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The How To Guide To Chumming

Dec 26, 2007
The basic idea behind chumming is to encourage fish to eat something with no hooks attached in the hope that they will later take something with a hook. Chumming also attracts fish in large numbers to a certain spot. Instead of the angler moving about in search of fish, he can stay in one spot and wait for the fish to come to him. Mainly, however, the idea is to fool the fish with a free handout and dispel his suspicions so that he will more readily take a baited hook.

Various methods and techniques are used in chumming, and the angler who knows and practices them will often catch fish when ordinary casting or trolling methods fail to produce. You'll find a long list of game fish and bottom fish which respond to chumming like a gang of hungry ranch hands to a dinner bell. In fact, to catch certain fish chumming is almost a must.

Take the giant tuna, for example. Although a few big fish are caught by trolling or drifting with whole fish baits, the great majority of tuna fishermen depend on chumming to get results. They use ground menhaden or mossbunker, called "bunker" for short.

This flat, deep bodied fish, which averages about a foot in length, is seined commercially for its oil. Millions of pounds are caught annually. And each year more and more of these fish are being diverted for use in chumming. In three days, the U. S. Atlantic Tuna Tournament has been known to use up 85,000 lbs. of bunker chum.

Menhaden or bunker can now be bought fresh, iced or frozen, either by the bushel or in cans or blocks. Whole bunker are sold by the bushel and must be ground by the angler. Those sold in cans or frozen in blocks are already ground and ready to use. The usual method of chumming begins with the acquisition of a big container, such as a garbage can, filled with sea water.

The ground mossbunker is then added and the whole mess is stirred around until it is the consistency of a thick soup. Then one or two anglers start ladling the stuff over the side of the boat in order to form a chum slick. In this slick, the oil spreads in a broad band on the surface of the water and extends for several hundred feet behind the boat. The particles of bunker sink to varying depths under the chum slick. Tuna and other fish get the scent of the oil and juices and follow it up to the boat.

Most tuna fishermen also get whole bunker and cut them into big chunks, which they toss overboard into the chum slick as an added attraction. Butterfish, mackerel, herring and whiting can also be cut up and thrown out. This gives the tuna something to swallow and holds their interest.

Next, of course, you bait up a big tuna hook with a whole bunker, herring, mackerel, butterfish or whiting and let it drift out naturally in the chum line. Finally you hope a big tuna will take it.

Whole bait fish are also used on the "live-bait" boats which leave from many ports in Southern California. These boats are equipped with big bait tanks, where sardines and anchovies can be kept alive. The live bait fish are thrown into the water a few at a time.

This brings around such game fish as tuna, yellowtail, albacore, bonito and barracuda. When a fish is hooked or seen swirling behind the boat, the anglers put a live anchovy or sardine on a hook, cast it out and let it swim around in the water. In this type of fishing, it is important to use small hooks and fine leaders in order to fool the fish.

This method is tried and true, and used correctly, will produce marvelous results!
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