Chumming in Christmas

Nice fish. I want one.

Nice fish. I want one.


I want to catch a GT. Badly. I’m not alone. Who wouldn’t want to catch one?  Massive, aggressive (like, OJ aggressive), top water even?  Come on!

Guides out in Christmas have found a way to get their well paying foreigner guests the GT they have flown half-way around the world to tie into.  The easiest way to get it done is to chum. Milkfish (I almost wrote Milf fish, which is a whole other post, I’d think), are caught and cut up and the juicy bits milk chum lure the big, massive kings (and queens) of the Jack family in for anglers to catch, fight, photograph and release. Doesn’t sound horrible.

However, I’m starting to hear about some major downside to this whole enterprise. Some of the guides are starting to say the Geets are starting to get habituated to the handouts. I read one comment that talked about the fish being the equivalent of Yosemite garbage bears.

Here is what one friend and Christmas Island booking agent had to say…

It was unfortunate that I had to witness the ‘chum’ fishing by other lodges.  To cut up and chum with the islands main food fish was sad to see, and many of the guides were disappointed it is happening.

On the bonefish side of thing, the chumming is affecting that also, according to the guides.  I heard different takes (mostly in broken English)  about the bonefish being extra spooky of any and all noise – thinking it’s “chum time and here comes a bunch of trevally, so lets leave this flat”.

Other guides said on some flats, the bonefish won’t eat a fly well any more, because they are used to picking up extra and stray pieces of chum left over.

“This flat ruined” is what one guide said once.

So, not only does it “train” the trevally, it’s changing the behavior of bonefish – according to the guides.

My group did not chum, and trevally to 65 pounds were landed – legit – on a cast fly to cruising or busting trevally.  I personally needed a defibrillator on more than one occasion, as they are viscous hunters and will chase a goatfish, or fly for that matter, right to your feet.  It was something else to see !!

Then there were all the the smaller trevally, the queenfish, the triggerfish, and all the wonderful wildlife….  what a special place!!

The debate has carried over to the Dan Blanton message board. Read the debate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what is happening there. It is a special place to so many people and it is a place I long to get to myself. Don’t screw up before I get there.

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  1. Sad.. things don’t always go as planned. Particularly the effect on other fish in the area!

  2. Outfitters there will take you out to one particular “pancake” to chum if you want. Our group experienced enough success away from this very small pancake that no one in the group was really interested in it. I could see how some less adventurous “numbers” people I’ve met at lodges would want to do that. Some “hi-end” people just need their sometimes ridiculous expectations to be met. Having only fished xmas once, I can’t really speak on how it’s affecting the fishery. Over a week of fishing, I probably caught somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-100 bones, most were average sized. The average and small sized fish were aggressive, and the large fish in the double digit lb. range were very spooky, just like everywhere else I’ve been. You don’t need to chum to have success there, there are ample opportunities if you are a beginner, or if you are a flats veteran alike. My mother, who had only been flats fishing once before landed a ~40lb GT no chum required. Xmas had the most fantastic flats fishing I’ve experienced anywhere, but I’m not sure how that will affect the fishing in the future. It would be interesting to know whether they chum for them all over the island, or only in a couple spots. Like I said, I can’t really say if the fishery is being affected, all I know is that the fishing for me was damn good.


  3. Lots of boats chumming definitely affects fish behavior. I’ve seen it firsthand here.

  4. In my mind it’s like feeding any form of wild life, creating an artificially enhanced food chain. The critter being fed, and often the ones around it, those it feeds on as well as those that feed on it, will quickly discover this new found bounty. Thus artificially disrupting the natural food chain. Consider people who feed the birds every day – soon the birds begin to depend on that food source and if extreme enough even forget how to forage for themselves or to migrate when winter comes. In Australia, where the dive boats anchor on the Great Barrier Reef tours, giant blue bumphead wrasses have been fed by the dive companies to keep them in the vicinity of the anchorages. As soon as the boat pulls in these fish will gather at the stern waiting for their handout. Makes it nice and easy for the tourists, but I suppose it puts the bumpheads in danger from predators just as much as it gives them an easy meal. Maybe it does little permanent harm but in the grand scheme of experiencing nature it just doesn’t seem right to me.

  5. Feeding, if not fish cleaning, definitely affects fish behavior.

    There is a particular dive operation on Ambergris Cay in Belize that insists on cleaning its catch and shelling its conch, dockside. They also lower a milk crate full of conch shells to that keeps scent ever present. There are hundreds if not thousands of bonefish, many in the dd class, that live there to partake in the free food fest. If you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about. According to a particular guide from a very well-known lodge, this has completely upset the once productive oceanside flats fishing in either dierction from San Pedro town. Yes, there a still a few bones that arrive on a rising tide each day to the few remaining turtle grass flats squeezed in between hundreds of boat docks, but things are dramatically different.

  6. I wonder if feeding the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina has changed their feeding habits? It’s certainly changed their behavior – they swim in there every morning and just hang out under the dock all day. Then they swim out each evening.

  7. I’m sure the fish at Robbie’s, just like the hand fed tarpon at the Sunset Grill in San Pedro, have drastically altered their natural behavior. Extend that people-dependent feeding over a larger area… yeah… that’s going to impact some fish behavior, I’m guessing.

  8. Greed, along with lack of guidance (regulation) can/will cause all sorts of havoc in any ecosystem, consider banking. 😉

  9. Montana Wooly Bugger

    I couldn’t enjoy this type of fishing. If I caught a fish this way (chumming) I wouldn’t be able to feel good about it because I cheated. I wouldn’t have caught the fish fairly using skill, instaead I would have used an unfair advantage. The thrill for me is catching a fish on a level playing feild not by cheating. If you are going to cheat you might as well buy the fish at a fish maket and tell everyone you caught it.

  10. The Shark Camp operation was out there every day chumming on my last trip there, that lodge is booked by Fly Water Travel. Those who have been fishing X-mas for decades will tell you that the practice is having an adverse effect on the quality of the trevally fishing.

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