Hammer Timechum_salmon.jpg


Confessing a love for chasing chum salmon is kind of like of admitting I used to be an altar boy – something I generally only reveal to close friends.


I’d like to believe the problem is merely semantic; “Chum,” no matter what sexy adjective you append to it, somehow doesn’t have the same noble ring as spending a day in sportly pursuit of such exotic-sounding relatives as the elegant Coho, regal Chinook or aristocratic Atlantic. Feel free to tell me I’m being overly sensitive here, but I’ve seen it in contrasting the faces of those on the receiving end of my angling accounts when I proudly announce I’ve caught a fine chum (polite smiles masking bewilderment), vs. accounts of having landed a nice silver (genuine compliments).

And what alternative terminology does the chum angler have to rave about their unduly marginalized fetish? Fishing for “dog” salmon sounds about a notch more glorious than proclaiming you have just returned from a day of stalking sculpin. How about adopting that other, more obscure name for the lowly chum, “Keta?” Try telling someone you’ve spent the day chasing Keta and count the puzzled stares you’ll get.

Trust me – you’ll just end up clarifying in fairly short order that they’re also called “Chum.” Right about then you’ll also end up feeling like the type of poser who throws around the term “au jus” when they’re obviously just talking about beef juice.

Could it be that even in this generation of catch-and-release, the stigma Chum have suffered for being the poorest-tasting of the Pacific salmon continues to linger? That a fish natives considered suitable only for smoking or giving to the dogs (thus their other name), aren’t being given their full due as Chuck Norris in a salmon suit, taste be damned? I’d put forth that Chum fresh from the sea are every bit as worthy of pursuit as any of their more highly-esteemed brethren. They are one of the more inclined of the five species of Pacific salmon to inhale a fly, will fight like a Rottweiller with a bottlerocket shoved up its ass and will usually leave your streamer looking like it had been tossed in the blender on “puree.” Anyone who’s felt a mature Chum on the other end, wondering if, or when, their rod is going to be converted into so many graphite toothpicks needs no further convincing. If you’re looking for more excitement, try smoke jumping or joining the Jackass crew.


As admitted above, a closely-guarded personal secret is now in your hands. Since I have no idea who you, the reader, are, I guess I must be on some sort of road to recovery. Like reaching that critical point of confidence (or jrunkeness) when you can fully embrace your signature karaoke song and belt it out in front of complete strangers with heartfelt sincerity, I’m ready to take the stage. After properly setting the mood with a stirring rendition of “Eye of the Tiger,” I’ll unapologetically proclaim to the whole damn audience that the glorious Chum deserves our respect, that the constricting Chum closet of shame will hold this guy no more and that I, for one, will happily while away the afternoon taking the Dog for a walk while the hordes chase their dreams of Silver.

Bruce Smithhammer
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