If you like variety, a chum slick is the way to go this month.
At the Jersey Shore there are many, many different types of fishing. But you can get into more different species of fish in our waters than you could ever imagine when you fish in a chum slick!
Chumming fish to the boat or dock, or even jetties has been the go-to for species like winter flounder, blowfish, and even triggerfish and weakfish. For most chum slick artists who fish from a boat, the northern puffer or blowfish have been keeping us quite busy for several summers in a row now.
I do remember a time as a child when no chumming was required for either blowfish or the elusive winter flounder, but that’s probably because their numbers were astronomical back then. As time passes, we do what is necessary to continue to be successful at putting fish on our tables, especially if we are big on eating fish.
The best (and cheapest) way to get into chumming is to grind fresh sea clams yourself; but even I don’t go through the mess or the trouble to do it. So, you have to buy a chum pot and the chum logs, or frozen blocks, as an alternative. Chum is not cheap, it can be anywhere from $3 to $5 a log, depending on where you go or who you know.
Choosing a chum pot is basic; there are basically four types. There are the weighted wire pots in small and the slightly larger sizes, ready to load and drop. There is the plastic coated wire style that you add weight to yourself, and then there is the “mega pot,” a big square pot that only needs be refilled one or two times per trip with big chum blocks that fit conveniently into it. A standard size pot will need to be refilled a minimum of every half hour to hour depending on how warm the water is at that time.
Personally, I find that the coated pots allow chum to slide through the coated wire at a rapid rate, which is what I look for when trying to disperse a lot of chum quickly. But all four types are highly effective in bringing fish you’ve never even dreamed you’d catch to your hook.
A great place to try chumming for lots of different species is of course Barnegat Bay and all the inland waters to the north and south. Great Bay and Delaware Bay fishermen have also been reaping the benefits of some limited blowfishing opportunities, but the central part of the state has some areas that hold huge numbers of fish.
I’ll also drop chum at different, out of the box locations like the docks in Barnegat Inlet, and have done really well on triggerfish, blowfish, and small sea bass by chumming the inlet closer to the ocean as well. I have also done the same on the jetties to target triggers and sheepshead, while getting the attention of blackfish as well. But chumming around structure is not without “snags”. I have ripped the bottom off my chum pot a few times; they don’t work well without chum in them!
As far as different types of fish you can catch in late summer and early fall in the bays, it’s really amazing. I have caught up to 20 different types of fish in one trip; from simple small blues to two different types of groupers, amberjack, pompano and everything in between. My son even caught a baby cobia in the bay, only to be carefully photographed and released immediately. But that’s the great thing about chumming; you just don’t know what is going to come up on that line.
A couple of seasons back we finally starting seeing the return of the weakfish in the bay as we caught several spikes on each trip, which is certainly a great sign of future fishing opportunities. And if you want to keep a kid busy and interested, take him on a chumming trip; he won’t have time to sneeze! It’s probably one of the best ways to introduce your kids to the world of angling, as well as to aid them in identifying the many different species of fish that are out there.
A steadily running tide is the best time to drop a pot as the bait is carried by the currents, bringing fish in much quicker. There are a few other key things that a lot of seasoned chum guys do to up their catches; double anchoring is on the top of that list. This requires a front anchor, setting it, dropping back far enough to set the rear anchor by throwing it and pulling up again to secure the boat from swinging back and forth. This method keeps you right on top of the chum; when the big blowfish are here they feed with their nose to the pot, as proven by how full of chum they are when you clean them.
The other key is to never let the pot run low once you have the fish around; once they leave the area, you are pretty much starting over. The third and finally tip is the most important; to bring enough chum. I can’t tell you how many guys have called me after a blowfish trip to tell me they didn’t catch fish. When I ask how much chum they brought and they say, “Two logs.” In 75- to 80-degree water or even higher, this is an hour’s worth of fishing at best. You’re finally getting fish to the boat, and your chum runs out. I like to go out with 10 logs of chum, although most times I will use from six to eight. So, if you can get your chum for three bucks a log, you’re looking at $25 to $30 a trip.
Loading your boat with a bunch of porgies, a bucket brimming with blowfish, and if you choose, a couple small bluefish or a bonus triggerfish or two, it’s most definitely worth the trip.
Lock & Load Fun
When my buddies and I go out on a chumming trip, we are definitely “loaded for bear.” We use tiny, tiny hooks that are good and strong, and even then, the big puffers will bite them in half with their strong little beaks. But at the same time, I have chummed on LBI and caught bass up to 20 pounds off the chum and with tiny hooks, and actually landed them with a little help from a properly set drag. So using little hooks will ensure that you catch just about every fish you hook.
We use 20-pound braided line for strength with a small but tough rod that has the sensitivity to feel and hook those bait-stealing puffers. When we’re out there chum fishing and someone hooks a fish, we all look to see what type of fish it might be and try to guess what it is by the way it fights; and we have gotten quite good at being able tell a fighting porgy from a sea bass or a blowfish. And, sometimes the fish comes up and it’s a pompano, or spot, or perhaps some odd fish that we could have never guessed. We have even caught several large mantis shrimp on rod and reel off the chum, and watch them sitting on the deck snapping their claws together. Stay clear; those puppies can inflict some pain!
But again, that’s the pure fun of fishing off chum; you just don’t know. My son and I were fishing chum off a dock once and he brought up a small lobster; it fell off and back into the water as we just stood there looking at each other in awe.
Once we have gone out and had a great time catching just about everything there is to catch, then comes the not so fun part. Your boat will be loaded down with chum particles from fish spitting them out, and your chum pot may have residue you have to pick. Instead of letting your chum dry with bait in it, hang it over the side of the boat at the dock and leave it for the killies and other fish like spearing to clean for you. When you go out again, your chum pot will be nice and cleared out, ready to go.
But if there’s any way recreationally to load your freezer up with fish and quickly at that, chumming is the way to do it. I love to go out and take time to do five or six good chum trips, four or five hours at the very least. This is enough for me to sometimes put several bags of blowfish in the freezer; as big a fish eater as I am, a vacuum-sealed bag of blowfish in the middle of January is just what the “fish doctor” ordered to take away the doldrums of winter.
When the fluke aren’t cooperating out back and it’s too rough for the ocean, try your hand at chumming; and if you can, take a kid or two with you. They are our future and they’ll love the action!