Gone Outdoors

How to Chum & Bait Freshwater Fish

by Richard Corrigan

Chumming is a common practice among saltwater fishermen, but considerably less so among freshwater anglers in the United States. A particularly useful tactic when fish are scattered and difficult to find, chumming involves spreading fish food -- separate from the bait on your hook -- in the water to attract fish to the general area where you are fishing. Chumming may not always be legal in some areas or to attract some species; always check your local laws first.

Chumming Basics

A wide range of materials can be used to chum the water, ranging from canned corn and chopped-up bait fish to man-made pellets that are manufactured specifically for the purpose of chumming. To chum a body of water, place the chum into the water, wait for a period of time, and then cast your baited hook into the same general area. Freshwater chumming is most effective for fish that live by scavenging or feeding on the bottom, like catfish and carp. Many game fish like bass and pike, which actively hunt their prey, are less susceptible to chumming.

Chumming for Catfish

Catfish are opportunistic feeders with keen senses of smell and taste, which they use to seek out the dead and decaying food that makes up a large portion of their diet. You can use wide range of materials to chum catfish, including fish pieces and ground fish meal. Some experienced catfish fishermen create their own chumming mixtures by fermenting grains or soybeans, usually with added ingredients like blood or fish parts. Scatter chum loosely into the water near deep holes where catfish live, or place it in a weighted porous bag and lower it into the water on a line to attract catfish to an area for a longer period of time. Once the chum is in the water, bait a hook with a piece of fish, chicken liver or other catfish bait and cast it to the chummed area.

Chumming for Carp

Carp are typically solitary by nature, and using chum to attract fish can be more efficient than scouring the lake for individual fish. Grains in various forms are common for chumming carp, including pelleted chicken feed, boiled field corn, bread balls or cooked pasta. One of the most effective and readily available options is canned sweet corn. Simply toss a few small handfuls of corn into the water from shore, or use a slingshot to reach deeper water, and then start fishing the same area. You can also bait your hook with corn or bread. It can sometimes take an hour or two for carp to be attracted to the chum, and some anglers chum an area in the evening, and then return to start fishing the next morning.

Chumming for Trout

In addition to carp, canned corn is a highly effective chumming material for trout in lakes and ponds where they have been stocked. This is likely because corn resembles the food pellets that hatchery trout are raised on. Scatter the corn in an area where trout are likely to hang out, like the edge of a weed bed, rock pile or fallen tree. Bait your hook with corn or another trout bait, and then cast into the center of the chummed area. Despite the belief by some that corn is indigestible to trout and can kill fish that have eaten it, a 1992 study by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission showed that, while not particularly nutritious, corn is was not actually harmful to trout. Corn is also used to chum kokanee (landlocked sockeye salmon), as are maggots.

About the Author

Richard Corrigan has been a full-time professional writer since 2010. His areas of expertise include travel, sports and recreation, gardening, landscaping and the outdoors. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from SUNY Geneseo in 2009.

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