Nothing says “ come hither” more strongly to hungry fish than free foods, which is the underlying theory behind chumming. Chumming is such a fundamental approach that is has been used virtually everywhere fish have been harvested, often with creative fishing twists.
Bluefish in U.S. Waters have been chummed by mounting a meat grinder on the stern of a boat and generating a stream of ground menhaden or other baitfish. Nowadays this can be purchased preground in tins from tackle shops. Anglers on headboats out for codfish may be treated to the sight of the boat’s mate tossing up and hitting clams fungi-style with baseball bats. This cracks the shell, releasing the juices, and disperses the clams widely around the vessel.
Americans who wish to get chunks of fish down near the bottom in a current sometimes place them in a brown paper tied to a string and weighted with a stone. When deep enough, the angler lifts the line sharply and the bag tears tears, releasing the chum. In Hawaii, handline fishermen used a similar technique, wrapping a baitfish along with a lava rock and a generous helping of chopped fish in a large leaf. The fisherman wrapped several meters of line around it and tied a slip knot, then dropped it overboard and allowed it to unroll to the desired depth. A tug spilled the contents, which attracted fish to the baited hook.
It’s also possible to let commercial fishing operation do the chumming for you. Tuna fishermen worldwide know to look for herring or bottom trawlers pulling up their nets. As this occurs, some smaller fish escape through mesh, drawing tuna. And when bottom trawlers bring their catch on board, they cull the too-small fish, which sometimes results in a giant chum slick of the bite-size fish. Tuna learn to lurk behind and follow these vessels, and tuna anglers have learned to do the same. At Cape Cod, some fishermen shadow commercial vessels that rake sand eels from the bottom: at times, hundreds of trippers can be seen trailing in the clear ocean water. Flounder fishermen in the Northeast use similar approach, following clammers who rake the bottom, dislodging many benthic invertebrates, including worms, that draw flounder. A related do-it-yourself method is to use a toilet plunger fastened to a long pole to roil up the sediments under a boat.
European Style Chumming
Europeans use a number of chumming innovations. The English call chum “rubby dubby.” One of their methods is to push minced fish into rock crevices at low tide. If the rubby dubby is kept frozen, it will take even longer to disperse, Another simple European approach to chumming for coarse fish is to wrap a ball of ground bait (a kind of mash) around the main bait or sinker, from which it should break off after reaching bottom. The Ukrainians trap their chum against the sinker by using a weight that has a little cage for the chum attached to it. Another chumming device, used in the United Kingdom, is a a swim feeder, a small plastic tube pierced with many holes and fixed with wire rings at each end, The fisherman stuffs it with ground bait and maggots, attaches it above the shot sinkers, and casts it to a likely lie, where it issued its siren aroma. Midwestern American ice fishermen use a related but more elaborate approach. A homemade implement, known as a “chum dumper.” is made from PVC pipe with a trigger release and stuffed with bait such as corn or rice.
In the Florida Keys, fishing guides attract sharks by hanging a dead barracuda or two off the boat, the oily scent bringing the great predators within reach of a fly rod. A trick probably used over much of the world is to hang a rotting animal carcass over water so that a stream of maggots falls below. Australians have done this to attract perch and Murray River cod.
Supermarket foodstuffs sometimes make terrific chum. Flounder anglers do well by poking holes in cans of cat food and lowering them to the bottom to release their scent. In Germany, floating dog biscuits attract catfish. Midwestern Americans now routinely chum for catfish using sour soybeans, the nastier the better. A dedicated cat-fisherman may keep more than a dozen five gallon buckets in various states of fermentation, with two weeks needed to achieve full ripeness. On a slow day, fifteen gallon of beans may be needed to get the cats bitting. Savvy anglers may chum three or four area before fishing, and then rotate through them later on, reaping the benefits
American Chumming Tricks
An American technique to hold catfish in an area is to place cow pies that have begun to dry in a sack and weight it with rocks. After a suitable period, the sack with now-fermented cow pies is sunk at the head of a major river hole during late spring or early summer-right before catfish spawn. As the fish move upstream to reproduce, they stop below the cow dung chum, and great fishing ensued. But it’s not entirely clear whether they hold there because they like the scent or because they dislike it so much that they refuse to swim through it.
One English carp-fishing technique uses a clever chumming approach and catches the fish by snatching. The angler splits the bottom two feet of a long bamboo pole and packs this cavity with material attractive to carp, such as rice curry. Then he wades out into a carp pond and plunges the stuffed end into the bottom, making sure the other end can be seen above the surface. He backs off and stands by, the ready with handline or casting rod rigged with snatch hooks in hand. The pole begins to move when carp are nosing around it, giving away their presence, and a well-placed cast will take them.
Then there is the truly esoteric: Himalayan fishermen use oil from the Ganges River Dolphin to attract catfish. Try asking for that at your local tackle shop.