Chumming is when you throw or dissolve ‘bait’ into the water to try and attract nearby fish into the area. In some parts of the world, it is also known as berleying
Chumming works extremely well to attract fish such as eels and catfish that largely depend mostly on their sense of smell to find food. It can also be a very successful fishing technique when targeting marine species. The right chum can bring in massive shoals of tiny baitfish.
Below I will discuss just how effective chumming is when targeting trout.
Does Chumming Attract Trout?
Chumming does attract trout, but it is certainly less effective on trout than many other species of fish.
Stock trout respond well to chumming. Some fishermen simply throw handfuls of corn, cat nuts, or fish pellets into the water while fishing. The stock trout see the food hitting the water and it reminds them of feeding time back in the nursery.
It is also possible to chum in a more natural way by kicking up the sediment while wading. This sediment then drifts downstream and the stock trout start to intercept it. I even have had stock rainbow trout follow me around.
This practice of disturbing the streambed is actually prohibited in some fisheries but is allowed in others. I have never seen it work on wild fish.
Does Chumming Attract Wild Trout?
Chumming is not an effective technique to use to catch wild trout but there is a couple of methods that occasionally can work. I personally, do not chum for wild trout, and many fishermen consider it rather unsporting.
This first method is basically throwing natural insects into the water with the hope of catching a trout’s attention. A fly missing a wing works quite well.
When I was young I can remember my dad over a few weeks taught a wild brown trout to rise and feed on house flies. Every day, he will capture a few flies in the house and will walk down to the stream and will throw the flies into the water, and allow them to drift down. That trout eventually will rise to almost any insect we threw into the water.
So with enough patience, it is possible to get wild trout to look forward to thrown food. I have also at times thrown terrestrial insects into the head of trout pools just to see if anything will respond. Doing so has mixed success.
I know of other anglers, who chum with fish eggs, and apparently, it can be quite successful.
The second method is to try and attract a large swarm of baitfish and work them up into a bit of a frenzy. Such large swarms of baitfish can at times attract the attention of large fish eating trout, who will cruise around the edges hoping to pick off any distraced baitfish.
While these methods can work, I honestly do not recommend them. It is best just to find where the wild trout are naturally feeding rather than try and bring them to you.
Is chumming for trout legal?
Chumming for trout is illegal in many areas across the country. The prohibitions do differ quite widely so it is essential to check local regulations.
The main reason why chumming gets banned is because it can be quite polluting to the water quality. Just imagine the mess if every second angler on a popular stream just sat there and threw in handfuls of corns.
I have also heard that it can result in confrontation between anglers. With the belief that the chumming angler is stealing the fish away from other anglers.
Best techniques to chum for trout
Throw out handfuls of bait/chum
The most common chumming technique for trout is throwing out handfuls of chum every couple of minutes. It could be pellets, corn, fish eggs, or even live insects.
Use a slingshot for extra range.
To get some extra distance, consider using a slingshot to fire out a pile of pellets.
Create a slurry out of water and bread chunks
Some fishermen like to create a mushy slurry by mixing old bread with water. They will then throw a ladle full of bread slurry into the water.
Every so often they will break off chunks of dry bread and throw it out also to float on the surface.
Hanging a dead animal above a pool to attract a trail of maggots
This one takes planning, patience, and a strong stomach.
I have never tried this technique for trout, but have seen it done by I think Perch fishermen. They collect a dead animal, say a roadkill rabbit and they tie it onto a branch overhanging the water.
They then leave it there to become infested with maggots, which then fall off into the water creating a somewhat steady stream of maggots which the fish slowly become interested in.
A few days later, the fisherman will return and will start fishing downstream from the dead animal. With the hope that larger fish have taken up a hold to intercept the dropping maggots.
Disadvantages of Chumming
Chumming has a lot of disadvantages and downsides, I will cover them in this section.
Chumming can be polluting
On popular lakes and ponds chumming can be quite damaging to the environment, even more so during the winter months when the chum is unlikely to decompose for several months.
When spring arrives, and the water starts to warm hundreds of cans of corn, rice, and packages of oily nuts start to decompose creating oil layers and sometimes a pungent smell. It is not pretty, and probably not good for the health of the ecosystem.
Chumming was recently banned on my local waters for exactly this issue.
For this reason, I only suggest chumming in remote areas with enough current to naturally disperse the chum. I also suggest avoiding the winter months when the chum does not readily break down.
Chumming can attract bait stealing fish
Another downside to chumming is that it can bring in large numbers of undesirable fish. Many of which are more aggressive than trout.
In one local river, if I start to chum I will get every Chubb from a mile around swarming around the feeding area. It will nearly be impossible to catch any trout with so much competition.
Can annoy other anglers
What is the best chum to use for trout?
The chum I see most commonly used is corn, cat nuts, fish pellets, fish eggs and occasionally live insects such as crickets or maggots. Out of these, the former work better when chumming for recently stocked trout because they resemble the food they are used to eating.
Once the trout have been in the wild for a while, the more natural baits can also be effective.
When targeting stock trout corn works nearly as well as fish pellets. There is a commonly held misconception that corn is deadly to trout but hatchery studies have shown that trout can consume corn without being killed.
Fish pellets might just be the best chum to use when targeting recently released stock trout. It is what they are used to eating in the hatchery so they are quite used to it.
Some people like to chum with a slurry made out of bread and water. It also seems to work quite well, but can attract the attention of any park ducks nearby. I have also known wild trout, living in domestic settings to consume bread.
Here I also have an article about targeting trout using bread for bait.
Crickets / Maggots
Live insects can be a very effective bait to chum with, and depending on where you live they can often be brought in bulk amounts from bait shops or pet stores. Live insects should be used alive, and can at times be effective on wild fish.
Eggs are one of the more effective chums to use when targeting wild trout. In some areas, chumming with fish eggs was banned over fears that it could be spreading disease.
Minced Fish (Not recommended for trout)
Minced and pulverized fish frames are a very popular chum for many marine species but I personally do not feel it is that great for freshwater trout. If chumming oily fish can certainly get many other species excited.
Rotten Bird Eggs (Not recommended for trout)
I do not recommend using rotten eggs when chumming for trout. Although it can be highly effective at attracting other species like Eels or Catfish. Simply smash the egg into the water and the odor will attract carrion hungry fish.
Best time of year to chum for trout?
Chumming works year round, but I suggest limiting chumming over the colder months because the trout’s appetite is heavily suppressed due to the cold and they are not likely to respond.
Best locations to chum for trout?
I like to chum in large rivers and sizeable lakes which have enough current to disperse the chum. I suggest avoiding popular areas or anywhere near other anglers.
Chumming near current is advantageous for two main reasons. It helps disperse the chum over a wider area attracting fish.
Secondarily, the dispersing effect helps prevent large builds up of decomposing chum on the bed of the river or lake.
Can you chum for trout in rivers?
It is possible to chum for trout in rivers, the current of the river assists in dispersing the chum attracting trout in from a much wider area.
Can you chum for trout in lakes?
Chumming does work in lakes, but I prefer chumming in larger ones with some natural current to help disperse the chum.
Can you chum for trout when ice fishing?
Chumming does work when ice fishing, and it is a very popular technique but it is one I do shy away from because the chum normally just slowly rots on the lake floor until the spring. In saying that, a small amount of chumming is probably okay.
Can you chum when fly fishing?
I personally find chumming works best when bait fishing, because you can use the chum as bait. But chumming with the likes of fish eggs can complement fly fishing quite well.
Alternatively, use the chum to bring in all of the bait fish, then strip larger streamers through all the feeding fish in the hopes of attracting larger predatory fish to all of the commotions.