What is Chum + How to Chum – Beginners Chumming Guide

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This is a beginners guide to chumming to help teach you how to chum to catch more fish.

You may have heard the phrase ‘chumming’ or seen a fellow angler throw a secret bucket of guts into the water and wondered what was happening. They were chumming the water to attract more fish. This is a great way to bring fish to you and help you to catch more fish more quickly.

Make sure you get whether chumming is allowed in your area. It is illegal in some locations due to its ability to attract dangerous fish like sharks.

So let’s dive right in.

What is Chumming?

Chumming is the practice of throwing ground up fish parts, blood, and bones into the water to attract predatory fish.

Chum often attracts smaller bait fish which themselves attract the larger game fish, but the oil and blood from the chum often directly attracts the bigger fish species.

Different countries have different names for chumming such as:

  • United States – Chum
  • Europe – Ground Bait 
  • Australia – Burley

Chumming is an effective way of attracting fish to your location so that you will have a higher chance of catching fish. Although chumming is also banned in some locations, particularly if there is a chance of attracting sharks to areas popular with swimmers.

What fish can you chum for?

Chumming can be used for almost every predatory fish species, but it is especially effective in saltwater.

Why? Because the ocean is huge and you want to concentrate the fish into a localized area so that you can put a juicy bait in front of a hungry fish.

We have put together a list of popular fish that you can chum for effectively. If there are other fish you have had success chumming for then please leave a comment at the end so that we can update this list.

Best chum for catfish

How do you make Chum?

Almost every angler I have met have their own recipe for making chum. This can range from simple, such as cutting up bait fish and throwing them into the water, to the most complicated involving multiple different fish, oils, added attractants and scents.

It also changes depending on the fish you are targeting. Different species of fish are attracted to different scents and flavors based on what they naturally eat. Try to mimic the fish’s natural diet as closely as you can, although adding some strong smelling oils can give it a boost.

Most chum’s are made from three ingredients:

Main: This is the base of the recipe and can involve anything from bait fish, cat food, crabs, shrimp, insects, or ground corn.

Flavor: This can be anything that gives the recipe a bit of a kick such as blood meal, blood & guts, fish oil, and clam juice.

Binder: The binder is used to keep the mixture together so that it can be formed into balls or a powder like bread crumbs, oats, rice, or sand.

The most common practice is to grind all of this together and then freeze it so that you can use it at any point in the future – just make sure to leave a few inches of space in the top of your bucket to account of expansion.

What the video below to get a good example from Salt Strong about their method for making saltwater fish chum.

You can also buy pre-made chum. These are much easier as you don’t need to store or freeze bait fish. You can just grab a bag and take it with you to your boat or the water’s edge. The recipe is also optimized over time and can be more effective with their secret and exotic ingredients. 

How to Chum?

The use of chum is very simple – over the entire period of your fishing adventure just keep throwing chum into the water. A handful of chum every 5 minutes is a good rule of thumb to keep the fish interested.

The most important thing is to throw the first handful of chum into the water when you first arrive. If it takes you 10 minutes to set up your rod, pick a lure, set your drag, and unload your truck, this gives you 10 extra minutes for the chum to do its work. Chumming takes time for the smell to spread through the river or ocean and it takes longer again for the fish to detect it and start heading your direction.

The earlier you can start chumming the better.

The other option is to use a chum bag or cage which we’ll explain in the next section.

How to use a Chum Bag?

If you are in a boat then you will want to use a chum bag. These are just a mesh or plastic bag with large wholes in them that you can fill with chum and they can slowly release the scent over time. You don’t want to just throw the chum into the water because within a few minutes you might have drifted hundreds of yards away. Using a chum bag means that the scent is always directed straight at you.

Just throw a lure or a bait in the chum stream and you will have a much higher chance of catching fish than just on its own.

There are plenty of great chum bags available in the marketplace such as this one:

Does shop bought chum work?

You can also buy chum in bags from your local tackle shop, but do they work as well as the home made variety. The answer is yes, but there are some aspects to consider.

  1. Pick a chum that is specifically designed for your target species. You don’t want to get a chum that is made from ingredients that a fish thousands of miles away would be interested in.
  2. Read the ingredients. Make sure you are getting what you think and that the bag is not full of sawdust with a hint of blood.
  3. Consider the price. You can make your own chum from your own fishing waste such as fish scraps and left over bait. Spending a lot of money on something that you will just be throwing away can make your fishing trip much more expensive.

My advise is normally to try a few different types of chum to see if it works for your local area, and then when you have started to catch some fish then you can try and replicate it at home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Chumming Illegal?

Chumming is illegal in many counties because it can attract sharks close to swimming locations. Check your local regulations before chumming.

How long does Chum take to work?

This depends on the water current and the proximity of the fish as well as how smelly and attractive the chum is, but generally it takes 15-20 mins for the chum to be attracted a decent number of good sized target fish.

What is the Best Chum Recipe?

My personal favorite recipe is to chop up whatever bait fish you have been able to catch or even canned sardines. Add some water and menhaden oil for consistency and smell.

How do your use chum?

Throw your chum into your target location, generally a slow moving current, continuously over 15 minutes to attract your local species. Throw a bait or lure into the area that you have been chumming. Keep chumming the water for as long as you will be fishing to attract fish from further afield.

You can also place chum into a chum bucket to keep the scent flowing for longer.

What is the best catfish chum?

The best chum for catfish is the same as the best baits – chicken livers, gutted fish, rotten bait, and blood. The smellier the better.

Catfish can’t resist the scent of ripe food sources and are certainly one of the top species to chum for.

What is the best chum for sharks?

Best Chum for Sharks

Sharks have a fantastic sense of smell and can travel long distances, so chumming the water for sharks is highly recommended.

The best chum is a blood, oily fish like tuna, mackerel and herring, fish carcasses, and rotten bait.

This combination of chum will attract lots of predatory fish species such as sharks.

What is the best chum for carp?

Best Chum for Carp - Corn

Carp are not fussy eaters and you can use lots of different ingredients when making chum. The best chum for carp is bread or corn.

A common method is to throw a tin of canned corn into your target area and let it sit for 20-30 mins then put your bait in when you start to see some action.

What is the best chum for bream?

There are a lot of theories around chumming for bream, but the best is eggshells, crickets, commercial fish food, hog pellets, insects, worms, dog food, or canned corn.

Conclusion

Do you know what is the best way to see if your chum recipe works? Make it and give it a go. 

There are really no wrong answers with chum. Some can be more effective than others, but anything that puts attractive smells in the water will bring more fish in your direction and in the direction of your lure or crankbait.

Be aware of others around you who are chumming. If there is another angler chumming the water downstream of you, then you might have trouble attracting fish. If an angler is chumming upstream of you then you might be in for a lot of fish.

Also be aware of fast moving water – if your chum and scent is swept downstream instantly then it might not be very effective.

I hope this has helps explain to you how to chum. There are also more resources available online such as this one.

If you have any effective chum recipes on your own for a specific species then please leave a comment below to share with the community.

Happy fishing!


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Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.