Odor Remover or Baitmate´s NON SCENTS Odor Eliminator work well. Plain Lava or white Ivory soap