Chumming is a pretty straightforward way to go after rockfish and bluefish. Just toss some ground fish over the side, and the fish will start eating... right? Well, maybe. But if you apply these chumming tips, your catch rate will climb.
Tip #1 – Cover the entire water column with your chum
Chum tossed over the side or released from a frozen bucket gets carried off by the current before it sinks very deep. But there are several tactics you can use to get that chum down to where the fish are. Weighting a regular chum bucket is the easiest, but it also means you need to carry multiple chum buckets (one for the surface and one to sink down deep), and having all those lines hanging over the side is just asking for a tangle.
Sand balls are another way to sink chum, but they are a bit more work-intensive. You’ll need the chum thawed ahead of time to use sand balls, and you’ll need to carry a bucket of sand on the boat. When you’re ready to fish, put some sand in one hand, place a golf-ball sized lump of chum on top, get some more sand, and mold it into a ball around the chum. Pack it firmly, then drop it over the side. The sand will weight it down enough to fall quite deep before it all disburses.
A third method of sinking chum is to place a handful into a brown paper bag, put your hook through the bag a couple of times, and lower your rig to the bottom. When it hits, a few strong tugs will rip the bag free of the hook, allowing it to open and the chum to drift out. As with sand balls, this is labor intensive and messy.
Tip #2 - Thicken the chum slick
There are several methods savvy bay anglers use to “thicken” their chum slicks, and draw in more fish. One common way to enhance a surface slick is to add a menhaden oil drip bag into the mix. The drip bag, similar to the common IV bag seen in hospitals, will allow tiny drops of menhaden oil to dribble out at a slow, constant rate. During the summer and fall seasons when stripers and blues are schooled and feeding in the upper part of the water column, this gives your chum slick an effective boost. In the spring season, and when putting your baits down deep in search of a lunker, the drip bag will have little or no effect because the oil it releases floats and disburses on the surface, only.
Dropping chunks is another way to turn your chum slick into a super slick. Chunks are commonly thumbnail-sized bits of sliced menhaden, a handful of which are tossed overboard every few minutes. Since these chunks are larger than the ground bits in your chum slick, they sink and drift at a different rate and will expand the influence of your chum slick. Tossing chunks is particularly effective when the current is very strong, and your chum doesn’t have time to sink much before it’s whisked away. To get the best effect out of chunks, be sure to vary the part of the boat you toss them from. Put one handful over the port side; the next over the starboard side; toss the next batch up near the bow, and so on.
Tip #3 – Adjust your chum bucket’s leash according to conditions
The amount of chum your bucket or net disburses is directly related to two factors: how rough it is, and how long a line you let it out on. On calm days, for example, chum buckets dropped a foot or two below the surface will often hang there without releasing much chum. Instead, the line needs to be tightened so the bucket hangs halfway in the water, and the slightest motion of the boat shakes some chum out. On rough days, on the other hand, a bucket hung tight will have all its chum washed out in an hour or less. So when the seas are kicking, let out some extra line so that bucket doesn’t get jerked around so much.
Make your chum slick a super-slick, and you will catch more fish. So try out these chumming tricks—we’re betting they’ll help you boost your catch rate the very next time you leave the dock.
- By Lenny Rudow