What Does Chumming the Water Mean? [Guide for Beginners]

Chumming the Water

Fishing may seem easy to someone who has no experience with it, but it is actually very complex. Anglers have to choose the right equipment, fishing technique, and baits to attract and catch the fish in specific conditions.

Sometimes, using only baits is not enough, and you have to try a bit harder to trigger the fish come closer and becomes interested in your bait. To do that, anglers are chumming the water.

So, what exactly does that mean? Chumming is basically the process throwing food interesting to fish into the water. Chum is the food you are using. This practice is also known as pre-baiting in some parts of the world.

It can be done for various fish species; however, the chum and the whole approach differ a lot. For some fish, it can take days, and for some it can be done instantly.

Same as baits, chum has to be chosen in accordance with year time, water conditions, and baits used to get the most of it.

Here I will tell you more about chumming the water, and what effect does it have to the fish and the environment.



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What is Chumming in Fishing? [Meaning]

Chumming the water means that anglers are using various foods or even mixtures of different ingredients to attract fish. You can use chum in lakes, rivers, and even in saltwater, if allowed of course. The goal is for the food and the scent to spread and attract fish into the specific area from a distance.

When fish arrive, you will present your bait in that area and that will significantly increase your chance to catch a fish.

The goal of chumming is not feeding the fish, and you have to be careful with that. If you use too much and you do it for too long, fish will not be interested in your bait as it will stop being hungry.

And when it comes to preferred chum (either bought or made by you at home), anglers often use ingredients that are similar to those in baits they will use. The reason for that is to get the fish used to that smell and taste and to remove any suspicions the fish may have towards your bait.

For example, if you are using chicken liver as bait for catfish, it would be good to use chicken liver in chumming too, at least as an ingredient. Catfish will eat it, see that it is safe and tasty, and that will make it bite your bait later on.

What will you use in different waters depends on the water itself. Bread is an excellent chum base as it dissolves, and the scent will travel fast. It can be used together with attractants and colorants to make it more appealing. You can use various doughs, cut bait, or basically anything that it suitable for certain fish.

“Heavier” ingredients are better for fast moving waters because light ones will be carried too far away from a desired area. These are all just basic examples that explain the logic behind chumming.

Is Chumming the Water Legal or Illegal?

Now you know what is chumming in fishing but is that even legal? There is not a YES or NO answer that is applicable to all situations.

In some waters it is strictly forbidden, while in other locations you can do it freely. As you know, you need a fishing license to fish, and you have to obey all local rules and regulations. So, before you head out to your favorite location, make sure that you check official and up to date info about fishing methods and chumming rules.

The same goes for both freshwater and saltwater. For privately owned waters, you have to check with the owner or with a person/company who is in charge of the private fishing venue.

Those who are traveling around the world for fishing have to check the rules for countries and waters they are visiting.

In the US, every state has different rules. In some areas you can’t use chum in saltwater for sharks as it can be dangerous. They will learn that human presence means food and that could become deadly for tourists. This is the case in some areas of Florida and in Alabama, especially when fishing from the shore.

Rules for offshore are different. Even within the same state you can find different rules for different waters. Chumming may be permitted in certain lakes, but not all lakes. You get the point.

Chumming the Water - Illegal

Is Chumming the Water Bad for the Environment?

Is chumming the water illegal or legal is a law issue, but how it affects our waters is an environmental problem. Every angler wants to preserve waters and abundant fish species in order to enjoy this incredible activity in the future.

I already mentioned chumming sharks and potential danger for swimmers and divers, but that is not the only concern. It is actually a very complex problem and while some anglers support chumming, others are not. I will list you some of the concerns so that you can form your own opinion.

Heavily chumming small and stationary waters, especially with foods that are not natural, may stain the waters, and it can also influence flora and fauna. Bringing a lot of food into the small and enclosed ecosystem will harm its balance. You may be chumming for one fish species, but the chum will get eaten by other fish too. Part of it will end up on the bottom and the plants. Huge amount of chum can cause certain species of plants or fish to overpopulate the area, and that will reduce the population of other living organisms there.

It can also have a negative effect on water quality and reduce numbers of smallest organisms on the bottom of the food chain like plankton and algae.

Feeding any wild animal, including fish, will make it rely on humans for food and that is always a bad idea. Of course, this becomes a problem only in places that are extremely popular and hundreds of anglers are fish there. If you do it in the middle of the ocean, the effect will be much smaller.

Using bread and similar man-made foods in large quantities will overfeed the fish with food that has no nutritional value for them. Because of your easily accessible food, they will eat much less of natural food, and that will negatively affect their health.

What Fish Can We Chum?

Knowing what is chumming means nothing if you don’t know what fish you can attract with chum. The good news is that it can be done for many various species, both freshwater and saltwater.

Here are some tips about how to do it and what to use for chumming for some of the most popular game fish.

Chumming the Water for Catfish [+ Best Chum]

Catfish love anything with a strong scent. Of course, you can use all those popular smelly ingredients for chumming which includes cheese, chicken liver, or even dog food. Some anglers by cubes or pellets made specifically for chumming purpose.

There are two different methods of catfish chumming. One is chumming the water just before you present your bait, and another is so called “baiting the hole” where the process of chumming is repeated multiple times through a few days in order to attract fish and keep it in the area.

Dough or dip bait and blood baits are great for chumming catfish. Your options are almost unlimited when it comes to chum or the best baits for catfish.

Some anglers use large cans of pet food (dog or cat). Simply pierce a few holes for slow scent release and submerge the can.

Chumming the Water for Carp [+ Best Chumm]

Choosing the right location is the key for carp chumming. You have to use chum in areas that are likely to hold carp, especially if you are chumming for a long time. Besides for food, carp needs a shelter and a safe place.

Depending on a year time, you can use sweeter (winter) or smellier (summer) scented chum. Many anglers like to use corn, bread with added attractants, or even chopped boilies.

Same as with catfish, you can do it before you start fishing, or you can do it for a few days. I can’t tell you the exact quantity to use as it depends on a water size and depth, size and number of fish in the area, and even other fish species that may eat the chum before carp arrives.

If you are doing it shortly before you will present your bait, try tossing a can of corn into the area and see what happens. You can add more later or use less the next time. If you are using slingshots, throw a few and wait for a bit.

When you start chumming a few days before, you can make a bucket of sweet corn (the cheapest way is to cook and spice up dry corn) and use it little by little for a couple of days. You will have to use more in rivers as the currents will carry it away, and less in lakes.

You will have to figure it out for your specific situation, so go out and start chumming and fishing!

Chumming the Water - Corn for Carp

Chumming the Water for Bass [+ Best Chumm]

To see what works best for bass, ask local anglers. This fish can be tricky to catch and what works in your waters may be much different than what works in waters I have fished in.

Bass is a predator, and chumming is a bit different than for carp.

One way of chumming for bass in an indirect approach. Your goal can be to attract baitfish into the area, and hope that the bass will follow them. Sometimes, this is much easier to do. You can do it with bread or basically anything interesting to shad, minnows, and similar species.

Some anglers even use direct approach and use chopped baitfish or worms. Smell of blood and freshy injured creatures could attract bass. However, a lot of anglers will disagree with this method as it is rarely effective. I would advise to chum for smaller fish instead.

The whole process of chumming should be done shortly before you present your bait. You can do it even just 15 minutes before. Such fast approach is not possible for previously mentioned species.

Despite all of this, chumming for bass is not that popular among many anglers.

Chumming the Water for Sharks [+ Best Chumm]

Chumming for sharks is illegal in many places if done close to the shore so be careful and don’t break the law. Do it only in locations where that is permitted.

Anglers mostly use bloody fish parts. Blood is a sign of injured and easy prey, so it will attract sharks from a great distance. Some will even use bloody pieces of various mammals.

You can grind those to get a thick liquid, and then add chopped parts into it. Because of large areas and depths in saltwater away from shores, you will need a few gallons for a day of chumming. You can`t use a handful of it as you would for freshwater fish like carp. If the conditions are rough (wind and waves) you will have to use even more chum.

Another good technique is to use frozen grounded chum. Frozen blocks are placed in a mesh and lowered into the water from the side of the boat. They slowly melt and attract sharks.

Chumming the Water - Fish Parts

In Which Fishing Techniques Can We Use Chumming?

Chumming the water will attract fish, but can you then catch it with any technique?

The key is to use baits that are similar to the chum you used. If you used chopped boilies for carp, then use boilies as bait.

The technique itself will depend on the fish and chum depth. You can go for bottom fishing, or float fishing to present the bait in a specific part of the water column.

When it comes to fish like bass, you can use live bait that is the same as baitfish you attracted in the area. The one on a hook will be very interesting to bass because it is injured and easy to catch. If that is not allowed, go for lures that mimic the baitfish.

Avoid fishing techniques and baits/lures that are completely different from the chum you used.


Chumming the water has many benefits for the angler as it increases your success rate. It attracts fish from the distance and makes it very interested in your bait.

Make sure that you are not overfeeding the fish, as that will have a negative effect. Well fed fish has no reason to bite your bait later on.

Although chumming is very productive, there are some bad aspects of it too, so you should do it only in locations where that is legally allowed.

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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