Fish Chum Ingredients
Fish Chum & Chumming > Ingredients
The ingredients for making your own Fish Chum, Burley, or Groundbait recipe come in three categories:
- Main ingredients can be used alone or as a base for your recipe.
- Enhancers add an extra zing to your mixture, making it more powerful.
- Binders are used to hold the mixture together, help disperse the scent longer, and to sink the chum lower into the water column.
Ingredients can be purchases, but it is more fun to collect your own. Our Live Bait will show your how to collect your own chum making ingredients. Don't forget the obvious, clams, oysters, etc. that attach to piling, roots, or boats are free bait. You will also need a recipe for your chum mix, check out our Fish Chum Recipes pages.
Note: You must have a fishing license to collect bait!
The following ingredients from the above chart are listed alphabetically.
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Bay Anchovy's are schooling fish found in bays and deep water. They are usually 4 inches long and easily caught by cast net. They are a favorite of striped bass, bluefish and weakfish. Catch a pile and grind them of for an excellent chum.
Bait fish are abundant when you find them. Look for flocks of birds over the water and get your boat close enough to use a cast net to catch them. You can also cast net bait fish from the shore.
Grunts, barracuda, bonito, ladyfish, and small blackfin tuna work great for cut bait. If you catch these fish yourself, it is essentially free bait, either cut into chunks or strips.
Collect the bait fish in a bucket until you are ready to process them.
Grind up the bait fish to make chum or cut them up and toss chunks in the water for chumming the bigger fish.
Typical species of bait fish include menhaden, pilchard, bonito, mullet, ladyfish, mackerel, and white perch. Bait fish are one of the best sources for your chum recipe.
Bread crumbs are used as a binder for your chum mix. Grind up old bread in a food processer for quick crumbs. You can also tear up pieces of bread, but that takes a while.
The finer the crumb, the better it will mix in and bind your chum ingredients. You could buy plain dry bread crumbs, but that can be expensive.
Canned Wet Cat Food / Canned Sardines and Tuna
Canned wet cat food has been an old time favorite chum and chum making ingredient. Buy the cheapest fish flavored can's you can find and dump into your chum mixture. Used alone or as a main ingredient for you chum recipe, wet cat food is both stinky and very effective. Canned cat food is great for chumming for snapper, kingfish, kahawai and trevally.
People also buy cheap canned sardines and tuna and use them the same way canned cat food is used—as a homemade chum ingredient or from a can poked with holes. I was told that the oil based canned fish are better than the water based. The water based fish will breakup fast once they hit the water.
For a ready made chum dispenser, punch holes into the can, attached to a line, and thrown into the water as a cheap all-in-one chum & dispenser outfit. Cans will drop to the bottom leaving an oily trail in it's wake. Just beware of some unwanted visitors: we read a story about a man who tied a can to a line on his waist while fishing with waders. He said the first to come were huge 15 inch crabs and it scared the crap out of him. As he ran from the crabs, they followed his chum line hanging from his waist!
Clams and clam bellies are an enticing treat for fish like Stripers. Most fish cannot get the clam out of the shell, so when a treat comes along they go crazy for the juicy clam meat. Clams are commonly used for chum in the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island.
Clam processors cut out the clam bellies and sell them to local bait shops and canneries. They are cheap and plentiful in the northern states. You can also buy clam bellies in frozen cans.
The "old timers" just squeeze the clam's juice into the water to create a clam chum slick. They also throw the clams in for added chum. Clam bellies will sink rapidly, so no weights are used in dispensers. Squeezing clam bellies allows you to regulate the amount of juice slick you are creating, so when undesirable species show up, you can stop chumming till they leave.
Usually clam chumming will be done up current of a pier, jetty, or any other area where there is structure and the fish hang out. The clam juice is so enticing that it puts the fish into a feeding frenzy.
Save your clam juice after you boil up a batch of quahogs, little necks, or cherry stone clams.
Instead of adding water to moisten your chum mix, add clam juice.
The clam juice after boiling clams is rich in clam flavor which will act as a great enhancer for your saltwater chum mix. I am not sure if it will work for freshwater fish chum, but you can try it.
Put the juice in a bag and either refrigerate it for a short time or freeze it. If you freeze the juice, take it out the day before you plan on making chum to thaw. You can even add more juicy delights that will go in your chum mix to the bag in the freezer.
Clay is used to bind together ingredients into balls that you can throw into the water and sink your chum mix. As the clay dissolves in the water, more chum is released. A good mix is 50/50 clay and fish meal. Clay can be purchased for about $7 for a 50 lb. bag in a fishing supply house.
Get a 5 gallon bucket and put equal parts dry clay and fish meal in the bucket and mix to a paste; using a hand drill mixer works great for this. This mixture is commonly used to bait for shrimp—take your bucket full of clay/fish meal mix to your fishing spot, form hamburger sized disks, throw in water or drop from poles, wait for the shrimp to come, then cast net the shrimp.
Ground Cracked Corn is used a main ingredient for chum made for cat fish, bass, or other freshwater species. See our Recipes page for a great cracked corn recipe.
Canned Corn is used on it's own as a chum or mixed in as an enhancer. Corn Meal is used as a chum mix binder due to it's fine granular structure.
One word of warning, check you local regulation on the use of corn as a chum, many states ban the use of corn for fishing.
Fiddler Crabs are found on coastal beaches and are very abundant. They roam the beach in large groups, so when you find some, collecting them in a bucket is easy. Be sure to wear gloves as their claws and body armor will cut you.
Blue Crabs are usually abundant and easily trapped for bait, and they are also good eating.
Any type of crab can be used for chum, with the best being local to your fishing spot which will attract crab-eating species such as Permit, Snapper, Red Fish, or Sheepheads.
Crabs can be put in a net or bag dispenser live, then stomp on the bag to crush the crabs. Grind or crush the crabs for a good base for your recipe.
Crawfish are usually found hiding in rocks in brooks and streams. Crawfish can grow to about 7 inches and there are hundreds of species around the world with many different names. They are a relative of the lobster and have a very tasty tail which is usually all that is eaten. After your meal of crawfish, use the rest of the carcass for your chum mix and watch the action you get.
You can collect your own Crawfish by using a window screen or fine mesh net. Locate the Crawfish in the hiding hole, stir the water to chase the crayfish into the net. My favorite is to keep the tails for dinner then grind up the carcases for your chum mix.
Dry Cat Food
Dry cat food has small chunks that absorb water, bloat once wet, and last a while in the water. Dry cat food is cheap in 50 lb. bags, buy fish flavored and the least expensive variety works best.
The dry chunks are great for a base for your chum recipe and can also be used on their own, either catapulted out into the water, or broadcast by hand close to your fishing spot.
Dry Dog Food
Dry dog food chunks are usually large enough to use on their own as a chum. The dog food will absorb water and bloat, so it will last a while. Choose fish flavored dog food, usually salmon is available. Dry dog food can be coated with an attractant or menhaden oil or milk for added punch. You can also use the dog food as a binder for your chum recipe. Buy cheap fish flavored dry dog food in 50 lb. bags so you always have some chum ready for your next fishing adventure.
For a quick and cheap chum, just place a pile of chunks into a net or mesh dispenser, tie a line to the bag, and hang into the water. Shake the bag occasionally to release more scent. You can also broadcast chunk chum with these dry chunks.
If you take your dog fishing, be sure he doesn't jump in after the chum—Dog Chum?
Eels can grow from 2 to 5 feet long and make a great bait or main ingredient for your chum mix. They usually live in creeks, ponds, rivers, streams and can be found in deep, swift channels and feeds on worms, small fishes, soft-shelled crabs, Macoma clams and other mollusks, so they are yummy for many fish species, both freshwater and saltwater. Cut up the eels and use as chunk chum or grind up the bodies and mix with sand or another binder.
Fish Food (Tropical or Pond)
You can buy commercially prepared pond or tropical fish food at feed stores in 50 lb. bags inexpensively. Purchase the flake variety, not the pellets as the pellets cloud and dissipate quickly.
Flake fish food works best for attracting bait fish for cast netting or for freshwater chumming. Mix the fish food with menhaden oil for added scent, and the oil will create a slick that lasts. Fish food can also be added to your recipe as a binder and enhancer.
When filleting a preferably large fish, the fish guts are great enhancers for your chum mix. Pictured here are the fish guts of 200 pound Nurse Shark. We had to get a large sharp these parts up, but it was worth it because the parts were added to a wonderful chum mix of ground up shark that worked like a charm when we went fishing the next day. Check out my photo documentary of How to Fillet a 200 lb Shark.
When grinding a whole fish, the hearts, guts, eyeballs or other assorted bait enhancers can be put through the grinder, but if you put them aside and add to the ground mix, it makes the chum sort of a ground/chunk mix. There is nothing like an eyeball or two the improve the bite.
Fish meal is typically ground menhaden, but many varieties exist and are sold as a fertilizer or used in the diet of domestic animals. You want to purchase fish meal made for fishing since it will likely contain ground menhaden which is an excellent attractant for fishing. Fish meal can be purchased at fishing supply stores and hardware stores for around $35 per 50 pound bag.
Use fish meal as an enhancer in your fish chum recipe. It can also be mixed into a dry ball with clay, use a 50/50 mix of clay and fish meal. Fish meal is excellent for chumming for shrimp.
Leeches live in most creeks, rivers, and lakes. The Ribbon Leeches are the best leech bait that feed on dead animals and prey on aquatic insect larvae worms. The Horse Leech is undesirable for bait and fish will not bite them. Grind or cut up leeches and mix with a binder for a great freshwater chum.
Lobster carcass's make great chum.
Most lobsters are eaten for their tails and claws with the rest of the body discarded.
I always take the body carcass, shells and all, and grind them up for chum.
Maggots are fly larvae and make excellent bait. They can be many colors and sizes. They have been known to attract anything from a small minnow to 50-pound carp. You can raise your own maggot bait if you can stomach it. Add Maggots to your chum mix as an enhancer or if you get enough, use them as your main ingredient and add a binder to make a great freshwater mix.
Here is a grate way to use maggots as an attractant on its own: fill a bag with live maggots, tie a string to the bag and hang on a tree branch over the water. Poke a hole into the bottom so the maggots are released very slowly into the water attracting fish to you.
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Menhaden oil is a very stinky fatty oil obtained from the menhaden fish of the herring family which is found off the Atlantic coast of North America and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Menhaden oil is an excellent fish attractant either on it's own or added to your chum mixture. Look for "cold pressed oil" which means it was processed cold resulting in a more intense flavor. This oil is an ideal additive to your homemade fish chum recipe and can also be used to marinate your bait or on its own using a drip dispenser.
There are two types of dispensers used if you are dispensing straight oil—a bag drip unit or a PVC drip dispenser. Pour some menhaden into your drip dispenser, set the valve on the drip tube so the menhaden oil drips slowly into the water. This oil slick can attract fish from miles.
If you have access to Menhaden Fish or Pogies, you can cast net them and chunk the fish for fresh chumming. Menhaden don't last long frozen as the oils degrade. They get soft, squishy and very stinky. The exception is using a vacuum pack system.
The topic of Menhaden is so important that we devoted a full page Menhaden on this site.
Menhaden milk is menhaden oil that has been emulsified and condensed making it water miscible meaning it can dissolve into another liquid in any proportion without separating. Because it mixes with water, it becomes neutrally buoyant and allows it to flow through the water column rather than immediately rising to the surface.
There are two types of dispensers used if you are dispensing straight milk—a bag drip unit or a PVC drip dispenser.
Milo is an early-growing, usually drought-resistant grain that is inexpensive and sold in feed stores in 50 pound bags. Milo is used as feed and is an ingredient in bird food. A 50 lb. bag of milo can make 2+ 5-gallon containers of chum. Some people will make 50 gallon barrels full of this stuff.
To make milo chum from a 50 lb. bag of milo, fill a 5-gallon bucket half full of milo, pour in water to about 2" above the milo, stir, then lay the lid on the bucket, then ferment for at least a week, a month is best. Do not close or lock the lid down or it will explode from the pressure built up during the fermenting process. Wow, that would be a stinky mess. This stuff is very stinky, so keep the container outside.
To use the milo chum mix, just ladle it out into the water with a coffee can or similar disposable container. You can also pour the milo chum into a dispenser for a slower release. Catfish love this milo chum. To read more about it click this link for a great article.
Oats & Oatmeal
Oats are used as binders for making chum. You can buy inexpensive 50 lb. bags in feed stores or you can go to the grocery store and buy good old fashioned Quaker Oats.
Mix oats with an attractant and some fish parts for a wonderful chum for both fresh and salt water. Be sure your attractant & fish used in the chum are indigenous to the area you plan to fish.
Oats create a cloud in the water that looks like something getting eaten and really brings the groupers out of their holes, also mutton snapper love it. Mix chum, sand, and oat together with then make a 50/50 mix of sand and the chum mix. This will allow you to form nice balls that you can gently drop off the side of your boat so they sink slowly releasing all the goodness of your chum mix.
Check out our Freshwater Recipes for chum recipes using oats.
Oysters are a staple for Sheepshead in the Gulf. Squeezing the juice of the oyster into the water near a barnacle & oyster covered piling will surely drive the Sheepshead into a feeding frenzy.
Oysters make a good base for your chum mixture. You can buy cheap canned oysters to add to your chum mixture. In areas where oysters are plentiful, you can buy shucked oysters for bait.
Rabbit Food Pellets
Rabbit food pellets are great on their own as a chum in both salt water and fresh. You simply throw them in the water periodically and the fish will come. You can also use rabbit food pellets as a base ingredient for your chum recipe.
These pellets come in 50 lb. bags and are inexpensive.
High protein range cubes are designed to be fed to beef cattle on dry winter forages, but savvy anglers use them as an effective chum. You can purchase range cubes at feed stores. The pellets are about 3" long and are made from cottonseed meal and alfalfa. Make sure you ask for 20% range cube or the pellets will dissolve too quickly in the water.
These cubes do not smell, so they make a wonderful alternative to stinky chumming. To use, broadcast a handful into the water or use a chum catapult. Allow a 1/2 hour for the feed to draw the fish in, then repeat after a few hours.
Range cubes can also be put in a dispenser for chummingin a specific spot, just as any other chum. Pictured here is a wire basket with range cubes in it. You can also use a chum bag to slowly release the range cube scent. Float the dispenser midway down the water column.
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Rice is used as a main ingredient or a binder in many chum recipes. Rice attracts such species as various bait fish, catfish, snapper and trevally. Rice is cheap and easy to use. Some freshwater fishermen use leftover cooked rice as chum, the fish go crazy seeking the little white pieces falling thru the water column, probably thinking they are worms.
Rice mixed with a can of chopped clams and some clam juice makes a quick saltwater chum. Just let the rice soak up the juices overnight. You can also use canned oysters or any other canned fish, the best are canned in oil. I have a chum collection bag going in the freezer that once full I grind up some chum. Whenever I cook rice I always cook a little extra and throw leftovers into my freezer chum bag.
Check out our Freshwater Recipes for chum recipes using rice.
Sand is used as a binder for your chum recipe. First get all your ingredients mixed up in a bucket or bowl, then add the sand to bind the mix together. The sand will help sink the chum deeper into the water column, but won't last long as your chum dissolves. Us sand from the same body of water you will be fishing in for best results.
Check out our Saltwater Recipes for sand ball chum recipes.
Although looking like small crabs, sand fleas are not crabs at all. Also known as mole crabs, sand crabs and lucky cookies, sand fleas are found on the beach near the waters edge in the surf, so look for them when you are surf fishing.
Usually hiding in groups right under the sand at the waterline, especially when there is a low tide, they bury their bodies in and stick their head out of the hole to catch food rolling in with the surf.
To find them, look for surface air bubbles and balls of sand around a center hole close to the water line in the sand. Also look for v-shaped marks in the sand with antenna's sticking out. They can also be found moving up and down on the beach as the waves come rolling in. If you stand with your back to the sun, you can spot groups of them on the beach.
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You can scoop them out of the sand by hand or use a sand flea bait rake to improve your catch. Scoop them up and put in a bucket with sand and sea water to keep them alive until you are ready to process.
Sand fleas are great tossed into the water as a chum or if you gather a lot, use for a base for your chum. They can also be put on a hook for bait—pick one up, remove the hard shell, attach it to the hook and start fishing.
Sardines travel in large schools and are caught mainly at night, when they approach the surface to feed on plankton, using nets. Cast netting a school will give you a large supply of sardines to make a wonderful chum mix. This fish is very oily making it excellent for chumming.
Using canned Sardines in oil makes a great chum base or enhancer to your chum mix. Using the can tied to a line with holes punched in it is also another great all-in-one chum/dispenser setup. You can also put the can with holes poked in it into your chum bucket along with other ingredients like bread. If you put weight on the can or chum bucket and sink the sardines, the oil will travel all through the water column.
Be sure to purchase the canned sardines packed in OIL, not water—water packed fish gets very mushy and will not last very long. Canned sardines are great for attracting squid, gars, mullet, salmon, steelhead, catfish, and most other kinds of fish.
After you filet your catch use the leftover fish scraps for your chum recipe. The carcases can be cut into chunks for easier processing. Use the whole carcase, bones and all.
If you live near a cannery or fish market, you could get from them refuse or scraps.
I get scraps from my local fishing charter captain after he fillets his clients catch.
Shrimp are used by saltwater fisherman more commonly than any other bait. Shrimp can be bought alive or in frozen packages. Left over live shrimp from your fishing trip or fresh netted shrimp are excellent for your chum recipe. Also adding a package of frozen shrimp to your chum mix is a great enhancer. I also throw in my recipe left over shrimp heads and shells, just grind them into the mix.
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Using shrimp that come from the waters you will be fishing is the best to use. Fish can smell the shrimp scent, and get very excited when they smell what they are used to eating. I usually use a shrimp net, pictured here, which has small holes, to scoop shrimp out of the water and I keep them alive in a bait bucket. Any shrimp that do not survive go into my chum mix.
If you are as lucky as I am and have a dock on a channel, hang a bait bucket drilled with holes off a line on your dock. The shrimp will stay alive indefinitely due to the changing tides keeping the water fresh, and you always have fresh bait.
Shrimp Boat By-Catch
Shrimp boats can be found in the Gulf of Mexico all the way up the east coast of Florida. If you find a shrimp boat anchored, you could get some of the shrimp boat by-catch in exchange for some beer, just approach them when they are anchored. A 6-pack can get you a five gallon bucket or two. By-catch is any unwanted fish that gets caught in their nets that gets discarded back into the sea.
Use the by-catch to make fresh ground chum, or cut up into pieces for chunk chumming.
Squid is commonly used as cut bait, but many anglers "chunk chum" pieces of squid to attract fish to their fishing spot.
Squid is prime bait for many different fish species from flounder to big croaker and sea bass.
Squid is an excellent for a main ingredient for your chum recipe due to it's stinky, slimy texture. You can catch squid with a net if a school happens by your dock or when on a boat, but the most common way to acquire squid is frozen in 1 lb. boxes.
Squid Wings can be purchased at a local wholesale bait house and ground up for your chum mix and cost about $20 for 50 lbs.
For information on preparing squid wings for bait, click the picture to jump to the site.
Squid is so enticing to fish that professional sport fisherman will go so far as to paint squids on the bottoms of their boats because they are not allowed to chum during tournaments.
Wheat is used for making catfish chum. As a main ingredient, just add yeast or beer to kick start the fermenting process, and water. Let the mix sit for weeks to ripen up.
We have a great Soured Wheat Cat Fish Chum recipe with a video, check it out.
Worms have always been a staple bait for freshwater fisherman but also used my saltwater anglers. A pile of worms added to your chum recipe, either as the main ingredient or an enticer, is excellent if the chum is made for a targeted species.
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Wax worms are popular bait for crappie fishermen. You can put the worms in a dispenser that has holes big enough to allow the worms to slowly escape into the current. This will drive the crappie into a feeding frenzy. And you can also add them to your chum mix.
Can O' Worms Vermiculture Composting Bin is the ultimate in composting and farming your own worms. You can grow your own worms in abundance and use in your favorite chum recipe.
There are also worm farms you can purchase to grow your own worms for bait or to use as an enhancer in your chum.
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