Did “chumming” cause NC shark attacks?

WAVY/Matt Gregory

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After reports that chumming may have caused the shark attacks near Oak Island, North Carolina, 10 On Your Side looked into chumming regulations in Hampton Roads.

Is chumming allowed here? The answer is yes, but it depends on where you’re fishing.

Captain Steve Richardson charters fishing trips out of Virginia Beach. Since the late 1960’s, he, like most fisherman, have used all manner of bait for the big catch, including chum.

“We take bunker fish, menhaden and we take it and we grind it up,” Richardson explained of the chum process. “Most of the time we just buy it. It comes frozen in a block. What we do is we just take it off, we just, when we chum we are chumming for sharks.”

According to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, chumming isn’t regulated by the state. Still, in Virginia Beach, Captain Richardson said they don’t chum close to the shoreline, usually he’s three or four miles out.

“The reason is, they don’t want us to draw the sharks to the beach and the swimmers and everything and get them in a feeding frenzy and somebody accidentally gets bit,” Richardson explained.

This week, the town of Oak Island looked at its policy that allows fishermen to chum bait off the town’s pier. They may put a stop to the practice. However, down at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, the city doesn’t allow pier chumming.

“If you’re just fishing with a fish head or something like that, it’s not real potent, but if you do it with a lot of it, you’re gonna attract more fish,” said Steve Long, of the Pier Tackle Shop. “The small fish would come in, then some of the bigger ones. That attracts, of course, the sharks.”

Long believes the no-chum-from-the-pier policy has worked well for Virginia Beach. He thinks the same municipal rule would help the town of Oak Island.

“If you chum out there, they gonna come. That’s just the way fishing is,” Long said. “If I was them, especially if it’s near a beach like us with people sunbathing, I wouldn’t allow chumming.”

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