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In the Chum Line

Using a Chum Bag When Fishing Can Mean Big Results


I researched the origins of chumming for fish and really did not find a lot of information this week. One source indicated that American Indians used chum to attract fish. Whatever the origin, chumming is an ideal way to turn an otherwise mediocre fishing experience into fast and furious action.


McLane's Standard defines chum as " a living substance, such as minnows or mollusks, chopped or ground into pieces or a mash; or processed food such as dog food or cat food, which is distributed in the water to attract gamefish to the angler's bait."

First Time

I first remember using chum when my father would take along several cans of cat food with us. He would take the ice pick out of the old canvas ice bag (we had no ice chest - just an ice bag), and poke several holes in the top of the can. The can was heavy enough to sink, and since we were anchored and bottom fishing, the cat food oils and juices would seep from the can right under the boat. It did seem to work, although back then, fish were more plentiful, and we just may have caught as many fish without the chum as with it.


Chumming has reached an almost scientific level these days, with many companies specializing in making chumming related articles, everything from the chum itself to bags and holders. And chumming methods have been refined so they fit the fishing situation.

How It Works

A chum bag, filled with ground up fish parts, hung off the stern of the boat will produce a chum "slick" that will reach several hundred yards. Baitfish are drawn to the slick and gamefish will soon follow both as a result of the slick and the baitfish. This slick is fine for relatively shallow water.

Deep Water Chumming

To get the chum to deeper water, I use two methods. One is to mix the chum with sand in a bucket. Form a ball the size of a softball with your hands and release it in the water at the stern of the boat. The sand ball will sink rather quickly, dissolving and releasing chum as it goes down. The other is to use a weight on the chum bag to take it down below the boat. It works essentially the same as in shallow water, but the chum is released down deep. I gave up on the second method after several sharks took my whole chum bag. So today I use a commercially available chum release canister coupled with blood chum. I get all the oil and scent of bait chum, and the sharks have a harder time chewing the canister.

Following Shrimpers

Shrimp boats dot the coast line from Texas all the way around Florida and up the East Coast. On their way in or as they anchor up for the day after a night of shrimping, they wash down their decks and pitch all of their "by-catch". The by-catch consists of all the small fish caught in the shrimpers nets. Often, if they have not retired for the day, a shrimper will sell several buckets of by-catch for you to use as chum, and lots of people buy from them. I would rather use their natural chum line. As they prepare to rest for the day and wash the decks down, they create a natural chum line that draws some amazing fish. I simply anchor up behind them!

Tarpon in the Chum

On several occasions, anchored down from a shrimper, we have been able to hook up with as many as 20 tarpon on a single morning. Huge cobia (ling) also traverse the chum lines. The tarpon are suckers for "blown up" sand trout. We net the small dead sand trout and yellow mouth trout to use for bait. We inject them with air to keep them afloat and let them drift away from the boat. Rolling tarpon in huge schools come right up the chum line feeding on these floating fish.

It Works

Chumming works, it's as simple as that. But chumming can get expensive, as many of you already know. My advice is to buy and old meat grinder, one that clamps securely to an old table top. Instead of throwing away the heads and entrails of yesterday's catch, grind it up, put it in a plastic bag, and freeze it for the next trip. Why, some fishermen I know have a meat grinder mounted on the stern of their boat. They get instant chum when ever they need it from smaller fish they catch!

Bottom Line

Try chumming next time you are out and fishing is slow. Give it a chance, and give the fish time enough to locate the slick. Then hold on for some action!

Are you hooked on fishing. Got a favorite recipe, or fish story? Let me know by sending me an E-mail.

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