Chumming – an Effective Fishing Technique!

Chumming – an Effective Fishing Technique!

This article will thoroughly cover chumming. Chumming is a very effective fishing technique. It is mostly used in saltwater fishing, but freshwater anglers can benefit from chumming as well.

chumming - an effective fishing technique

Chumming is the act of using some type of food to attract fish to the anglers. Normally, the anglers moves around in search of fish. With chumming, the fish comes to the angler. While in its basic form chumming is fairly straightforward, there are certainly tips and nuances that will increase the effectiveness of chum. Also, there are quite a few different types of chum that anglers can use to attract fish.

fishing for striped bass

Anglers usually chum with the same bait that they are fishing with. The premise of chumming is to get a little taste in the water to attract fish and get them excited. However, too much chum will fill them up, which defeats the purpose. Using the correct amount of chum is critical, and really only comes from experience. Using a little less chum is better than using too much.

How to catch fish by chumming

There are several different types of chum that can be used. The simplest is to just cut up whatever bait is being used into tiny pieces and toss them into the water. This can be shrimp, cut fish, prepared baits, and more.

chumming with live bait

Frozen blocks of chum are convenient, easy to use, and very effective. It is a staple of saltwater anglers fishing offshore all over the world. In many cases, the frozen chum is sold in a mesh bag. The anglers simply ties the block to the boat and as it thaws the chum is dispersed behind the boat.

Not all frozen blocks of chum are equal. The best chum will use quality bait fish such as menhaden, which is ground up. Cheaper chum will be leftover scraps from cleaning tables and such. Serious anglers grind up their leftover bait and freeze it.

Live bait can also be used when chumming. It is one of the most effective fishing techniques out there. However, it is also the most complicated. Anglers must catch their own bait, otherwise it is too costly. Cast nets and the ability to throw them are essential. Large live wells and good pumps are also required. However, these efforts pay off with some incredible fishing!

fishing with live bait in florida

Read this detailed article by Capt Jim on how to catch bait with a cast net

Chumming techniques

As mentioned earlier, chumming is not very complicated, but there are some tips and techniques that will increase the effectiveness of chum. First and foremost, boat position is critical! Other that deep water offshore fishing, the boat is almost always anchored or the anglers is fishing from shore or a bridge.

mangrove snapper fishing

Anglers need to choose the spot to be fished, whether it is a piece of structure, bridge, grass flat, drop off, wreck, reef, or other spot. The boat is then anchored up-tide (and ideally up-wind) of the spot. The premise is to draw the fish out of the structure and up behind the boat.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

The strength of the current will also affect the amount of chum that is required. The stronger the flow of water, the more chum will generally be needed to excite the fish and keep them up behind the boat.

grouper fishing

It is best to be conservative when chumming and then “build” the spot. Patience will pay off! At times, the fish will respond with very little chum; no need to over-feed them. However, it usually takes a steady stream to really get them going. Once it shuts off, it is usually better to try another spot than it is to try and fire those same fish up again.

Rigging when fishing and chumming

One of the advantages of chumming is that it brings the desired fish species up out of the structure. Often times, they will come all the way to the surface. This results in the best presentation often having the hooked bait free lined out with no weight. The hooked bait will drift back at the same rate and depth as the chum, looking very natural.

flounder fishing

The best rig is simply a length of flourocarbon leader and a hook. Many anglers have switched to circle hooks. They are even required in the Gulf of Mexico and many other states. Anglers should check local regulations. Short shank live bait hooks in the “J” style can certainly be used as well, where legal. The hook should match the size of the bait being used and fish being pursued.

Read Capt Jim’s article on saltwater fishing tackle

The length of the leader will be determined by the conditions. Snapper are notoriously line shy. When fishing for them in clear water a long, light leader will be required. Conversely, in stained water anglers can go higher. A 3′ section of 30 LB flourocarbon leader is a good all round leader.

king mackerel fishing

There will be times that some weight will be needed. Strong tides or current will be one example. Also, there are times that the fish will not come up. A weight may be required to get down deep enough. As in all situations, anglers should use the least amount of weight required to get the bait to the desired depth.

Chumming with frozen blocks

The most commonly used chum, certainly in saltwater fishing, is frozen blocks of chum. These are readily available and simple to use. The chum is tied off on a cleat, usually at the stern, and placed in the water. As it thaws, the chum will slowly disperse. Blocks are often sold in mesh bags, but many anglers use specially designed chum bags.

yellowtail snapper fishing

The pieces of chum coming off of frozen blocks are usually very small. Normally, bait fish will be the first to show up in the chum slick. Hopefully, game fish will be right behind. Anglers can shake the bag to add more chum if needed. Most anglers fish a few lines in the slick and a couple heavy rods with larger baits on the bottom. This is a good strategy when fishing offshore.

gag grouper fishing

Frozen blocks of chum can be used for inshore fishing as well. Mangrove snapper, grouper, flounder, fluke, mackerel, bluefish, striped bass, and other species will respond to it. Striped bass anglers use menhaden oil as chum in the northeast. The same rigging and fishing strategies apply in shallow water as well. One approach is to try chumming as the tide slows to turn.

Spanish mackerel and false albacore fishing tips

Both cut bait and live bait can be used in conjunction with frozen chum blocks. A lively shrimp, crab, or bait fish will stand out in the tiny pieces of chum. Same goes for a nice chunk of fresh cut bait. Anglers should try several baits to see what the fish want on that particular day.

Chumming with live bait

Chumming with live bait fish is an incredibly effective fishing technique! However, it is also quite complicated and requires some special gear. For the most part, anglers catch their own bait. It would be very costly to purchase bait and toss it overboard. Skilled anglers using cast nets can quickly load the well when conditions are right.

Once the well is full, the application is similar to chumming with cut bait or frozen blocks. The chum is tossed out behind the boat, starting slow and adding chum as needed. It is easy to over chum and fill the fish up using live bait fish as chum. Some anglers squeeze the chum, crippling them before tossing them out. This results in the wounded bait swimming erratically, attracting game fish.

live bait fishing in Florida

This technique is used extensively by charter boat captains in Florida in the summer. Bait is plentiful and easy to catch. Offshore anglers have been employing this technique for tuna and other species as well. There are very few fishing situations where chumming with live bait will not produce fish.

Chumming with cut bait

The easiest chumming method is to simply take some of the bait being used and cutting some up into tiny pieces, then tossing it out behind the boat. Fish will be attracted to the small pieces, then will ideally see and take the larger hooked bait. Shrimp are perfect for this as they put out a lot of scent and every saltwater species will happily devour them.

Florida saltwater fishing in spring

Any type of cut bait such as squid, mullet, pogies (menhaden), herring, shad, spot, croaker and more can all be used. Again, the key is to cut the bait into tiny pieces to attract the game fish to the larger, hooked piece of bait.

Chumming is overlooked by freshwater anglers

While chumming is a staple technique used by anglers fishing in saltwater, it may be under utilized by freshwater anglers. Catfish anglers occasionally do it, and it is effective. Chumming will work on most freshwater game fish from bluegill to northern pike.

blue catfish fishing tips

Some anglers are catching shad and herring in larger lakes and using them for both bait and chum for striped and hybrid bass. It is just as effective in this application as it is in saltwater. After all, striped bass are really a saltwater species.

In conclusion, this article on how to catch fish by Chumming will help anglers better understand how to be successful using chum!




Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

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