If you are serious about reef fishing you know this style of chum net. Chum bags, small to large mesh are like laundry bags and work fine for shallow water, but for deeper fishing go with a net. Count on 3-4 blocks of chum per half day with a chum net and 2-3 blocks per half day with a large mesh chum bag. We got tired of the nastiness which is used chum nets and decide to put the Pin Fish to work. David just puts the used chum bag in the bait keep and they clean up the mess.
So if you are planning a larger stay in the Keys, say a week or more in hopes of taken some fish back to wow the back home crowd, let's review some tips.
1. Having a bait freezer is huge. Buying chum by the case saves money but you need a dedicated freezer so check you rental for such a goody. If you don't have a bait freezer, a smaller cooler even one of the cheap Styrofoam ones that will barely hold two blocks of chum can come in handy. In any case, the smaller cooler is easier to decontaminate if things go wrong. Put the left over chum in the small cooler and that in a larger cooler with whatever ice you can spare. Note: the Syrofoam cooler has a very low life expectancy out in the open. Sheltered in a bigger cooler or below deck fish box at least gives it a chance to be useful.
2. If your rental has a bait keep, which is a pen of some sort to keep live bait in water at your dock, great, if not remember a cheap 30 gallon trash can with holes drilled in it will do a good job in a pinch. Don't drill holes in the bottom or the bottom few inches so you can lift the can without stranding the fish. Use large holes 3/4" to 1" for big baits and plenty of flow. If you want to keep shrimp in a big bait keep put the shrimp in a mesh chum bag and that in the keep. Or you can make a smaller 5 gallon keep bucket with shrimps size holes. I have a drill and bits if one isn't hiding around your place.
3. Don't overload your bait keep. Pin Fish are hardy so you can keep several dozen in a 30 gallon keep if the water is fairly clean. Mullet are dainty little beggars so a half dozen may be all you can get is a 30 gallon keep. Pilchards are somewhere in between so 3 or 4 dozen in a 30 gallon keep might be pushing your luck in many canals. Ballyhoo have zero chance in anything other than an Olympic size bait keep. All live baits can be a PITA so just chill and adjust as needed.
4. Feeding live baits just enough so they don't start eating each other is a good thing, but don't over do it. One ballyhoo is enough to keep Pin Fish busy and since they will clean your chum net, let them have fun.
5. Candy size, 1.5 to 3 inch Pin Fish or Pilchards, are your go to Mangrove snapper baits and just about anything will hit them. Bigger baits might mean bigger fish somethings, but even elephants eat peanuts, so don't knock candy size baits.
Marathon in the Florida Keys should be your next fishing vacation destination. Join us for charter fishing, fishing guide trips or our fishing 101 so you can fish on your own with better success.