Tampa Bay Charter Chum MixtureCustomers have an expectation that each and every Tampa fishing charter will start with a bait well full of pilchards, also known more generically as "whitebait". These baits are present locally from around March through November, depending on the year.  Therefore, Tampa fishing guides must have the ability to secure this bait every day during the warmer months. Although this bait can be seen and netted around certain structures such as bridge pilings and channel markers, and sometimes right out on an open flat, chumming is usually required to bring this bait within netting distance.


Pilchards (latin name - harengula jaguana) frequent shallow grass flats...depths of three to four feet... where there tends to be good water flow so grass flats that are adjacent to passes or

channels are targeted by most Tampa fishing guides.  Once the location has been selected, drop anchor.  Make sure to leave out enough scope so that the boat will not slip off anchor.  There is nothing worse than chumming for 25 minutes,  only to slip off anchor as the bait begins to arrive. A second anchor, or Power Pole, deployed off the other end of the boat, will prevent the boat from swinging and make chumming easier.  After anchoring , determine which way the current is running so that the drift of the chum will draw the bait fish behind the boat where a cast net can be comfortably thrown. A ten foot diameter, 3/8 mesh cast net is typically used to catch pilchards.  Do not throw chum so that it goes under the boat as that is where the bait will set up and it will obviously be difficult to net.  Tampa fishing guide chum recipes vary but are typically made up of three primary ingredients...the filler, the fish and the oil.  The filler can be instant oatmeal, corn meal, or bulk tropical fish food.  The "fish" is most commonly a can of jack mackerel and the oil is always Menhaden Oil.  Generally, the filler is used in a 4 to 1 ratio with one can of jack mackerel and a then half cup of Menhaden Oil is added.  Thoroughly mix these ingredients and begin chumming. 

Tampa Fishing Guide Netting BaitHow rapidly chum is dispensed depends largely on current flow.  The stronger the flow, the more rapidly chum should be deployed.  As a general rule, a nickel sized ball of chum is tossed about every ten seconds.  Fairly quickly, pinfish will show up on the scene.  Observe where they are setting up in the chum slick. It's easiest to throw a cast net diagonally off of one of the back corners of the boat so that's where the chum needs to draw the fish.   Tampa Fishing with a well full of whitebaitAlso, note if the chum is being mostly consumed in that area.  If it is, when pilchards show up, they will most likely come to this same location.  If an excessive amount of chum is drifting further back behind the boat, the pilchards may sit there and be out of range so adjust your chumming speed and amount so that fish set up in the proper area.   Some Tampa fishing guides will also throw the chum further up-current to pull these fish closer to the boat.  Where pinfish appear brown in color and will actually stop to eat the chum, pilchards look more black in color, have thinner bodies and move more quickly through the slick.  The sure fire sign that pilchards are showing up is the silver flash.  Pinfish flash yellow.  Oftentimes, when the water is a little murky, this is the only indication that pilchards are present. If the bait comes in strong, it will appear to almost swirl around the area being chummed with many silver flashes visible.

Properly hooked whitebait for Tampa Fishing CharterOnce numerous baits are seen in the slick, it's time to throw the net.  Toss several larger "balls" of chum into the area, let them sink for 5 seconds or so and then throw the net so that the chum cloud is centered in the net.  This slight delay will usually pull the bait up into the area where the chum is most concentrated, maximizing your success.  Once the net is retrieved, drop the bait into a live well and immediately throw a ball of chum back into the area so that the slick keeps working while the remaining bait is emptied from the net and the net is sorted out in preparation for the next throw.  When chumming is resumed, if bait is immediately visible in large numbers, throw the net again.  If not, patiently start to chum again until an acceptable amount of bait re-appears.  

There are a few important tips to remember when attempting to get bait;  Tampa Snook hooked on WhitebaitFirst light is usually the best time to get bait so get out there as soon as there is enough light to navigate safely. If bait does not appear within a half hour,it's probably not in the area so move to a new location.  Always be patient when the first few pilchards show up.  Often times, they will build from just a few to hundreds within five minutes.  If bait begins to show and then the amount stabilizes for five to ten minutes, take what's there as it is less likely that the quantity will continue to grow.  If bait becomes tough to find, looking at night around lighted bridges or other lighted structures can also be a good approach.

When pilchards are available, every Tampa fishing guide starts the day searching for these most desirable of bait fish. Not only are pilchards readily consumed by almost every sport fish in this area, they can be caught in large numbers in a short period of time.  At times, chumming with these baits can turn on the most lethargic snook, stop a school of passing redfish in their tracks and get mackerel, kingfish, trout, jacks and many other fish into a feeding frenzy.  Simply put, a bait well full of pilchards translates to a better Tampa fishing charter. 


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