Know your quarry. If cod’s your bag, this guide is for you. To help you in your quest for the ultimate catch, we’ve trawled the net for the best cod fishing tips from anglers and bloggers around the country.
- Target species: Cod
- British record (shore): 44lb 8oz (1966)
- Average catch size: 5 – 15lbs
- Spawns: Late winter to early spring
- Habitat: Shoals in deep cold water
- Preferred bait: Voracious feeder, scours the seabed. Also hunts dab, sandeels and pouting
Read on to find out how to make sure it’s fresh fish and chips for tea!
1. Be at the right place at the right time
Study your local area and speak to other fishermen before you decide where to set up. As Simon Parsons tells us on Facebook:
“You could have the best bait, the best rigs and the sharpest hooks in the world. If you’re not there at the right time for that particular place neither will the fish.”
After a storm is the best time to catch a cod. Fishing Tails’ writer, Sean McSeveny, and a number of other anglers who posted on our Facebook page agree that churned up water means cod are likely to come inshore to feed on the abundant food churned up from the seabed by the waves. It’s a small time window though, so make sure you’re always ready to fish.
Ceri Owen also mentions that cod like cold water, so storm-chasing after a frost or during a cold snap could improve your chances of a good catch. Study the weather forecast, and know when to make your move.
Most fish feel safer under cover of darkness, and many of you believe cod will come closer to shore at night. But they may also come into the shallows when there’s an offshore wind.
Christopher Middleton of British Sea Fishing tells us that whatever the time of day, you’ll always have a chance of catching cod in deeper water:
“Piers and deep water rock marks can be good choices for anglers looking to catch big cod due to the easy access to deep water they offer.”
2. Top tackle
Strong and simple
Keep your tackle strong and simple. Casting into rough water or around rocks means it’s important to minimise the chance of breakage. And remember you’re looking for big fish in deep water, so your tackle needs to be up to the challenge. Heavy lines, hooks and weights are a must.
Cod might not be strong fighters like pollack or bass, they can still be a struggle to reel in. Christopher’s advice for shore anglers:
“Use a 12ft beachcaster which is capable of casting at least 6oz, along with a powerful multiplier or large fixed spool reel.”
Rigs and hooks
Going after bigger fish means bigger hooks – at least size 3/0 to 4/0, or even up to 6/0. Large hooks also prevent bait stealing by smaller fish.
Try using a circle hook for the top hook of a pennell rig, says Fishtec’s Ceri Owen. Cod are known to swallow baits right down, and these can be difficult to unhook, causing unwanted fatalities. Ceri continues:
“The circle hooks tend to hook in the corner of the cod’s mouth. I realise that they can still swallow the one Pennell hook; however getting one hook deep down is better than 2 hooks, which results in more fish being returned.”
Want to know what a pennel rig is? Check out the images below. A clipped down pennell rig (left) is a good rig for fishing for cod from sandy beaches. For fishing for cod from mixed or rough ground, try the popular pennell pulley rig (right).
3. Best baits
Cod are greedy fish that will eat almost anything including smaller fish. That’s great for anglers because it means you have a wide choice of baits with which to entice them. On the down side, cod can be unpredictable feeders; what works well one day may not work the next.
Live bait is best but it can be difficult to get hold of all year round. Sean bagged over 300 codling last season. His advice is to go prepared with a variety of baits:
“One day all they wanted was Crab, the next it had to be Black Lugworm and at the start of the season, when the Squid were about, it was Squid. If you have a selection of fresh and frozen baits with you, your chance of having what they want is increased.”
Sean often uses frozen bait, keeping in an insulated bag until he needs it. That way it stays frozen meaning he can take the leftovers home to use another day.
Don’t skimp on bait. As Ceri reminds us, two worms tipped with a squid or crab can easily be swallowed by a 1.5lb codling. Imagine what a 5lb+ cod can wolf down!
But while it’s important to use large baits, do keep them streamlined. Sean suggests using bait elastic to make your baits compact, and always clip them down.
Neil Wilson shared a handy bit of insight on our Facebook post. He says:
“Everyone rushes to get the squid & cuttle big baits out. I have found at the start of the cod season a live whiting or pout catch the big girls for some reason. Then when it’s REALLY cold the big smelly bait come into their own!”
4. Stay Safe
Do take safety seriously writes Fishtec’s resident sea angler, Ceri Owen. If the weather’s really bad wait until the end of the storm, before you go fishing. There were 381 accidental drownings in 2013, according to ROSPA. Don’t become a statistic
- Wear appropriate clothing – dress for the weather!
- Make sure you’re visible to other anglers, especially around rougher waters.
- Carry a phone and make sure it is fully charged.
- Take a torch.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
- Check the tide times – don’t get stranded!
- Be aware of your environment and prevailing weather conditions – for example, don’t fish from a cliff or exposed area when there’s a big swell!
So there you have it – some tips and tricks to help you catch one of the nation’s favourite fish. With a little work you’re sure to improve your chances of catching one of these beautiful fish, either for the thrill of the chase, or for your own table.