Anise scented eggs are a go to bait for a lot of people who fish the salmon and steelhead runs around the Great Lakes. They are more popular in some areas than others, but they actually work anywhere you can fish salmon and steelhead.
Although we might call these “anise salmon eggs” they actually aren’t salmon eggs at all. Instead, they are molded plastic in the shape and size of salmon eggs. So they are not the real thing, though they absolutely do catch fish. Sometimes anise scented soft plastic eggs they out-fish the real deal.
Why do they work? Well, probably for the same reason that real salmon eggs, beads, salmon egg flies and egg-shaped steelhead flies do. Steelhead and salmon enter rivers mainly to spawn. But they will snap up an egg they see drifting naturally. It could be competition, hunger or instinct that causes this. There’s a lot of debate on the subject. The reality is that for whatever reason all of these lures can be effective.
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Why anise scent works
Anise is a common scent found on everything from catfish bait to soft plastic worms for largemouth bass. When it comes to people some love anise and others hate it. There doesn’t seem to be much in between. When it comes to fish I don’t know that anise is necessarily a flavor or smell fish like. But I do know for sure that it can’t hurt.
One idea about why anise scent works is that it is a strange smell that would cause fish to investigate. Another probably more accurate idea is that the anise smell simply masks any human or plastic scents. Of course fish my actually love this flavor for some reason. Maybe gizzard shad taste like anise. I’ve never eaten a gizzard shad so I couldn’t tell you. Like I said, I know that the anise smell can’t hurt. So why not use it? Unless you’re in an area where scented baits are illegal of course.
There was a time I was fishing with egg flies and not catching any fish. Then I switched to a soft plastic egg. Still no fish. Finally I put on a chartreuse anise egg and caught fish. Did I just get lucky? Did the fish move in while I was changing lures? I can’t say for sure. All I can tell you is that chartreuse eggs caught no fish while anise scented chartreuse eggs did.
How to catch fish on anise eggs
Generally speaking, you fish anise scented eggs like you would fish any real or artificial salmon egg. In other words, you want the egg to drift naturally with the current. Usually you want it to bounce along the bottom just like a real salmon egg that washes out of a redd.
Any of the spin fishing rigs for Great Lakes steelhead will work. If you want to keep it as simple as possible you attach a salmon egg hook to the end of your line. Then you put enough split shot on the line to keep the rig down on the bottom and bouncing naturally with the current.
If the egg washes downstream before it even touches the bottom then you need more weight. If the egg sinks straight to the bottom and never moves again then you have too much weight. Find the right balance so that your egg looks like a loose egg would in the water.
You can also fish eggs on a floating drift rig. The same general principle applies. You want the egg to drift down around the bottom at the same general speed as the current. Achieving this “dead drift” is the most difficult part of this sort of fishing. But getting it right will mean the difference between catching fish and getting skunked.
Here’s a final tip. If you have trouble keeping anise eggs on your hook you might want to look into bait buttons. I tried them out last season and I liked what I saw. These are basically little pieces of rubber that you can easily put on your hook after your egg. They stay put on the hook and hold your egg in place. They work very well. I never lost a single egg while using them.