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Canned Tuna: The Other Bait
By Jason Brooks
Salmon and steelhead anglers spend hours if not decades perfecting their bait cures. From skeins of eggs, brined herring, cured prawns and tuna bellies, each person has come up with their favorite way to preserve the bait and make it more enticing to the fish they target. But what if there was a bait that is as simple as opening a can and fishing it? Spoiler alert: There is.
Look to the grocery store and pick up a few cans of tuna fish. Floating down the Klickitat River a couple years ago I noticed my guide buddy wrapping a paste onto his plugs. Without trying to look like I was spying on him I kept watch. Then he made a comment that he was running out of bait and I began to worry until he reached into his lunchbox and pulled out a can of tuna.
It makes sense as tuna bellies have become one of the most popular baits, along with tuna oils as an add-on scent. But before you just throw a couple of cans into the grocery basket there are a couple of things to consider. The first being to make sure the tuna is packed in water, not oil. This is because oil floats and any scent trail put out by the canned tuna will simply float to the top of the water instead of stay down where the fish are. The second thing to look for is the easy open “pop top” type cans or “canned” tuna in foil bags. That way you won’t have to worry about having a can opener with you when you need to open another can of bait on the water.
Canned tuna fish is very versatile. You can mix it with your favorite sauces, gels, and even powder cures to make a paste. The applications are almost endless. I’ve stuffed a hoochie skirt as well as the hinge style plugs like Brad’s Super Baits and Super Cut-plugs. It can be hard to wrap onto plugs but with enough stretchy thread it can be done. You can use fine mesh netting that is used for tying egg sac’s and make “tuna balls” which you can drift fish, hover fish, and even hook onto the middle hook of the plug when back trolling. The best part is that you can buy a few cans and throw them in the boat and they will be there all season. If you open a can during the day it’s cheap and easily discarded when done fishing. Next time you head to the water be sure to stop by the grocery store and pick up a few cans of tuna fish, the other bait.