with Capt. Jerry McGrath
Own Chum Pot
The act of luring a fish through the use of chum
originated centuries ago. Besides fertilizing their corn crops with
menhaden (moss bunker), Long Island Native Americans (the Indians) made
good use of this oily species while fishing. They would use chunks and
tidbits of the bunker to lure other species of fish to their fishing
crafts, mainly canoes and kayaks.
Today, many of us use a chum pot to achieve similar
goals. One can purchase a chum pot at almost any tackle shop. Most are
cylindrical in shape and weigh approximately 2 to 3 pounds. The
cylinder allows one to place a store-bought quart container of chum into
the pot quite easily. However, if you are a diehard fisherman and mix
your own concoction of chum to be frozen in the commonly used half
gallon milk containers, the commercially bought pots are practically
obsolete. Furthermore, they are very difficult to use in deeper waters
and in ripping tide conditions.
I have been using an original chum pot design for
the past 10 years, which I believe is hard to beat for its usefulness
and versatility. The materials and tools that I used to construct this
device are as follows:
1/2-inch galvanized wire mesh (screening),
approximately 3 square feet
5 stainless split rings (1/4-inch diameter;
copper or galvanized wire formed into rings is an appropriate
5 to 8 pounds of melting lead
3 galvanized S hooks, 1-inch size
6 inches of bungee cord (3/16-inch or 1/4-inch
1 large black coastlock snap swivel
100 feet of plastic coated clothesline
4 round head carriage bolts (3/8-inch diameter)
1 1/2-inch piece of plywood, 1 foot square
4 8-inch pieces of 2-by-2
8 8d common nails
aluminum foil, approximately 2 square feet
heavy duty wire cutter
split ring pliers
electrical pliers (wide grip type)
lead cooker able to melt more than 5 to 8 pounds
of lead at one time
electric drill with 3/8-inch drill bit
a length of 2-by-4 for bending wire mesh
The first thing to focus on is the wire mesh. Two
pieces need to be cut with the heavy duty wire cutters, one for the cage
and the other for the lid. The cage piece should be 21 inches by 13
inches while the lid must be 8 inches by 6.5 inches. Before bending, it
is best to retrieve a half-gallon milk container in order to insure the
Using a length of 2-by-4 to assist in bending, bend
the cage piece into a 5-inch rectangular prism (without the ends). The
overlap should be approximately 1 to 2 inches. At this point, place the
milk container in the cage to judge the fit. There should be about
1/2-inch leeway all around. Next, one end of the mesh should be bent at
90 degrees inward. This requires that each corner be cut 1 inch before
folding in. By doing so, you assure a good grip for the lead bottom.
The lid should be bent in a similar fashion. Cut
and fold to form an appropriate lid. Be sure that one end is not
folded. That will be the hinge end to be attached later.
After the cage and lid are formed, the next task is
to construct a lead mold for the bottom of the chum pot. This can be
done by nailing the four 2-by-2 pieces into the shape of a 6-inch square
on the 1-foot square piece of plywood. Line the inside of the 6-inch
square with aluminum foil. It is best to double line the foil. This
foil will prevent the lead from seeping out the corners of the mold.
It is now time to pour the lead.* Melt the lead to
its maximum temperature before pouring. Place the folded end of the
cage into the mold. Carefully pour the lead until the mesh is entirely
covered. This should result in a 5 to 8 pound bottom for the pot. Pry
away the wooden sides of the mold. The aluminum foil should easily peel
After the lead has cooled off, drill four holes
equidistant from each corner through the bottom. You'll have to turn
the cage bottom up. Tap threads into each hole and screw the four
carriage bolts into the holes.
Now, using the split ring pliers, attach the lid to
the cage with the five split rings. These rings serve as the hinges.
At the same hinged corner, attach one S hook by closing the curls
tightly with the electrical pliers, the result being the S hook is
converted into an 8 hook. Tie the plastic clothesline to the large
coastlock snap swivel with a clinch or palomar knot. Attach the snap of
the large coastlock snap swivel to the other closed end of the S hook.
Lastly, close two curls on the remaining S hooks.
Tie each closed curl to the ends of the bungee cord. (Crimping the ends
of the bungee also works well.) Attach this to the chum pot by closing
the S hook curl around the wire of the unhinged side of the lid. The
remaining open curl serves as a hook for securing the lid to the cage.
You may have to adjust this hook with pliers in order to get a secure
The resulting chum pot is one which will easily
accommodate the common half gallon containers as well as most
cylindrical shaped ones. Rugged tide conditions require the use of
heavy chum pots and the heavy weight of this device will allow you to
fish in almost any water without having to add cumbersome sash weights
or other clumsy items. Additionally, the weight serves a dual purpose,
since it may be used as a pounder during flounder season. By now,
you're probably wondering: Why the carriage bolts? Since this pot can
serve as a pounder to draw up the natural baits from the bottom during
flounder time, the addition of the bolts maximizes its effectiveness.
By adding these cup-shaped bolts, the churning of the sea bottom becomes
more intensified and increased with this design addition. The bolts
help in churning up the bottom that much more.
*A word of caution: This can be dangerous if the
wrong conditions exist. Be sure that you tackle this procedure outdoors
if at all possible. The fumes can be overwhelming at times; thus, you
need adequate ventilation. Also, be sure to wear protective clothing,
Some anglers use generous portions of chum
throughout a fishing trip -- with impressive results. Liberal chumming
can in fact be the key to success at times, but there is a more
efficient method that's usually just as effective.
Just add a piece of natural sponge (not synthetic)
at the top of the chum pot just under the lid. If the top of the chum
pot is solid, leave it a crack open. Otherwise, close it tight. The
scent of the chum will flow freely through the sponge. This approach
cuts the amount of chum needed to a fraction, and less time is spent
filling the chum pot and more time actually fishing.
Want to Catch More Fluke?
Try trolling! Yes, trolling like you do for bass or blues. However,
in most situations, you must tone down the speed to a very slow crawl.
Trolling for fluke with the traditional fluke rigs and baits such as
squid/shiner combos can be particularly effective on very difficult
days when the wind is blowing against the current or when it is whipping
up to a less than desirable speed or when it is non-existent. This technique
can make a difference in many ways, especially when the fish are bunched
up in one location. By trolling effectively, you may easily circle and
zig zag through the fish in their particular feeding zone for longer
times, as opposed to drifting by the area for a relatively short period.
An ideal situation for fishing for summer flounder is to have a small
outboard/kicker mounted to you vessels hull. These engines can
be idled down to a very low rpm rate and, as a result, produce a replica
of a slow moving drift. If your vessels power plant is incapable
of such slow speeds, it is best to work the boats engine in a
forward/neutral mode in order to achieve a comfortable velocity. Although
known as an effective technique, the trolling method is practiced very
infrequently by the majority of todays flatfish anglers. My advice
is: Try it. It can make a BIG DIFFERENCE!
Have you ever tried to store more than one umbrella rig in the same
spot on your boat? Due to their numerous hooks, they can become seriously
tangled with whatever gear is nearby, given a little time and a few
bumps on the way out to the fishing grounds. If left in the wrong place,
they can even be a hazard to passengers aboard.
Ive found that PVC tubes are a great way to control and organize
rigs. Simply cut 2 in. PVC to a length equal to the arm span
of your umbrella rig. Make sure that the inside diameter is greater
than the depth of the lead at the center of the umbrella rig. Use either
a pipe cutter or hacksaw to cut the PVC. After cutting, sand the rough
edges with emery cloth.
To store a rig, squeeze two adjacent arms together so their ends meet
and fit into one end of the PVC tube. Now, simply slide the rest of
the rig into the tube. If you make several tubes, you might want to
unite them with bungee cord. Or you can mount tubes with wood or sheet
metal screws on a convenient surface, either horizontally or vertically.
For a long time, I found marker-buoy storage difficult. If I wrapped
the line around a lobster-type buoy or a bleach bottle, the line frequently
came unwrapped, creating an unsightly mess to untangle and rewrap. Also,
the attached sinker-weight would bounce around in a rolling sea, causing
further entanglement and gel-coat damage.
My solution: mount a small brass or stainless steel handle on a flat,
accessible boat surface and, just aft of the handle, a 5 or 6-inch (high
and wide) plastic container secured with one or two screws. If you need
two buoys for different depths, just add a second container on the other
side of the handle. On a center-console-style boat, these mount on the
bow section. On a cabin-style boat, they may be placed on top of the
In use, the container holds the sinker-weight while the buoy with the
line wrapped around it is bungee corded to the handle, holding the line
tightly. (Ive found that a woven line works best since it retrieves
better and tangles less than monofilament.) This setup has never come
undone on me, even in the roughest seas, and is easily accessible with
When you need the marker buoy, just unfasten the bungee and toss the
weight and buoy overboard.
Have you filleted one too many fish and need to remove the resulting
unpleasant scent from your hands? Is your spouse or significant other
complaining that your personal aroma resembles that of an anchovy? The
most effective fish odor remover that I know of is toothpaste. Just
rub it into your hands vigorously and rinse with water. Repeat if necessary.
A follow up with cologne and you are ready to dine at the Plaza, or
perhaps Arthur Treachers.
Stretching Pork Rinds
Pork rind is often a vital accoutrement when fishing certain lures
such as the bucktail and the parachute jig. A single strip is hooked
at one end of the rind once and thus gives the lure more action for
the angler to hopefully hook more fish. However, the rig can get stuck
on the bottom, and both lure and rind are often lost. I have found a
way of cutting down on the cost of these losses. Besides tying my own
bucktails during the winter cabin fever months, I stretch
the value of the pork rinds by purchasing the largest sized pork rinds
that can be found. The larger (offshore variety) strips come in one
and two inch widths and seven, ten, and twelve inch lengths. With a
single edge razor blade and a piece of scrap wood (the back side of
left over paneling works well), I customize the pork rind strips by
cutting them to desired sizes. With a new blade, the rinds can be easily
sliced up in a matter of minutes. I cut mine in elongated pennant shapes
from four to seven inches long. I also vary the widths from ½
inch to one inch. You may flutter the pointy end by cutting once or
twice. This will maximize the action derived from using the pork rind.
Dont forget to cut a small slit for the wide end of the rind where
the hook goes.
Stretching the pork rinds by cutting them this way can double, triple
or even quadruple the amount of pork rinds which are normally in each
More On Porkrind
Pork rind trailers come in many colors and various sizes.
I have found an easy way of condensing and simplifying the storage of
these bucktail accoutrements. Place the desired color rinds (mixed sizes,
if you wish) into medicine vials. The 2 in. diameter x 5 ½ in.
height size is ideal for storing in a compartment of most surf bags.
Smaller vials may be needed for storage in tackle boxes. Be sure to
add an appropriate amount of the preserving liquid (formaldehyde) to
Hookouts are popular among many anglers since they help to easily extract
fish hooks from many species of fish. They are available commercially
at many bait & tackle shops: however, they can be made quite easily
with just a few tools and materials. I constructed mine using an electric
drill with an appropriate size drill bitt, a hook screw with approximately
a ¾ - 1 and ½ inch gap, some scrap wood dowels (1
2 inches in diameter), and cloth adhesive tape (not electrical tape
since it is too slippery). First, I drilled a hole into one end of a
10 inch dowel piece with a drill bitt slightly smaller than the diameter
of the hook screw. Then, I screwed the hook into the drilled end of
the dowel. I then taped the dowel tightly with the cloth tape. Mine
are stored on the dash and baitboard of my vessel, but some anglers
might want to hang them elsewhere for easy access. In that case, another
hole drilled at the other end with an eye hook screwed into this end
will make hang storage an easy task. These handy hookout tools are so
easy to make that you can make dozens over the course of one evening.
What to do with so many, you ask? I gave many out as stocking stuffers
to my fishing buddies at the holidays.
Hang Those Bucktails,
Teasers & Flies
If finding storage and drying space for your homemade bucktails, teasers
and flies is a problem for you, try using a piece of scrap closet organizer
shelving to suspend and dry your latest creations. This shelving material
is easily obtainable at a hardware warehouse store such as Lowes
and Home Depot. Simply attach four hook screws to the beams in the ceiling
of your garage or basement workshop and then hang the shelf from the
hooks. Once mounted correctly, you will have room for plenty of newly
painted and/or epoxied lures.
Store Those Articles
Ive been a subscriber to fishing publications, such as SW Sportsman,
for many years, and it is amazing how many back issues I simply cannot
part with because of the valuable info which they provide. However,
the practicality of keeping all of those relic magazines would make
any fire inspector cringe. Furthermore, retrieval of just the right
info becomes a problem when the number of issues are in the hundreds
I created an article library from the many of publications to which
I subscribed and did so during a recent bout of cabin fever. I purchased
an appropriate supply of loose leaf binders from a large office supply
retailer such as Office Max, along with an ample supply of white adhesive
labels, clear wide tape, a hole puncher, hole reinforcements, and a
few single edge razor blades.(See photo). With the razor, I carefully
removed the articles which I had selected and placed into the correct
categories. Once that was completed, holes were punched into the edges
of each article and reinforcements were added. Each article was placed
into the categorized loose leaf binder which had been labeled (and taped
for protective reasons). A yard sale found bookcase (see photo) provided
just the right fit for my new library of articles.
Now when I want to refresh my memory on the correct techniques for
chumming weakfish, I flip through the binder and quickly retrieve the
info that I want, and the inspector in my fire district can sleep well.