What is Fish Chum? Chumming Beginner Guide

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.


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Chum, also known as groundbait or burley, is a mix of fish parts, oils, and other attractants used to lure fish to a specific area. Anglers disperse chum in the water to stimulate the feeding behavior of target fish species, making them more susceptible to being caught by baited hooks or lures.

Fish chum is a mixture of blood, bone, and meat used to lure predatory fish into a target fishing location. It is a common practice to attract fish particularly sensitive to the smell of blood, such as sharks. It can be made at home by mixing dead fish meat, fish oil, and a binder. Chum can also be purchased commercially.

This is a beginner’s 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.

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. Chumming is also popular for ice fishing when the fish are particularly lethargic and hungry. You can use chum whether you are saltwater fishing for sharks or inshore catching catfish.

So let’s dive right in.

What is Chum?

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

Chum often attracts smaller baitfish, which themselves attract the larger game fish, but the oil and blood from the chum often directly attract 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 large fish in a localized area, you can put a juicy live bait in front of a hungry fish.

We have compiled a list of popular fish you can chum for effectively. If there are other fish you have had success chumming for, please leave a comment at the end so we can update this list. Learning how to chum is a great step to start catching more of these fish:

  • Sharks
  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Grouper
  • Trout
  • Redfish
  • Snook
  • Tuna
  • Tarpon
  • Walleye
  • Bass
  • Crappie
Best chum for catfish

How do you make Chum?

Almost every angler I have met has their own recipe for making chum. This can range from simple, such as cutting baitfish and throwing them into the water, to the most complicated involving multiple 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 strong-smelling oils can boost it.

Most chums are made from three ingredients:

  1. Main: This is the base of the recipe and can involve anything from bait fish, cat food, crabs, shrimp, insects, stink bait or ground corn.
  2. 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.
  3. Binder: The binder is used to keep the mixture together so that it can be formed into balls or 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 – make sure to leave a few inches of space in the top of your bucket to account for expansion.

You can also make chum in bulk at home and freeze it, then bring that frozen chum on your next fishing trip – just put it into a chum bucket, and the water will melt it and disperse the scent more slowly. This will create a chum slick as the oil is released from the frozen chum block. It is easier than needing to create fresh chum on every single trip.

The video below is 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 baitfish. You can grab a bag and take it to your boat or the water’s edge. The recipe is also optimized over time and can be more effective with its secret and exotic ingredients. 

I recommend Mojo’s Fish Chum for Saltwater fish – it is made from real fish, shrimp, and fish oil in a concentrated and slow-sinking form.

How to Chum?

Using chum is very simple – over the entire period of your fishing adventure, 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 in 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. It is that simple to learn how to chum – there are more secrets in learning when to chum than actually doing it.

How to use a Chum Bag?

You will want to use a chum bag if you are fishing from a boat. These are mesh or plastic bags with large holes in them that you can fill with chum, and they can slowly release the scent over time. You don’t want to throw the chum into the water because within a few minutes, you might have drifted hundreds of yards away. Using a chum bag means 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 on its own.

There are plenty of great chum bags available in the marketplace, such as this one by Du-Bro. It is a simple mesh bag with a 14″ diameter opening that can fit plenty of large, oily pieces of fish to let scent follow your boat with a 6-foot rope.

Does store-bought chum work?

You can also buy chum in bags from your local tackle shop, but do they work as well as the homemade 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 leftover bait. Spending a lot of money on something you will just be throwing away can make your fishing trip much more expensive.

My advice 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.

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. Generally, it takes 15-20 mins for the chum to be attracted a decent number of large fish, but smaller fish can move in almost immediately.

What is the Best Chum Recipe?

My personal favorite recipe is to chop up whatever baitfish you have been able to catch or even canned sardines. Add some water and menhaden oil for consistency and smell. The smelly, the better – this is why many anglers will use cut bait or stink bait.

How do your use chum?

Throw your chum into your target location, generally a slow-moving current, continuously for 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 are fishing to attract fish from afield.

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

What is the best channel catfish chum?

The best chum for channel 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 one of the top species to chum for.

What is the 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 blood, oily fish like tuna, mackerel, herring, fish carcasses, and rotten bait.

This chum combination will attract many predatory fish species such as shark.

What is the best chum for carp?

Carp are not fussy eaters so 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. The best way to figure out how to chum is to give it a go yourself.

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.


There are 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 the direction of your lure or crankbait.

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

Also, be aware of fast-moving water. It might be ineffective if your chum and scent are swept downstream instantly.

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

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

Happy fishing!

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