Great white shark coming to inspect bait line

What is Chumming?

When it comes to fishing or studying marine life, one technique that has gained popularity is chumming. While controversial, chumming is a method that has proven effective in attracting fish and even sharks to a boat. In this blog post, we will delve into what chumming is, why people use it, who practices it, the pros and cons, as well as man-made chum options available and the best chumming methods.

What is Chumming?

Chumming refers to the practice of dispersing a mixture of fish parts, oils, or other desirable substances into the water to create a scent trail that attracts marine life. The chum acts as a powerful lure, enticing fish and sharks to approach the area around a boat. Chumming may be man-made or natural. An example of a natural scent trail is a seal colony, bird colony, a dead whale or seal carcass even dead birds. Another good example of a man-made scent trail created when fish are cleaned on a daily basis at a fishing harbour or beach and boats pumping their bulges.

Why Do People Chum?

Chumming is primarily conducted for two main reasons:

    a. Fishing: Anglers use chumming to increase their chances of catching fish. By creating a feeding frenzy near their boat, they can attract a large number of fish, increasing the likelihood of a successful catch.

    b. Research: Marine biologists and researchers may employ chumming as a technique to study and observe marine life. This method allows them to attract specific fish or shark species, enabling them to gather data and monitor behaviour.

Who Chums?

Chumming can be practised by a variety of individuals like Fishermen, shark operators, research vessels, or anyone wanting to attract fish, sharks etc to a boat.


    – Recreational anglers seeking to reel in a trophy fish or enhance their catch rate.

    – Commercial fishermen who rely on large hauls to sustain their livelihoods.

    – Researchers and scientists studying marine life and behaviour.

    – Wildlife photographers aiming to capture close-up shots of marine creatures.

Pros of Chumming:

Chumming offers several advantages, including:

    – Increased catch rates: Chumming can attract a wide range of fish species, increasing the likelihood of a successful catch.

    – Targeted species: By customizing the chum mixture, anglers and researchers can attract specific fish or shark species of interest.

    – Efficient research: Chumming helps researchers study and observe marine life up close, gather data, and understand ecological patterns.

    – Exciting experiences: Chumming can create a thrilling and awe-inspiring spectacle as marine creatures converge around the boat.

Cons of Chumming:

Chumming is not without its drawbacks, such as:

 – Attracting unwanted species: Chumming can unintentionally attract unwanted species or compete with local fishermen, leading to conflicts.

6. Best Chumming Methods:

When chumming, it is important to follow responsible practices. Some effective chumming methods include:

    – Broadcast chumming: Sprinkle small pieces of fish or frozen chum pellets periodically overboard to create a scent trail.

    – Live bait chumming: Using live bait fish, such as sardines or shad, to swim around the boat, naturally attracting other fish or sharks in pursuit.

    – Ground-up fish chumming: Grinding a mix of fish, blood, and oils to create a potent chum that releases a strong scent into the water.

7. Man-made Chum:

If you prefer using store-bought or prepackaged chum, there are a variety of options available. These may consist of ground-up fish, fish oils, fishmeal, or other attractants. Choose a product that suits your target species and follow the instructions for the best results. An example of a man-made scent trail would be for example, fishermen using mashed-up anchovies/pilchards with marine oil and saltwater to attract fish and or small shark species to the boat in order to catch them. Another chum would be small cut pieces of sardines dropped off the boat to get shoaling fish like yellowtail or tuna up to the surface to make catching them more successful. The chum may vary depending on what type of fish the fisherman wants to attract.

We at African Shark Eco-Charters mostly use a piece of bait for Great White Sharks and rely on the natural chum line from the seal colony in False Bay and the presence of the sharks in the area where they work.

Most operators use mashed-up anchovies/pilchards with marine oil, salt water and plain sardines. A piece of bait, usually a tuna head is also placed into the water. A permit is needed to use any carcasses such as whale meat, or seal (often used on research vessels for scientific studies). We do not use shark liver. We do not believe in killing sharks to attract sharks.

Does Chumming Condition Sharks To Follow Boats?

No, If this was true, then there would be scores of sharks following every fishing boat on a daily basis.

Why Do People Assume That Shark Attacks Are Related To Chumming?

The media has portrayed the recent shark attacks and the fact that there are shark operators in the area, and have linked them without any facts, when in reality fishermen have been fishing (and chumming) for years and years in the area where shark operators work, without any incident of shark attacks.

Has Chumming By Shark Operators Caused An Increase In Shark Attacks?

Definitely not! This is a gross misconception made by the media, and because shark attacks are taken so personally by the public, a scapegoat is needed to appease the public.

Does Chumming Condition Sharks To Follow Boats?

No, If this was true, then there would be hundreds of sharks following every fishing boat on a daily basis. Why Is The Media Always Going On About Chumming? Again, a scapegoat is needed to appease the public in the wake of the shark attacks over the last few years, and sensationalism sells newspapers.


Chumming can be a useful technique for attracting fish and sharks to a boat, whether for fishing purposes or scientific research. However, responsible chumming practices are vital to ensure minimal ecological impact and preserve natural behaviour patterns. By understanding the pros and cons of chumming, as well as utilizing the best methods and man-made chum options, individuals can enhance their fishing experiences or conduct meaningful research while respecting marine eco-systems.