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FINE DINING FOR FISH



Funt Leadin

    When we think of chumming, the first thing that pops into our heads is that scene from Jaws where Chief Brody is sitting next to a bucket full of blood and rotten fish parts on the transom, frying pan in hand, cigarette dangling out of his mouth to mask the putrid smell, begrudgingly flinging scoop after scoop of sludge over the side of Capt. Quint’s boat in the hopes of attracting a big shark to the boat to catch on rod and reel.
    While our chumming techniques today might be a little more refined, our goal when chumming is essentially the same. We use chum to attract fish to the location we are fishing with the goal of catching them on hook and line. And while chumming is most often associated with shark fishing, its effectiveness certainly isn't limited to sharks. We use various chumming techniques while targeting a multitude of species, both offshore and inshore.
    Stated plainly, our goal is to catch the specific species of fish that we are targeting on any given fishing outing. Chumming increases our success by: (1) attracting open water species to the area we are fishing; (2) arousing and pulling inshore bottom-oriented fish out of their holes, rocks, ledges, and wrecks, and (3) ringing the dinner bell and getting the fish fired up and motivated to eat our bait offerings.
    In our efforts to ring the dinner bell for fish, we have developed and used with great success a “match the hatch” chum theory and technique. As such, we prefer to chum with the species we are using for our hook baits whenever possible, whether they be bluefish, squid, false albacore, bonitas, skip jacks, crabs, shrimp, sardines, bunker/menhaden, clams, herring, etc. We want the targeted fish to get fired up on the scent and taste of the chum and thereby be on the lookout to feed on bigger pieces of the same baits that are sitting on the ends of our lines waiting for them to find and eat.
    The biggest impediment to our “match the hatch” chum technique is acquiring the chum itself. That is because almost all commercially produced chum that is sold to anglers is made from bunker/menhaden and/or fish house scraps. There is not an abundance of options on the composition of the chum that you can readily buy.
    The second problem with commercially produced chum is its quality. Most of it is very low quality and made from rotten, ill-prepared and poorly cared-for materials. It is certainly not made from fresh, food quality materials like those that we most often use as our hook baits.
    We have found there is only one solution: to make our own chum, using only the best quality whole materials that we can buy, and when not available for purchase, using only the freshest materials that we can catch and gather ourselves (while at all times fully complying with all state and federal regulations, daily bag limits, and possession limits). For example, we have made our own ground bunker/menhaden chum to use while fishing for bluefish and smaller tuna species; we have made ground bluefish chum and ground small tuna chum to use while using bluefish or tuna filets as bait for shark fishing; we have ground crabs into chum to use while fishing for blackfish and sea bass around ledges and wrecks; we have ground sand eels into chum to use while fluke fishing on flats; and we have made our own chum from Boston mackerel to use while tuna fishing.
    While hand-powered chum grinders are available, we use a gas powered wood chipper/shredder that we purchased for $300 from a big box store in order to efficiently process a large amount of material in batches, as needed, from time to time. The type of chum we are making and how it will be used dictates how we package and store our homemade chum. We use various containers ranging from small shoebox sizes plastic storage containers with lids up to 5-gallon buckets. After you get the appropriate size containers to mold and store your chum, and after you identify where you are going to freeze and store your chum (ie. Chest, upright, or walk-in freezers), you are ready to get down to business.

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