Chum is an old school but still effective tool for bringing home a mess of Channel Cats.
Texas is covered from one side to the other and from top to bottom with an unimaginable number of fishable bodies of water— rivers, lakes, creeks, streams and even stock ponds. One of the most, if not the most, plentiful and sought after species is the tasty channel cat and chumming has been utilized to catch them for as far back as just about anyone can remember.
The word chum usually conjures visions of some guy ladling a massive spoonfull of bloody soup over the side of a 30-foot offshore rig, attempting to entice a massive shark for the coup de gras. But, more often than not, the true poster child of chum is the catfisherman, armed with a bucket of sour maize or hen scratch, or maybe a concoction consisting of any one of a dozen soured grains mixed with old cheese and/or chicken blood. Many chum recipes have been passed down for generations and are closely guarded secrets.
For those without such family heirlooms, there are many commercially available chums on the market, including a highly used product by Little Stinker. Or, if you are the adventurous type, you can experiment in the garage with your own recipe.
When it comes to placing the chum, all you really need to do is use your head. Grain-based chums, such as sour corn and maize, can be spread around stumps and brush tops. I like to pick out a segment of a lake or stream with several stumps, trees, or snags visible in low current areas. I then troll to each one and put out about a pound or two of soured chum. Once I reach my last spot I want to chum, I return to the first and start fishing down around the snag where I placed the chum. Generally, you pick up from five to seven fish at each snag.
If you are using a thicker, cheesy dough-based chum, you will need a mesh bag and some string. I prefer to use a small mesh bag available at most department stores and fill it about half full of the mixture. Before placing the mixture, I like to put some kind of weights in it to assure the bag sinks to the desired depth. Once my bag is full, I tie a good length of rope on it and suspend it about a foot off the bottom and secure it to the snags. Remember to retrieve your bags when done. The mesh bags will allow for a slow, even distribution of the chum without allowing the current to carry it away. Just as with the loose grain-type chum, once you have placed your last bag you simply return to the first and start fishing.
I guess the easiest chum to use is a mixture of cut up or crushed up shad, minnows or some other bait fish. Placed in a bucket and allowed to season for a day or two, this mixture will almost always produce a pungent combination sure to draw in any channel cat.
Long-term chum stations can be set up by drilling 3/4-inch holes about two inches apart for two feet on a length of four-inch pvc pipe. Glue a cap on the bottom but leave the top unglued so it can be removed to place more chum at any given time. Secure the pipe to a tree or snag, with the end of the pipe as close to the bottom of the lake or stream. Be sure to allow enough pipe above the water so filling it will be easy. Be sure these methods are legal on whatever body of water you are fishing.
Chum works by playing on the catfish’s most powerful sense, its sense of smell/taste. Catfish whiskers are, of course, not really whiskers at all but are barbels. Barbels actually house the taste buds on a Catfish. So barbels are more like a tongue than a whisker. These barbels are highly sensitive and capable of detecting minute traces of bait scent in thousands of gallons of water.
This brings us to one general rule of chum: The worse a chum smells, generally, the better it works.
Chum is best used in low-current locations in lakes and ponds or in streams during low water situations. That’s not saying that you cannot use chum in even the most swift of rivers, but when doing so you need to pick the spot carefully. In swift conditions, the backside of bends and in sloughs and backwaters off the main river are the best options.
Chum can be used as a quick attractant or placed in a location over a long time to insure a dynamite fishing hole.
While chumming does offer a bounty to the boat fisherman, the bank fisherman is not left out. With the use of a large kitchen spoon or even a gardening spade, bank fishermen can launch chum over twenty feet into the water and create their own honey holes. There are many methods readily available from retailers and tackle shops for placing chum in the water for the bank fisherman.
Last, but certainly not least, is the pond fisherman. Many tons of channel cats are pulled from private stock ponds yearly and with the recent trend of many city parks stocking numerous ponds with channel cats for public fishing, the opportunities are endless. With a flick of the wrist, the pond fisherman can be drawing fish in close and enjoying the chum fest.
Chum is a very useful tool in the arsenal of today’s catfisherman, especially one that should be used when the fish are scattered and hard to find. Applying a few pounds of odiferous chum can be just what the doctor ordered to draw in a stringer full of channel cats.
—story by Jeff Stewart