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Get Chummy

Send your dinner party invitation throughout the water column.

Mutton snapper caught by Erika Almond 70 miles off St. Petersburg. Sardine and squid did the trick.

Chumming is all about attracting fish, not overfeeding them.

Kevin Deanne of Tournament Master chum says, “What you need to do is get the amino acids in the water that stimulates the olfactory nerves in predators. Putting too much meat in the water will fill fish up, making them much pickier about striking a bait.”

You also don't want to feed the interlopers, like birds. Deanne said his firm grinds some chum blends especially to sink with no tiny pieces floating. This is ideal if you're chumming to catch baitfish. “No floating chunks means no birds that will spook the baitfish,” said Deanne.

Captain Mark Lacovara of Frontrunner Boatworks started chumming bluefin tuna in the Northeast as a boy, and now chums everything from mangrove snapper off Mayport to yellowfin tuna off Canaveral. In a chumline, the key to catching bottom fish like vermillions and mangrove snapper is using the proper weight, if any at all. If the current is slow, chum will sink almost straight down. When that happens, Lacovara starts a slow trickle of ¼-inch chunks of sardine, using a 4/0 circle hook buried in a half a sardine with a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and as little a weight as possible to duplicate the rate of sinking chum. When the current is running in water over 100 feet deep, Lacovara will move up to a 2-ounce sliding egg and drop it down 25 feet off the transom while he chums off the bow.

Cutbait ready to dole out for snappers, tunas and more. Wahoo, too: See page 32, the August issue.

Kevin Deanne says when the current is running, a ½-inch mesh chum bag with a frozen block of double ground chum can be shackled to an anchor chain where the bottom should come alive in short order. Dropping chum off your transom on anchor in a heavy current will only fire the fish too far back for you to take advantage.

While chumming tuna, Lacovara searches for them midwater on his bottom machine. He'll then start a steady trickle of chopped sardines, and prepare hook baits using a full sardine on a well-hidden 6/0 extra strong circle hook snelled to a 60-pound fluorocarbon leader. The yellowfins will be in water far too deep to anchor, so Lacovara doesn't worry about weights. Most conventional reels, or even spinners for that matter won't pay out line fast enough for the bait to sink naturally, so while chumming either adversary Lacovara leaves the rods in the holders and hand feeds the line so the bait sinks naturally. If the tuna showing on his screen bite readily, he'll keep a trickle of chum going. The goal is to keep the scent of food in the water. If the bites slow, and he's still marking fish, he'll quit chumming altogether.

Tournament kingfish fishermen know all about keeping chum going. Some will drag a ½-inch mesh bag with frozen ground menhaden, while some will have meat grinders on their gunnels, and chum fresh caught menhaden while they slow troll.

As for me, If I've got a live bait in the water I'm going to be chumming. I should have learned my lesson while slow trolling for kings 25 years ago. Menhaden oil had just hit the market, and I had soaked a rag in it. When I started slow trolling pogies, I tied my rag off the transom, a small cobia zeroed right in on my rag. After following my rag for almost a mile, actually tugging on it for a moment, I pulled it out of the water, only to see the cobia vanish. In case that wasn't enough to teach me the value of chum, after I turned the boat around and started working back through the slick the menhaden oil had created, I re-soaked the rag, tossed it over, and guess who showed up again?

Some guys are just real slow learners. FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine August 2019

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