Chumming is a popular and effective method for drawing and clustering fish into an area so they can be fished with a baited hook or lure, and to promote active feeding once they arrive. It entails placing various forms of food and other substances in the water to attract fish to a specific area and keep them there for extended periods. Because finding and enticing fish is a prerequisite to successful fishing, chumming is a method that has been used for more than 500 years and one that is still used widely today.
The practice of chumming is especially common in saltwater fishing and is often considered an essential element to success, especially for certain species. Chumming is an effective strategy because fish, like people, prefer a free meal to one for which they have to expend time and energy. Nearly all saltwater fish will be attracted to some type of chum, from small jacks and mackerels to sharks and giant bluefin tuna, but chumming is most commonly employed when fishing for nomadic, roaming game fish, bottom feeders and those that rely on the sense of smell more than vision for feeding.
Chumming can be used in conjunction with fishing with live bait, dead bait, flies or artificial lures at virtually any depth. It is most often done from a stationary position, such as an anchored boat, a beach, jetty or pier. Though chumming is almost never used while trolling, many anglers will fish a chum line (a stretch of water where chum is placed) while drifting in a boat.
Although some believe it involves nothing more than dumping food in the water and pulling out large numbers of fish, the reality is that chumming is both an art and science that requires practice and experience to ensure success. To chum successfully, the angler must maintain proper balance in the amount of food placed in the water. Using too much chum gives fish so much food that it reduces their willingness to take a hook bait; too little chum wont maintain feeding activity long enough for sustained catch rates. Just the right amount of chum will attract fish to a selected area without providing them with too much free food.
Because a large number of species respond to chumming, a wide variety of chum baits and forms of chum exist. Forage fish whether live, dead, whole, cut into chunks or ground into small pieces are by far the most common form of chum. However, many anglers find success with chum baits that are not part of the natural food chain. These include grains, bread, whole kernel corn, dry dog food and several other substances.