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Saltwater Fishing: How to Make and Use Chum

Holle Abee has long experience fishing, crabbing, and hunting in the Southern US.

Why Use Chum?

Chum is that obnoxious mixture of fish blood and scraps of fish flesh that many species of game fish love. Using it can turn an unproductive fishing trip into an exciting angling adventure that will help you catch your limit. The natural ocean currents will help distribute the scent of food and the actual bits of food through the water, getting saltwater fish in the area to get into the feeding mood.

All kinds of saltwater species are attracted by the chum, including baitfish. The presence of baitfish, will, of course, attract the larger fish you’re targeting. And, in many cases, the scent and food will call the big boys up for you, too. Chumming is easy to do, it’s inexpensive, and it can certainly help you fill your cooler.

Making Your Own Chum

To start with, you'll need an adequate amount of chum. You can purchase ready-made chum from your favorite bait shop for a nominal fee, or you can easily make your own.

Steps to Prepare the Chum

  1. Just finely crumble 10 loaves of stale bread into a five-gallon bucket, and cover the crumbs with a gallon of menhaden oil.
  2. Add 10 standard-size cans of cat food. Don’t use that fancy gourmet kitty food. You want the cheap, smelly kind. You can also add any leftover food you might have on hand, including niblet corn, rice, and noodles.
  3. Next comes the fish. Buy or net a few oily fish and cut them into different size pieces. I prefer using mullet because of their strong fish-attracting odor.

Make sure you have a wide variety in the sizes of your fish pieces. You want some tiny morsels, some medium-sized pieces, and some big chunks, so that part of your chum will sink quickly to the bottom, some will drift slowly to the bottom, and some of the small pieces will float. This way, you’ll be covering a variety of water levels and targeting different fish species. The menhaden oil will make an oil slick on the water, so you’ll know exactly where you’ve already chummed.

Where and How to Chum From a Boat

Where to chum? Where the fish are, of course! Use your fish finder. Also, watch the water surface closely for fish or bait movement. Locate rocks, reefs, wrecks, ledges, and troughs, and chum over them. Many fish species hang out at such places.

Sit or stand at the back of the boat and slowly and consistently ladle out the chum. You want to put out just enough to attract the fish—not to give them a full meal. The presence of food in the water will put many species in a feeding frenzy, which you can take advantage of.

When you’ve laid down a sufficient chum line, let it work for about 15 or 20 minutes. That should be enough time for the fish to find it if any are in the area. After the chum line has rested, troll or cast your lines just beyond the chum and then through it. If you don’t get a strike within a few minutes, you probably chose a bad location. Move to another spot and start another line.

Chum from a boat to call the fish to dinner!

Chum from a boat to call the fish to dinner!

From a Pier

Are you more of a pier angler? No worries—you can still use chum to effectively draw fish to the area. Place a good supply of chum in a chum bag or in a heavy mesh bag. Place a heavy weight in the bag. I like to use a pyramid sinker or two for this. Drop the bag over the side of the pier, let it sink about a foot, and tie it off at the pier railing. The ocean currents will carry the enticing aroma to any fish in the neighborhood, alerting them that an easy meal is nearby.

Chum from a pier to attract sharks and other big fish.

Chum from a pier to attract sharks and other big fish.

Chum in a Tidal Creek, Bay, or Inlet

Don’t have a boat or use of a pier? You can still reap the benefits of using chum. It can be used in tidal creeks, inlets, and bays, but you’ll want to use a little different type of chum.

Method 1

Use a large can of smelly cat food and punch holes in it with an ice pick. Use a knife point to make some of the holes larger. Visit your fishing spot at dead low tide, and attach the can to a wooden stake or to a PVC pipe with a slanted end. Hammer the pipe or stake into the soft mud, and wait for the tide to come back in.

The cat food will attract all kinds of bait, including shrimp, crabs, and baitfish. All of these, of course, will attract larger game fish species. All you have to do is cast your line around the staked cat food.

Method 2

Another method you can use in the same type of location is purchasing some fish meal or some brine shrimp. Get a handful of clay and mix it with the meal or brine shrimp. Form it into a firm ball and toss it into the water. As the clay breaks apart, the enclosed bait will be released into the water and carried by the natural currents, ringing the dinner bell for fish, crabs, and shrimp.

Both of the above methods are also a great way to catch shrimp and baitfish in your cast net. Just cast over or near the stake or the meal ball.

Chumming can also be effective in a bay, inlet, or tidal creek.

Chumming can also be effective in a bay, inlet, or tidal creek.


De Greek from UK on July 16, 2012:

I have just started being interested in fishing and this is what I have been looking all over the Internet for. THANK YOU - I LOVE YOU! ;-))))

RonnieWilliams on April 05, 2012:

I never new catfood would work.


PBG fl.

Mirjan Stojanovic from Belgrade on November 16, 2011:

I am terrible fisherman but I like fishing :) Great hub! :)

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 04, 2011:

Thanks, Larry!

Larry Wade Price from Long Beach, California on January 04, 2011:

A great fishing article. I've written one, and plane to relate more on this wonderful sport and hobby.

Thanks for a good read.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 02, 2011:

Many thanks!

alanhubba on December 30, 2010:

Some great fishing and tips

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 19, 2010:

Jalus, give it a try!

Jalus on November 15, 2010:

Interesting! I never new cat food would work. Thanks for the tips! I'll be sure to try these out soon.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Funny, Creek! Now ya know!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Thanks for visiting, Mexico! I appreciate it!

thecreeksideangle from Nevada on March 14, 2010:

Wow, cat food. I always wondered what off brand cat food could be used for besides crawfish bait. Very interesting article.

Mexico Bass Fishing on December 10, 2009:

Those are pretty nice pictures and big fishes, thanks for sharing! Take care!