How to Use Fish Chum
Fish Chum & Chumming > How to Use Fish Chum
Source: http://www.thaifishingguide.com/fishtechequip/techniques/ saltwatertechniques/chum.html
Chumming, Burleying, and Groundbaiting is releasing fish chum, stink bait, bunker, burley, or groundbait into the water to attract fish within your casting range. Stink bait attracts fish to your fishing spot and stimulates the fish into feeding mode, sometimes creating a Fish Frenzy!
If You Chum, Fish Will Come!
Chum and burley can be fresh, frozen, dry blocks, cut fish, or any thing else fish are attacked to. What is used to chum depends on the location and species targeted. Chum buckets or pots, chum nets or bags, and chum dispensers are used to release chum into the water gradually, creating a slick in the water. Small particles of chum will stay suspended close to the water surface while larger chunks sink; choose your weapon wisely targeting the species you wish to catch.
Chunking or Chunk Baiting
A very successful approach is called chunking or chunk-baiting which is throwing cut bait into an established chum line, then put the same cut bait on a hook and toss your baited hook into the chum line. Chunking is also throwing in chunks of fish scraps at regular intervals creating a chum slick. This works well if the current is slight. When chunk baiting on a boat usually one passenger is assigned the job of chunking to keep the chum slick going while everyone else fishes the slick.
Live Bait Chumming
Live bait chumming is the deadliest tactic to use, especially if you use a bait fish that is normally eaten by your targeted species. Keeping bait fish alive and throwing them in periodically always attracts bigger fish. You can use fish, shrimp, worms, or any other live bait that are indigenous to the area.
Watch this video of live bait chumming from a boat in the keys. See the blackfin tuna feeding on the chum.
Create Your Own Bait Ball with Live Fish
This video shows how to create a mullet run using fresh mullets. They went out and used a castnet to catch a lot of mullet. They stored the mullet in a barrel and went out fishing. Once at the fishing spot they dumped the mullet off their boat to create a mullet school just off their boat. This attracts larger fish to the boat. Fish on!
Fish Head & Carcass Chumming
Fish head & carcass chumming is when you attach a fish head or whole fish carcass to a line and float it in the water to attract fish. The bigger the head or carcass the bigger the fish you will attract.
The fish carcasses in this picture are bonito attached to a line behind a boat that is drift fishing. These large carcasses attracted a mako shark that got away that day.
Attaching some type of float to the carcass or fish head prevents it from sinking to the bottom. It is great fun watching fish nibble on your presentation.
Tip: Use strong line or you will loose your carcass.
Broadcast chumming is ladling chum into the water or broadcasting it as shown in this picture. This is a good technique to use when you want to regulate the amount of chum that goes into the water. You can stop and start the chum slick anytime.
Sand Ball Chumming
Sand balls are made from chum mixed with sand. Sand balls are great for getting the chum to the bottom. Here is a video demonstrating how to make sand balls and use them.
Chum Ball on a Hook
I don't have a picture but a friend makes fresh chum from fresh fish scraps using his stainless steel chum grinder. He then stirs in beach sand and forms balls around his big baited fishing hooks, like you would with Dough Bait. If he doesn't have fresh fish scraps he will thaw a frozen chum block and mix it with sand.
He sometimes freezes the hooks with the bait & chum balls attached. When he goes fishing he takes the bag along and lets it thaw. My friend fishes offshore for big game fish and what he does is ties on the dough ball hook and since it is heavy with sand it drops deep then slowly releases the chum. He says he catches a big fish on every hook dropped in very little time. The next time I make chum I will try this and take some pictures.
Stir Up the Bottom after your chum slick is set to attract more fish, especially flounders and other bottom dwelling fish. Using a long telescopic pole with a plunger attached works great, or just use a long pole but you need more muscle to do this. The disturbed bottom will act as a chum in the water releasing organisms that live there. It also causes a disturbance causing fish to come and see what's going on. Please be sure you only disturb sandy or muddy bottoms and avoid sea grass areas.
Consider the Current
Current is one of the more important things to consider when looking for a place to start clam chumming. You'll need the current to carry the chum and your bait back to where you think the fish may be. Knowing your currents helps to determine how much chum to use and what type of dispenser to use. Fast currents use lots of chum and slow currents use less.
Chumming From The Shore
Chumming from the shore varies by location and the method of presentation differs by conditions present.
In Calm Surf attaching a dispenser to a line and anchoring it on shore works well if the dispenser stays away from the shore. Another method is to throw in cut bait or a dry block that sinks to the bottom.
If you want to castnet mullet from shore (or any other bait fish), put a few broken pilchards in a chum bag, put the bag in the water knee deep and tie it to a sand spike or old broomstick stuck into the sand. Wait a short while and hopefully a school of mullet will appear for you to castnet.
Another method during low tide is to bury chum in the sand and as the tide rises the fish will come in to feed, this works well on sand banks in estuaries.
In Rough Surf your options are limited to freely throw chum into the water using cut bait, a dry chum block thrown out into the surf, or throwing scoops of chum by hand. The chum dispensed into rough surf does not stay around long, so must be repeated regularly.
Sling Shot Catapults
An interesting way to get the chum into the surf and away from the shore is to use a sling shot catapult designed for this very purpose. For more information on chum catapults jump to our Chum Dispensers page.
To catapult your chum you must have a mix the consistency of mud so you can form chum balls. Adding a binder to the mix can firm it up so you can form the balls. Check out our Recipes—Freshwater for Rob Roy's Catfish Recipe that can be baked to make chum balls for catapulting.
To make a burley ball, mix sand into your chum mix and freeze. The burley will slowly thaw once it hits the water and it can be catapulted far into the water due to it's weight. You can also do this with groundbait or fish chum, all the same stuff.
Another interesting device is the Burley Bomb bait dispenser that is filled with chum, attached to your fishing line and cast out into the water. When the Burley Bomb hits the water it releases your chum, then you reel the dispenser back to shore to retrieve it. To watch a video of the Spomb Bomb in action, see it on our Chum Dispensers page.
Maggots in a Tree
Filling a bag with live maggots, tie a string to the bag and hang on a tree branch over the water. Poke a hole into the bottom so the maggots are released very slowly. This method is great for attracting freshwater species.
Here is a tip from a New Zealand angler: Take river rocks or stones and soak them in fish oil. Bring the rocks to the shore and throw them in. The rocks are porous and will absorb the fish oil. Use Menhaden oil or other bottled fish attractant, any silly type attractant will work. Store the rocks in the oil so they are fresh when thrown from the beach or shoreline.
Kite fishing and chumming is a great way to get your bait and chum further out into the water than possible when casting.
Attach small, lightweight chum dispensers or in-line dispensers to the line along with your hook and have some fun.
For information on Kit Fishing from a Boat.
Lakes are usually calm, so your presentation will stay in the water close to its release point longer. Attaching your dispenser to a dock, tree, or anchor and free floating it in the water will slow release chum. Throwing in cut bait or a chum block close to where you will fish works too.
Notice this angler has a chum bucket floating in the water in from of him. This fisherman made himself a very cleaver devise for dropping his chum in his casting range. Perhaps we will call this devise a Homemade Pole Dispenser.
Rivers are moving bodies of water, thus presenting a challenge when chumming is desired. If you are on the shore, you will have to attach a dispenser to the shore and hope the fish come to you. If you are fishing from a boat on a river, chum is placed it the water and the chum will swiftly move from the spot released. Your plan must be to drift with the chum and cast into it. Knowing the direction of the current and working it is the key to your chumming success on a river.
If you are chumming at the shore, why not get yourself some free bait? Any tidal pool or lagoon usually holds plenty of bait escaping the surf. Use hand nets or castnets to catch your bait. You can also collect mussels and clams on the shore to use for bait (or dinner).
Beach Seining is another way to collect bait to use for chunk chumming or making homemade fish chum.
See our Live Bait page for techniques on catching your own bait for chum.
Chumming for Blue Crabs
A fellow fisherman friend Scott who maintains aquariums for a living loves to take his daughters fishing on the docks and pier in Naples, FL. He has many fish tanks of his own and sometimes has frozen fish food that gets freezer burn, so he takes the food with him to Chum for Blue Crabs.
Since he supplies a lot of clients with fish food, he has a freezer full. The frozen fish food he prefers is in bulk blocks that are frozen thin enough to break off chunks for easy feeding. The flavors he buy's are brine shrimp, cyclops, krill, and blood worms.
As you may guess, this fish food is excellent for chumming.
His method of chumming for blue crabs is to throw the frozen chunks into the water below his fishing spot. He chooses a spot where the current is slack so the chum stays in front of him. After a very short time he can see the blue crabs, stone crabs, bait fish, and bigger fish moving in. Lots of crabs and fish will show up pretty quickly, the fine fish food will flow through the water column and sink.
At this point he will put fresh bait on a #10 hook with a small snap weight on it and drop it straight down near the crabs and wait. It doesn't take long for a big 6 inch crab to start walking with his bait. To hook the crab is just snaps the line and the hook will catch the crab on their underbelly.
He sometimes gets stone crabs on the line too, but they are much harder to land. Stone crabs do not let go once they have bait in their claws, so just slowly lift them out of the water with your fish net ready.
Cool tip Scott, can't wait to try this chumming technique for crab.
Chumming From A Dock or Pier
Public Fishing Piers
Public fishing piers present an interesting environment for chumming. Usually there are many anglers present so space is limited. Chumming on most public piers is Not Allowed, so you must be creative in your chumming. The easiest way to chum from a pier is to drop your chum directly into the water (assuming the current is slow, otherwise it will quickly drift away). Since there are other anglers present, hopefully they too are chumming otherwise everyone's line will be heading your way!
If you are allowed to chum, you can hang a dispenser from a line below your chosen fishing "spot". Using a net or bag with holes and a very long line, fill the bag with chum, add a heavy sinker, drop it down into the water, then tie your line to a railing. The chum will drift with the current drawing fish to the pier. Be careful not to hook the dispenser since you will be casting pretty close to your chum slick.
One indication that you will have a great pier fishing day is the presence of bird diving into the water. Birds will flock over bait balls, feeding on the frenzy. Casting your line near this commotion will certainly bring great results. You must remember to be careful not to hook the ever present birds going after the bait or your chum. It is very common to see a fisherman on the pier struggling with a bird on his hook!
Fishing carts make wonderful companions for hauling your tackle and chumming supplies. Get all your gear in one trip, easily change fishing locations, and keep everything you need close at hand with these tough, handy and easy-rolling carts! And when you get back home, just wheel it into the garage and you will be ready for your next fishing trip. There are all kinds of carts available with the best having inflatable pneumatic rubber tires. Load your cart up with a cooler, tackle box, fishing rods, and off you go.
You can make your own fishing cart. Use a dolly, wheels attached to a board, or even use a child's wagon. Just use your imagination or visit a pier for some ideas. Jump to our Fishing Carts page for all kinds of great ideas on making your own and the Gallery of cart photos.
Many public piers rent dock space to charter boats. When the fishing charter returns to their dock, they will usually clean the customers catch, discarding the unwanted fish carcasses into the water, creating a chum slick. Opportunistic fish will make their home below the dock's fish cleaning station, so fishing here is always good. Again, be careful not to hook the ever present birds looking for their daily dinner from the charter boats!
If you are on a public freshwater fishing pier and it is usually illegal to chum. We heard of a sneaky way to chum that should go unnoticed. Do not try this if there are officials nearby, we will not be responsible for the ensuing fines if you get caught.
Dry a bunch of empty, rinsed egg shells then crush them to a fine powder. Put the egg shell powder in a salt shaker with large sized holes and test to be sure the crushed shells a fine enough to sprinkle. Put the shaker in your pocket or gear bag; keep the shaker out of site! Every so often take out the shaker and sprinkle the dried egg shell into the water like sprinkling salt on your steak. Note: ground up egg shells are also great for your dog; just sprinkle them on your dog's food at dinner time.
From a Dock
Fishing from a public dock can be quite exciting, especially if this dock is chummed daily by charter fisherman. Charters return to the dock and usually clean their clients catch. Once the fillets are removed from the fish, the charter guys toss the carcasses into the water. There are always birds and fish waiting for their dinner since this is a daily event. If you show up to the public dock after the captains have left, a little chum can bring big results. Please be sure it is OK for you to fish at your public dock, some do not allow fishing, others have designated areas where you can fish.
When you fish from a private dock, whether fresh water or saltwater, you don't have to worry about other anglers lines. The easiest method is to suspend your dispenser from a line attached to the dock. The chum will slowly be released into the water, the fish will come, and you can literally drop your line straight down into the water. This approach is like fishing in a barrel!
Scraping barnacles off pilings is another way to chum and a good way to create interest in nearby fish. Barnacles are live organisms that live in very hard shells attached to structures. Sheepshead just love to munch on barnacles.
A "snook" light mounted on your dock acts as a chumming machine and brings some of the best night fishing along with a lot of entertainment. On a bay, a light attached to a piling right above the water surface will attract bait or shrimp going by in the current directly to the dock. You will also see all kinds of creatures lurking under the surface. Throw a little chum in and watch the fish come to you, the light lets you see far into the water, of course it depends on the clarity of the water. Shrimp will go straight for the light and sit on your piling, allowing you to easily collect them for bait. If you live on the water, suspend a bait bucket drilled with holes to a line and attach to the dock. The holes allow the bucket to sink and the shrimp will live indefinitely. Anytime you need bait, pull up the bucket and throw a shrimp on your line.
Fresh chicken parts attached to a string attached to your dock is a great way to catch crabs. Stone crabs will grab the chicken and not let go, allowing you to slowly pull them to the surface. You can also set out crab traps from your dock for to use for chumming or dining. I prefer to eat the crab and used the left over entrails for chum.
Hand Feeding Fish?
This video shows a man hand feeding snook under a dock. He says he has fed redfish and tarpon too. I guess we can call this chumming, check out the number of fish lined up for a snack.
Chumming From Boats
Chum Dispensers release fish chum at a controlled rate depending on the size of the dispensers holes or type of dispenser. Chumming from a boat is usually done by hanging a Chum Dispenser loaded with your chum mix from a boat transom cleat so the dispenser lays on the surface of the water. You can also add weights to the dispenser to sink it lower into the water column, it depends on what species you are targeting.
There are dozens of models of boat dispensers you can buy that are either portable or mounted permanently to your boat. Hang on dispensers can be inexpensive where permanently mounted models can cost several hundred to thousands of dollars and need to be installed by a professional. Boaters also use Downriggers to send their portable chum dispensers to their desired depth where their target species hang out.
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Offshore fisherman will attach a chum dispenser to a downrigger or put a weight in the dispenser to drop the chum to their desired fishing depth. They have manual cranks and the more expensive units are motorized. Depth markers and heavy weights on cable are standard features. The downrigger can drop your bait from 100' to 300'.
Source: West Marine
For chumming, attach your chum dispenser to the downrigger weight and lower this down to your desired depth. You can also attach your fishing line to the downrigger.
Use metal cage dispensers to keep the large fish from stealing your dispensers.
For details on how downrigger's work, click this link for an article on West Marine's website.
Ladle Fresh Chum
You can also ladle fresh chum into the water or throw in chunks of fresh cut bait from your boat, then cast your line into the chum slick. Attaching a small cup to a stick works well as a ladle or you could use a real ladle. The trick is to be able to "chuck" the chum out into the water. Many anglers will use a dog ball toss unit to toss chum out.
Maintaining Your Chum Line
When fishing with several anglers on a boat, it is a good practice to assign one angler to maintain the chum line. Keeping the chum slick consistent without over feeding the fish is a challenge, but with practice you can get just the right mix to keep the fish interested but not fed. Having one person maintain the chum line can keep the mix just right.
Live Bait & Chunk Chumming
Live bait & chunk chumming is also common from a boat, anglers will keep bait alive in a live well, then throw in the live bait as chum to attract the bigger fish. Fresh chunks of live bait are also used, just break the live bait in half and throw in the water. Watch this video of live bait chumming from a boat in the keys. See the Blackfin Tuna feeding on the chum.
Chumming Offshore Reefs & Holes
Chumming is usually necessary and commonly practiced in Florida offshore and in many other areas around the world. Heavy chumming is a must for shark fishing. Most anglers fishing reefs or wrecks leave the dock with many boxes of frozen chum or their own homemade brews. To be successful you must know where the current is going and anchor up current from the reef or hole you will be fishing.
If you arrive at a reef and someone else is chumming and fishing, DO NOT drive over their chum line. It is advised as a courtesy to the angler(s) that have been chumming this spot that you leave and find another spot. If this is not possible, then anchor off at a considerable distance from the boat.
Current is one of the more important things to consider when looking for a place to start clam chumming. As animated in the drawing at the top of this page, you'll need the current to carry the chum and your bait back to where you think the fish may be. Knowing your currents helps to determine how much chum to use and what type of dispenser to use. Fast currents use lots of chum and slow currents use a lot less.
Chumming while you are trolling, only works if you were to work an area, meaning going back over where you trolled before. Perhaps to work a wreck. If you were to just continue going in one direction, the fish will get attracted to your chum slick but could never catch up to the boat. Not that they are not capable of catching up, they would just mosey along in the slick trying to find their dinner.
The term "bloody decks" not only refers to the mess after catching or filleting fish, but also to spilled chum. Vigorous scrubbing after your fishing adventures is always necessary, no matter how hard you try, you WILL get blood and guts on the decks!
WHERE TO CHUM FROM A BOAT
Chumming from a boat gives you the added advantage of going to where the fish are instead of hoping they come to you on land. Anchoring your boat just off shore or in casting distance of land structures gives you an added advantage over landlubbers.
Working the Tides
Positioning yourself in the right spot during an incoming or outgoing tide can be fast and furious fishing. Moon tides cause dramatic rising and falling tides and cause the fish to be especially active during tide changes.
Fish both large and small travel with the tides. Shrimp, crabs, and bait fish get caught in the rushing water and are unable to swim on their own, this is the most opportunistic time for larger fish to ambush their dinner, feeding on the defenseless bait. Deep holes or structure are where the big fish hang out waiting for the defenseless bait fish to come by. Outgoing tides usually empty estuaries and low lying water bodies, forcing the smaller fish to go out with the current.
Anchoring your boat in casting range near structure or the mouth of a channel and either chunk chumming or using a chum dispenser will bring the fish traveling the tide close to your boat. Fish are usually in feeding-mode during tide changes and your chum will drive them into a feeding frenzy.
On a boat, you have the added advantage of being able to work intersecting channels. Fish are very mobile and swim up and down the channels looking for food and shelter. Fish tend to hang out on the corners of intersecting channels, especially during changing tides. Anchor your boat in casting distance of a point, set out your chum slick and cast away. This picture was taken on a dock in the mangroves.
Mangrove roots usually have oysters growing on them, bait fishing hiding under them, and fish looking for their dinner. The snook light on this dock draws in the traveling fish and the owner chums to bring the fish from the mangroves over to his dock.
Reefs, Towers (Channel Markers), Humps
Chumming on reefs, towers, and natural humps brings the fish closer to your boat and puts them into a feeding frenzy. Fish love to congregate around reefs and towers, and for a lot of fish it is their home. The protection of the tower or reef makes the fish feel safe. When you come along and drop your chum, the fish think "dinner!" and get feisty.
Chum should be dispersed up current so it flows into the reef. When live baiting an offshore hump, once you throw your bait it the fish will naturally swim under your boat because it is the only available cover. To get the fish out from under your boat and swimming towards the underwater structure turn your motor on for a few seconds, this will spook the fish to swim away. Cast your line into the chum fish and hold on, big fish hang here.
Man-made structures such as piers, jetties, or docks make great homes for fish. Fish love structure to make them feel safe, so fishing these areas can be very rewarding. Anchor your boat in casting distance, setup your chum slick, and have some fun catching all kinds of different species.
Environmentally safe debris placed under docks provides hiding places for fish, bringing them to you. I have this at my dock, big chunks of concrete and rip rap rubble under the dock has provided a home for the elusive snook under my dock. Anchor in casting range, hang your chum bag from your boat, chunk chum, or ladle chum into the water to get the fish feeding.
Lake fisherman have been know to make their own structures within casting range, providing a perceived safe place for fish to congregate. One technique is to attach a Christmas Tree to a concrete block and drop it in the middle of the lake, close enough so they can catapult chum into the water and get the fish in feeding-mode. When you see structures like this in the middle of the lake, anchor your boat in casting range, throw in some chum, and get ready for some fun.
Anchored boats provide cover for fish, a safe place to hide out. Anchoring in casting distance from docked boats in a marina is usually very productive. Set out your chum to get the fish feeding and have some fun. Just be very careful to keep your hooks off the boats, hooks can tear canvas and scratch boats.
Dock lights bring all kinds of bait fish to docks, the light is like a magnet drawing the fish in and the dock provides them with a perceived safe cover. The lights also bring the bigger fish in to feed on the bait fish.
Boats can be seen traveling the waters in the wee hours of the night working the docks that have lights pointing into the water. These boaters are madly addicted to the fast and furious action provided by the dock lights. Ladling chum near the dock then motor off to casting distance and anchoring is a great way to ensure hours of fun. Please be quiet and respect the homeowners who are probably sleeping and don't appreciate waking to strange anglers in their back yards.
Fishing around fishing canneries or where fishing boats dock are great places to find abundant fish. The fish usually hang out under the docks and big boats. You don't need a lot of chum to fish these areas as the water is usually chummed daily as the boats return with their catch and hose down their decks.
Just throw is a little chum to bring the fish to your anchored boat.
Flocks of Birds on the Water
OK, so this is cheating, but finding flocks of birds diving into a spot on the water is evidence of bait fish. The bait fish are natures natural chum. These fish balls feed both the birds and larger fish.
Casting your line outside the bird feeding frenzy is great fun and if your lucky this will be the last spot you fish for the day. Be careful when casting, it is easy to catch a bird and very hard to get a bird off your hook.
Finding a flock of birds over bait fish is also the perfect opportunity to use your cast net to collect bait fish for chum. Lots of avid chum chefs (people who make their own chum) use this method to gather enough fish for their chum making afternoon.
A word of warning about birds—they can get in your way, you can hook them, and land on your boat! Many anglers discuss this problem trying to find solutions. Some use paint ball guns to scare them away. I have a friend that actually electrified his railings on the boat to keep the birds off. This only worked for a short time as the birds figured out that if they lift one foot the electricity stops. In to time his boat was loaded with birds standing on one foot! What a sight that must have been.
Following Shrimp Boats
Shrimp boats net shrimp in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico all the way around Florida and up the coast. Shrimp boats act as big chumming machines attracting all kinds of fish and birds. The boats drag their huge nets stirring up the bottom and dropping some of their catch as they reel in their nets. They also wash down their decks and dump their by-catch into the water which is fresh chum.
Anchoring close to a shrimp boat will always result is some great fishing action. Another advantage is you can scoop escaped shrimp out of the water easily with a net and use them for bait. The trick is finding the boats anchored. One word of advise, be polite to these hard workers and don't get too close to the area they are working.
You can also purchase by-catch from shrimp boats. A 6-pack of beer can get you a five gallon bucket or two.
Other Chumming Techniques
Chumming can be done in any fishing situation at any time as long as your local fishing regulations do not ban chumming. Depending on where you are fishing and your target species, you will vary your method of chumming. Factors like current, wind, tide, your location (on land or boat) all effect how you chum.
Spear Fishing and Scuba Diving
Chumming while spear fishing can be a very exciting and sometimes hair raising experience. When you are under the water with the fish, you can watch as they come to your chum slick—pick your prey and fire away. Set your chum slick by attaching a chum dispenser to a line, then attach the line to a buoy or any other structure.
NEVER never attach the line to our body. If a shark or other large predator tries to take the chum dispenser, the big fish could take you along for a ride with the dispenser it just swallowed. If big fish, like sharks, come for the chum and they are hungry for your chum, you have no chance of getting away from the fish as they follow the slick you leave behind as you swim away.
A funny technique on the following video at a silo in Portage is to chum with Cheez Whiz, the kind in a can that you squeeze out. This diver is surrounded by fish. It is assumed that at some point you could stop squeezing and whip out your spear gun.
Yes, you can chum when ice fishing but not in Florida because we have no ice! It is as easy as dropping chunks of chum in a hole, wait a short while,and drop your bait in.
You can also use small dispensers called ground bait dispensers attached to your fishing line.
Here is a link to an interesting video on how to chum while ice fishing.
Always check your local fishing authority for regulations on dispersing bunker. There are many states that ban ground baiting all together, and some regulate what your can use for stink bait. See our Chumming Regulations page to see for more information.
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