Shark Men: What’s in the Chum?

Want sharks? Better serve chum. One of the most effective ways to draw sharks in for capture and research is chumming. Cage diving tours, researchers and fishermen use a bloody mixture of fish products dropped into the water to draw sharks in for catching and viewing. Chum is one of the most important tools on the boat with Shark Men. The team doesn’t always agree on how to best serve it, but to catch a shark you need chum and bait.

Regulated and Restricted

Chumming for shark often requires permits and is even illegal in some waters. So the team on Shark Men have to take care to get permits and follow the rules. There are good reasons for these extra measures. Scientists in Australia encourage that chumming be used primarily in research and be regulated in the tourist industry. Research shows that frequent and prolonged chumming changes shark behavior around people, associating humans with food and changing behavior patterns.

Chum can be slightly different depending on what ingredients are available, shark species and where the sharks are being lured. Great white sharks depend on an exceptional sense of smell to lead them to a meal. So not all chum is created equal. Shark chum recipes are even a well-guarded secret to some outfitters who guide fishermen and tourists to find sharks. Of course the main ingredient is blood.

  • Jugs of Blood: An important ingredient to the Shark Men’s chum is cow’s blood, a lot of cow’s blood. On a long expedition, jugs of frozen blood are placed on large blocks of ice to last the length of the trip. Thawed blood, as much as a few hundred gallons is poured into the water to lure the sharks in and to encourage them to take the bait.
  • Chopped Sushi: Tuna, sardines and other fish are ground into chum as well. They can also be thrown out in chunks to get the sharks riled up and feeding.
  • Whale blubber – Whale meat and blubber can be gathered from whales that have died and washed on shore. Harvesting blubber, even from a deceased whale, requires a permit in the United States. It is a critical ingredient to some chum mixtures and for bait that will lure in sharks at places like the Farallon Islands off of San Francisco.

Maintaining Bait and Blood

Keeping chum fresh and at the ready is tricky business. If the fish and blood are allowed to go rancid, not only will the crew be miserable with the smell, but their bait will no longer be effective. Care must be taken to check on the condition of the chum ingredients frequently to make sure nothing is amiss with its storage.

Of course chum only draws the sharks in. The Shark Men also have to bait the hook to catch a shark. Sashimi is served to the hungry. Like Chris notes this week “There’s no reason you cannot explore advanced science and dine delightfully well all at the same time.” At least not if you are a shark…

Tune in to Shark Men: Hammerhead Islands Saturday at 8P et/pt



  1. […] said the Shark Men initiative was a unique opportunity for researchers to answer these […]

  2. Jack Mason
    May 12, 2012, 11:58 am

    You actually think we’d buy this human by-product???

    NAT GEO, you are full of excrement!

    Leave the sharks alone! You fatherless inbreeds are doing more harm that good!

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    September 7, 2012, 4:31 am

    […] Shark Men: What’s in the Chum? – Nat Geo TV BlogsAre you looking to make Shark Chum Recipes? You’ll find the most unique and interesting Recipes here! […]

  4. Van Doan
    Seoul, Korea
    December 16, 2012, 4:28 am

    I feel that there are better ways to tag them, like with the basking shark, tagging with a simple harpoon.

    The money and resources for the show could be better spent. Instead, it’s used to unnecessarily hook and traumatize sharks.

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    March 1, 2015, 10:53 am

    […] the back of the boat one of the guides was tossing chum into the water to attract the sharks. On top of the boat another guide was our […]