There is a lot to think about when chumming offshore.
First, you need to figure out how much bait you have, and if you even have enough to chum.
A West Coast fishing trip just about always begins with a stop at the bait barge. When you arrive at the bait barge be sure to ask if they have anchovies. In my opinion, anchovies make the best chum and are also a great live bait.
If the bait barge only has sardines, here is what I think you need to do — take a half scoop of bait (that’s about 5 pounds) and place it in a bucket and set that aside for chunking later on. With your chunking baits stashed away, you can start (slowly) taking on as much bait as you need for your tanks.
When loading bait there are a several important things to be aware of:
1) Let the guy on the barge know you’re going offshore and that you would like to load it light. Make sure you’re the guy on the deck. You know your tanks better than anyone else, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that the tanks don’t get overloaded.
2) Try to avoid showing up at between 9 and 10 p.m., or between 6 and 7 a.m., because that is when the bait receivers are the most crowed and busy. The guys on the receivers want to help, but there are a lot of boats at these times of day, and everyone is in a hurry.
Fishing Tip – Chumming Offshore
3) Help yourself by helping out the guys on the receiver. Don’t let them roll the bait in the tank by hitting it on the top combing. That’s the only way they can get the bait in the tank if you don’t help by grabbing the net or guiding it for a gentle dump of bait.
4) When you get to the barge, the only thing that matters is your bait and how well it’s being taken care of.
This is really important to remember — the guy on the barge will be with you all day! He can help make your day (or ruin it). Make an effort to know his name and use it when leaving or thanking him.
Every time you look in the tank you will think about the bait man, so make sure you treat the bait guys well. I always like to leave a tip, never less than $10 bucks.
Now you have a full tank of bait and a half scoop in the bucket. Take the bait that’s in the bucket and chop it all up and keep it on ice so it doesn’t get rotten.
When I find a kelp paddy, I drive right up to it. So many times I see guys drift up from 100-plus yards, throwing bait at the kelp. I don’t do that as I don’t think you need to sneak up on paddies. I typically won’t chum on a paddy unless I am marking fish deep under the paddy, and then I get the chunks and slowly feed them off the down-wind corner of the transom.
Don’t mess around with throwing chunks into the wind, it’s just not necessary. The reason I don’t like to chum on a paddy is that the fish that eats the chum won’t eat my bait, and I want to catch them all.
Watch the meter while you slowly chum and the fish should move up the water column. When they come up, they will eat a live bait.
Chumming is also a helpful tactic when you’re trolling. Once you get a hookup, throw one or two baits out for chum and watch if they get eaten. If they do, throw another one out there, but don’t throw two — one at a time is best.
When everyone is hooked up, make sure you throw a bait off the down-wind corner every couple of minutes to keep the school around. But you don’t want to ever “over-chum” a school of tuna, as the school might take off chasing the chum.
When you can, always use the chunks and save the live stuff for bait. That should help you load the fish box next time you’re offshore.