This week we're going to touch on a topic that doesn't get discussed nearly enough, inshore chumming. Using chum to bring in the fish has been the staple of captains offshore for decades. It's also been adopted in inshore fisheries around the state for a long time as well. So why isn't this something more common in Northeast Florida? Maybe it is and we just don't realize it? Whatever the case, it's an invaluable way to fire up Red Fish and Tarpon right here in our own backyards.
There are a number of different ways to effectively chum. Some tie frozen chum blocks to a cleat and draw them in that way. Others, like captains in South Florida, pitch small live baits with bait bats. Both are good systems. Captain Steve of Madness Charters employs a system that makes use of both methods.
To start off, you'll need to net Minhaden on the beach. Right now, the Menhaden(locally known as Pogey) are thick from the South Jetty to Hannah Park. You'll find all the Pogies you'll ever need. Most are holding right outside the break in 8 to 15 feet of water.
Just about any kind of net will get the job done, however, a larger, heavier net is recommended. It's a good idea to have a net for every situation. Just an example, There are times when Pogies are blown out in deeper water. Several days of West wind will send them deeper. When this inevitably happens, a lighter 8 foot net can make catching them a bear. Keeping it simple, use a 10-12 foot, 5/8in mesh net for deep Pogies, and an 8-10 foot, 3/8-5/8in mesh net for shallow running Pogies.
You'll need a lot of bait if you plan to chum with them. Generally, you'll want a blacked out live well full of live Pogies. You'll also want to have a 5 gallon bucket filled with dead ones to cut up. This may seem like a lot of work but this time of year you can easily catch enough bait with minimal effort. You'll often land enough bait in one cast of the net to meet your needs.
As a general rule, you'll want to chum in shallower waters. The deep river channels are an example of what to avoid. Shallow jetties are great choices, Grass lines, docks, oyster bars and shell bars are all great examples of ideal habitat. You want to do this when currents are slower. The start and end of any tide cycle is perfect. Avoid slack tides as well. You need moving water to carry your chum, just not too much of it.
Once situated on the flat you plan to fish, Start off by tossing out handfulls of dead Pogies. A bait bat comes in handy here. keep doing this for a few seconds in short intervals while keeping an eye on the drifting baits. You're looking for blow ups on the surface. Often times, if predators are on the bank your chumming, they'll make their presence known. If nothing happens, start tossing out live Pogies. Sometimes you need a few live baits mixed in to trigger a reaction bite. Another good idea is to cut up several Pogies and add cut baits into the mix.
The idea isn't so much about luring fish into the area, it's more about triggering the feeding instinct of the fish already present. This has the added benefit of attracting nearby schools of predators and motivating them to stay in the area longer. The act of chumming merely acts as a way of buying the confidence of your target species. Fish likely relay the presence of our boats as well as the sounds of our motors to danger. Chumming helps bring down the defenses so to speak. Chumming can greatly improve your odds on those tougher days like for example, Full Moon days or a prolonged high pressure system. Nothing in fishing is ever guaranteed but if you use all the tools available, your odds will improve.
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