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Chumming for Catfish and Other Fish too

Choose your Chum Wisely…

Chum is any substance you place in the water to attract fish. It doesn’t even have to involve something that’s edible; I can recall reading several years ago about crappie anglers using pieces of Christmas tree tinsel or cut-up aluminum foil to attract fish, tossing handfuls of the shiny metal slivers into the water to simulate baitfish. That would no longer be politically correct these
days, but in most parts of the country — and indeed in costal environments — it is perfectly acceptable to use all manner of bait and food as chum to bring fish into the vicinity of the angler.

By food, I mean that intended for fish, as well as for cats, dogs, and humans. For example, anglers seeking trout, especially those that are stocked from hatcheries, will often toss handfuls of commercial trout chow pellets into the water to attract fish that might have never known another food. I’ve even seen flies tied to simulate trout food pellets! Cat food is a favorite chum for several fresh and saltwater species, and the most popular way to use Friskies for fish is to punch several holes in a can of cheap cat food before suspending it over the side of the boat on a stout line. The oils and meat (usually fish) that flow from the holes attract both baitfish and game fish. Many a carp angler has “salted” his fishing hole with kernels of corn scattered around several hours before baiting his line with the same. Some cat fisherman use dry or canned dog food placed in a burlap bag weighted with stones, which they place upstream of a pool they intend to try for cats later in the day.

Yellow perch anglers in the Great Lakes mix a pound of Quaker Oats with a 12-ounce jar of honey in a square of cheesecloth, which they bundle up with rocks for weight and sink on a rope or tie to their anchor line. By shaking the bag with the line, or bouncing it off the bottom now and then, the bag releases a sweet-smelling mush that attracts minnows, which in turn attracts hungry perch. Any minnow now dropped in the vicinity of the bag is fair game, and an easy target for the perch gathered there.

Bait can be used as chum as well; crappie anglers often borrow a tactic popular on both coasts by throwing live minnows into the waters they intend to fish. Introducing the food-fish to the area can draw crappies out of their brushy lairs and get them in the mood to eat. Some anglers use blenders to mix worms, oils, scents, and baitfish into secret concoctions that they pour or ladle (Who can forget the results of the chum-ladling scene in the movie JAWS?) over the side of their boats to ring the underwater dinner bell.

Commercial chum has been available to saltwater anglers for years, and both commercial and sports fisherman use it for a variety of species, both inshore and offshore. The influence of tides with their constant, chum-spreading current makes it a very popular method in coastal areas. Most saltwater chum is made of groundfish and oils, available in frozen blocks or bags. The blocks are placed in open-mesh “chum bags” and suspended from the stern cleat to float and slowly melt to dispense their scent and release pieces of fish into the water. Recently, dry chum formulas have been made available for both fresh- and saltwater use.

Chumming can be especially useful to the owners of pontoon or deck boats, a style of craft that, due to their stability and deck space, is popularly enjoyed while at anchor, moored or tied to shore. Once you’ve secured your boat (for the morning, day, night, or entire weekend), by using chum you can bring fish to you, rather than having to cruise all over the lake looking for them. Once you’ve allowed chum to work it’s “mojo” below, bait up with live bait, cut bait or your favorite lure and get your offering into the chum-cloud — or down current of it. Just check your States’ laws concerning chumming before attempting a tactic that just might turn your fishing luck around this season. It’s such a productive way to fish that some states forbid it.