How to Make Fish Chum
Fish Chum & Chumming > Make Fish Chum
Anglers have been making fish chum, bunker, burley, or ground bait for centuries trying all kinds of ingredients such items as seeds, spices, oil, blood, alcohol (what a waste), animal fat, etc., either individually or as a blended mixture. There is no "magic mix", but anglers keep looking for it.
Creating a fish chum mixture that breaks down at a controlled rate and creates a constant flow of attractant at any water temperature or tide condition is a challenge.
Chum is usually made to the consistency of chunky soap.
When making your own, you want to duplicate what the expert retailers have perfected. Pre-packaged chum is made from ground-up fish entrails, crustaceans, mollusks, and worms, with the addition of grain, bread, and dry pet food.
A fish cleaning station setup on your dock makes quick work of making chum. This cleaning station has a PVC pipe setup attached to a hose that runs water over the cleaning station through holes drilled in the pipe—automatic washing of the meat as you fillet. There is also a large stainless steel chum grinder on the fish cleaning station that I used to make chum in the above image.
One thing to note, using cooked or processed fish is not good for chumming. Cooking the fish takes all the properties out of what attracts game fish.
Advantages of making your own chum:
- Cost savings over buying chum—ingredients can be free or very low cost
- Convince—you always have chum ready for your next fishing adventure
- Your stink bait recipe can be altered to attract a specific species
- You can add your own secret ingredients to fool your fishing buddies
- You can freeze your homemade chum in blocks to the size of your dispenser
- All the fun you have making it!
Disadvantages of making your own chum:
- Making chum is STINKY—STINKY—STINKY!
- Making chum is messy
- Storing homemade chum can be a challenge
- Cleanup after a spill can be a chore
You will need the following to make chum:
- A Recipe with the Ingredients assembled
- Grinder—see our Chum Grinders page and choose your weapon!
- Tray, bowl, basin, or bucket to catch chum while grinding
- Gloves—Kevlar are very cut resistant, or any other work glove will do
- Cutting board—commercial or marine grade poly board will not hold odors or retain oils and will not crack when drilled
- Container(s) to store your freshly ground chum in
- Storage—small box type freezers are inexpensive and can be put out in the garage sparing your house freezer from the stinky chum, see Chum Storage Options below for ideas on your storage options
- Hose to wash down the resulting mess
CHUM MAKING TECHNIQUES
There are as many techniques for making chum as there are people chumming. I have read so many variations, your options are limitless. Here are some of the most common techniques.
Gutting Fish for Chunk Chum
Chum for ladling or broadcasting can be made by collecting fish guts in a bucket when you clean your catch.
After you finish filleting your catch, get out a cutting board and cutters or a very sharp knife. Cut the carcases into chunks and throw in the gut bucket. Mix it all up and refrigerate or freeze in for your next fishing trip.
Get your ingredients together, dump them in a 5-gallon bucket and mix them up with a small garden shovel. Wear gloves when mixing or you will never get the smell off your hands.
You can also use a hand drill with a paint mixer attachment to mix the mess up quickly.
We have seen a new chum paddle that will be available for purchase in the coming year once testing has been complete. This will be a great option and we will buy one and make a video for this website using this new product.
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Grinders make quick work out of grinding up fish bones, heads, and carcases.If you will be 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 to improve the bite.
Your grinder setup should be outdoors or in a garage where you can hose the mess down when you are done. Most grinders are bolted down to a solid surface to keep them in place. Place a low pan, something like a 9 x 13 baking pan or cookie sheet below the grinder's exit. Don't use your kitchen pans, the odor of the chum will never get out of them.
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After you have enough chum ground, you can either bag it up as is, or add other ingredients to it like enhancers or binders, then freeze the bags. This guy attached a small tupperware container to a stick for a great ladle to chunk chum his mix.
You can also grind, put in a bucket, and take with you fishing—just scoop out the chum to create a slick. I have seen homemade setup's where a grinder is attached to a board with a cutout for a bucket, and the chum is ground straight into the bucket—nice and easy!
There are also grinders for boats attached to cutting boards with a pole that goes in the fishing rod holder. These units can be purchase with a manual grinder or one that can be attached to your battery that makes quick work out of chum making. The process goes like this—catch some bait fish, throw in the grinder, dispense in the water—how easy is that. Some boaters will grind straight into the water, no dispenser or bucket necessary—now this is chumming utopia! No mess, no smell, and lots of fish!
One thing to note, check your state regulations on fishing, some states like Florida require you to bring the fish to shore whole, you cannot fillet the fish and grind up the carcases at sea; although you can grind the whole fish up - hide the evidence?
To learn about the different types of grinders visit our webpage Fish Chum Grinders.
Scrap Collecting or Scrapping for Chum
Funny thing about making chum, it turns you into an unusual type of character - one that Scraps for Chum.
Your kitchen scraps can make great chum and you are "Going Green" by recycling the scraps. I collect the scraps from filleting fish, peeling fresh shrimp, lobster carcases, crab shells & bodies, scallop muscles, chicken fat, etc., and put them in 1 gallon freezer zip lock bags. For shells I usually crush them first and for fish carcases I cut them up. I keep adding to the frozen bag and collect scraps until I have enough to grind up for chum.
Or I just grab a bag, put the frozen mess in a mesh chum bag and go fishing.
Every time I peel shrimp, I save the shells. The scraps from every lobster I eat are split into two piles—the chum pile and the ocean pile (I dump the ocean pile off my seawall and feed the Snapper & Sheepshead). Fillet a fish, keep the carcass. Stale loaf of bread or left over rice, in the freezer it goes. Crab bodies, scallop muscles, chicken fat, anything that can go into your chum mix goes in the freezer. I have two shelves full of ziplock bags brimming with chum making goodies.
My pile of "scraps" has taken over my freezer and it is time to Make the Chum!
First things first, I need to defrost the goodies. I live in Florida and it's 92 degrees outside, so thawing will not take long. I emptied the freezer of the chum making scraps and piled all of it on a table just outside my garage. I positioned the table close to an electric outlet so I could plug in the food processor.
Now the supplies and equipment are assembled:
- Food Processor
- Extension Cord
- 5 Gallon Bucket
- Large Bowl
- Coffee Cans with lids; rims cut off
- Large Spoon
Normally you would use a chum grinder to make chum. The large #32 stainless chum grinder I use when I have a pile of carcasses from my charter guy is on my neighbor's dock and I don't want to bring this mess to his house, so I will use my food processor instead. I bought this food processor in a thrift shop for $8.00, so ruining it with fish smell won't kill me but maybe my nose!
The plan is to make batches of chum and freeze the batches in the coffee cans. I use metal coffee cans because they are straight and once you remove the rim you can easily dislodge the frozen chum from the can. The coffee cans are also the perfect size for large chum bags. You can use smaller metal cans for your special mixes or when you only need a little chum to draw the fish in.
The frozen chum filled coffee cans also serve another purpose—freezer insurance. During hurricane season in Florida it is common practice to fill containers with water and freeze big blocks of ice. When the power goes out, your freezer will stay cold a very long time. I did this for Hurricane Wilma in 2005; we lost the power for 5 days and I never lost anything in the freezer! So instead of frozen blocks of water I will have frozen blocks of chum.
Fermenting in Bags or Buckets
I have read many stories on the internet of people mixing up chum in a bucket or putting a mix in a bag then putting the sealed container outside in the sun for weeks at a time. The resulting fermented mess's smell is enough to kill you and it is advised to not open the container until you are at your fishing spot.
One guy put jello and rice in a zip lock bag and fermented it for week for freshwater fishing. He said to scoop out some of the mix then bring home half the fermented bag and add fresh rice to keep the mix going.
Another angler packs his chum mix in a 5-gallon bucket, puts the lid on it, and leave it in the sun for weeks. He will bring the bucket to his fishing spot, punch holes in the bucket with an ice pick, tie a line to it and throw the bucket in the water. He said he leaves the bucket for 8 hours and comes back to the spot to witness a fish frenzy. I guess the size of the bucket and the small holes keeps the chum in the bucket and the fish at the spot.
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Knives, Hack Saws, Machetes
In order to process fresh carcases you need to cut up the fish to get them into your grinder.
For small fish use a knife. When you have a 50 pound amberjack or 200 pound shark, you need a big boy toy - tools made for processing game work well such as Hack Saws or Machetes. Put your carcass on a cut off piling stump or some other solid wood surface, hold the fish with gloves to prevent slipping, grab your weapon and chop away.
Chum Storage Options
There are many options for storing your freshly made chum. Always be sure to leave head space for expansion when storing fresh chum due to fermentation. When freezing chum you also need a few inches of head space for expansion.
Always have a lid on your container, spilled chum is very stinky and its hard to get rid of the odor. Putting small containers in zip lock bags for transporting is always a good precaution; double bagging is even better.
Zip Lock Bags
Zip lock bags are inexpensive and great for storing your homemade chum. You can put the bags inside your chum dispenser, fill the bags, and frozen to the shape of your dispenser. Or you can just fill them and freeze.
At your fishing site, you pop the chum out of the bags into your dispenser. Depending on the bag you may have to cut the bag to get the chum out.
Be sure to never drop the bags in the water (this is littering). Plastic bags are detrimental to many species who may confuse the bag with a jelly fish and swallow it.
Go Green and recycle metal coffee cans! Using a can opener remove the ring around the top, this allows the chum to form into a cylinder and is easy to remove. Since the cans have their own plastic lids to seal you can use them to neatly freeze the chum.
When ready to go fishing just pop the chum out of the frozen can (you might have to thaw it a little so it releases from the can) and put it into a ziplock bag for easy transport. If you take the can full of chum fishing you will have to carry it home; it is much easier to put a ziplock into your trash bag. If you use the large cans make sure you get the bigger sized ziplock bags. When at your fishing spot remove the chum from the ziplock bag, place in your chum bag and catch some fish.
Containers and Plastic Bottles
Every household has a plastic container closet, draw, bin, etc. full of plastic food containers. Recycle and use these containers for storing your chum. You can also use empty ice cream cartons or milk cartons. Any container with a lid will work.
Some people use plastic water or soda bottles to store their chum. They fill the containers, attach a line to them, then punch holes in them at their fishing spot for a cheap, easy chum dispenser. To get the chum in the bottles use a funnel.
Another idea is to use large plastic cups. Fill, freeze, then put the chum blocks into zip lock bags to transport to your fishing spot.
If you have a smooth sided container, you can freeze without a lid. Freeze the chum then pop it out of the container and put it in a zip lock bag for store. You can make some handy chum blocks doing this.
Barrels and BucketsSome anglers freeze chum in 5 gallon buckets, but you need a lot of freezer space to do that. Others make so much chum they need big barrels.
If you prefer to keep your chum fresh and not freeze, you can store them in sealed barrels or buckets. Where to store fresh chum is always a challenge. Storing chum containers inside will drive you out of your home unless it's refrigerated or frozen.
You can store your chum in buckets or barrels with lids tightly secured outside in the shade for a short period of time. If it is winter and the temperature is low, you can store the chum outside for quite a while with minimal smell.
In warm weather, the heat will encourage the chum mix to ferment. Fermentation causes the mixture to expand, so don't put the lid on too tight or the whole container can explode. Just think of the sticky, stinky mess splattered all over the place.
Another thing to consider if you store your homemade chum outside, it will attract bugs and other critters. You will be chumming for land creatures, the smell will attract all kinds of wild animals and insects. This could be a problem, so one solution is to at least fence in the containers to keep the big critters out; you can't do much about bugs except use bug spray. I have sprayed bug spray on containers and it works well.
And the last consideration if you store your chum outside is your neighbors. The smell from fermenting chum is, how do I say this delicately, STINKY! If you have neighbors within smelling distance, they will not appreciate your wonderful homemade chum.
Freezers or Refrigerators
Fresh ground chum should be stored in a refrigerator or freezer to keep it "fresh" until you are ready to use it. Having a refrigerator or stand alone freezer unit available for beer and chum is your best alternative as your house mates will not like to stinky smell that permeates in your refrigerator. You don't want your other food smelling like fish.
Most people have a 2nd refrigerator in their garage or outside for storing chum. If cost is an issue, go to your local thrift shop and purchase a cheap used refrigerator.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has created a PDF class instruction for educators called The Stink Station. Everyone interested in learning more about fish chum should read this! There are many recipes for making Stink Bait also called Dough Balls on page 7 and 8 of this PDF. — Source: www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/
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