6 Tips for Effective Chumming

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post where we will check out my 6 tips for effective chumming this year.  Chumming (or burleying as we call it here down under) is an effective and proven way of attracting fish to wherever it is that you wish to try and catch them.

So for those you you who wish to increase your chances of success with a bit of chumming but are not real sure how to go about it all, I have, based on my own experience and research, come up with 6 tips below.

Let’s check them out.

What is chumming?

In short, chumming is the process of discharging tiny bits of ground-up bait and oils known as chum into the water to create a scent trail that the fish can follow to the area where you have dropped your hookset.  The idea is that you can use the current etc. to attract the fish and chumming can be effective in all aspects of fishing including deep sea and ice fishing.  

As above a good chum consists of a number of elements where the chopped up smaller bits attract smaller baitfish, which in turn draws the attention of larger game fish.  Additionally, the oil and blood from the chum frequently directly attract larger fish species.

6 Tips for Effective Chumming - chum being mixed

Tips for chumming

Just like any technique we know in fishing, chumming can make or break your angling experience. So my 6 tips for chumming are as follows:

1. Determine the legality of chumming in a particular region

Before we get started, you should be aware that the practice of chumming is actually prohibited in specific regions or states.  This can be for a number of reasons including:

  • Protection of endangered, or over fished species
  • Maintenance of water quality (too much chumming can actually rot in waterways etc. – especially in fresh water)
  • It can attract unwanted predators to waterways (such as sharks etc.)

So, before you fill the old chum bag, always check the regulations within your local area in regards to what you can and can’t do.

2. Identify where to release your chum

One of the biggest mistakes most of us make then it comes to chumming is that we don’t properly identify where to release it.  At the end of the day, your chum must end up in the exact spot that you will be casting your line and influences such as current and depth can really affect the chances of your chum working.  So depending on where you are fishing consider the following:

  1. From a boat: You will want to make sure that you are positioned up-current so that the chum trail will drift down onto your fishing spot. Scoop out the chum slowly and consistently as you want to put out just enough to attract the fish, not to feed them. Many species will go into a feeding frenzy if there is food in the water, which you can take advantage of.  Also keep in mind here that if you are in water than is very deep, the chances of your trail making it to the bottom are minimal at best.
  2. From a pier: Fill a chum bag or a heavy mesh bag halfway with chum and weigh it down using a pyramid sinker or two. Attach a rope to the top and drop the bag to the bottom (again up current if one is evident) then tie it off on a railing.
  3. In the ice: Drop the chum bag through the ice hole and let sink to the bottom – with a rope attached of course.  Only however fill the chum about a third of the way up as if there is no current, you will release too much unto the water which will over feed the fish rather than simply attract them.
  4. In a tidal creek: For this location, anglers can adapt a different method. A proven way is to use a punctured can of aromatic cat food. Go to your fishing spot during low tide and place the perforated canned food on a wooden stake.  Again, make sure the bag is at the top end of the current so that the chum trail drifts past your line.
  5. On a lake: If the waters are still, then a bait boat or slingshot can get chum to where you want it to be as well.
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6 Tips for Effective Chumming - woman releasing small fish

3. Prepare the right chum for your location

The trick to chumming is to ensure that you have your concoction in the water as long as possible.  Hence popular chumming fish include oily options such as sardines and herring (which is why cat food can be a great option).  To maximize your success, you should also if possible, add live bait that is found locally to the mix to give the fish a smell of something they know as well.

I have a friend of mine who keeps the frames from his catches and runs them through a small garden mulcher with some fish oil and pilchards (another oily baitfish) to make a thick paste that takes a while to break down in the water.  However, if a garden mulcher os not available (haha), then there are some good options you can look into below:

  1. Frozen chum blocks: This type of chum is commonly used in saltwater chumming because it is simple, inexpensive and effective for many species. It attracts everything from snapper and grouper to king mackerel and cobia.
  2. Chunking: The second type of chum involves cutting up an ample supply of baitfish into chunks. These are then released into the current with the aim of attracting faster moving species from a long distance away. To be honest, you can use just about anything here  – prawns (shrimp), crab shells and smaller fish frames are some options we use
  3. Live bait: This type of chumming can be very effective if you use a bait fish that is commonly consumed by your target species. Keeping bait fish alive and reintroducing them into the water on a regular basis can work well on larger fish. You can use native fish, shrimp, worms, or other live bait.  This method however is only really effective in keeping the fish around rather than attracting them.
  4. Fish-oil attractants: When anchored, the oil is typically mixed with a frozen-block chum or chinked bait. A small amount of oil creates a large slick, which many fish species can smell from a long distance. Because a little goes a long way, a oily cloth in the water is a good way to disperse the oil slowly.
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4. Apply your chum effectively

As we have discussed above, the whole purpose of chumming is to attract fish to where your hook is.  Hence you need to ensure that you are using methods to give you the best opportunity to do this.  For this step, the following can be effective:

  1. By using chum buckets: If you are in deeper water, then weighing a regular chum bucket is the simplest method.  If there are also surface fish about then two chum buckets (one for the surface and one to sink deep) will be needed.  
  2. By using a sand ball: This requires thawed chum and a bucket of sand. When you’re ready to fish, take some sand in one hand, place a golf-ball-sized lump of chum on top, and mold some more sand into a ball around the chum. Pack it tightly before tossing it over the side.  This method can also work well for surf fishing.
  3. By using a brown paper bag: The final method entails putting a handful of chum into a brown paper bag. Pass your hook through the bag a few times before lowering your rig to the bottom. When it strikes, a few strong tugs will rip the bag free of the hook, allowing the bag to open and the chum to escape.
  4. Throwing chunks:  If you are fishing in stronger currents in shallower water, then throw your chunks over board followed by a piece of bait on an unweighted hook.  This works a treat for us.
6 Tips for Effective Chumming - bait fish in water

5. Thicken the chum slick

This is another area when have touched on but no less important in that as you thicken the chum slick, you are increasing your chance of attracting more fish. To achieve this, add a menhaden oil drip bag to the mix which will allow tiny drops of fishy oil to dribble out slowly and consistently.

Dropping chunks of sliced menhaden is another way to make your chum slick more effective. These are typically thumbnail-sized pieces tossed overboard every few minutes – we use cut up pillow cases for this (don’t tell the boss). And as these chunks are larger than the ground bits in your chum slick, they sink and drift at a different rate giving a greater spread.

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6. Do not over-chum

This is another area we have touched on and again, one of the most important.  Take care not to over-chum when dispersing your mixture into the water as you want to pique the fish’s interest in feeding, not stuff them before they have a chance to attack your hook.

You should be able to maintain a steady flow of chunks, either from a drifting boat or from the anchor if the water is shallow enough or enter a slow release option into your bucket.  These methods will protect the water way as well.

6 Tips for Effective Chumming - school of fish in water


And there they are, my 6 chumming tips to give you the best chance of getting amongst the big ones. I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual,  let me know of your experiences here.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time.

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.