Gathering in reports from all round the UK it looks like many areas are already experiencing a fair run of smaller codling to 3lbs, but backed up with a few fish from 5 to 11lbs. The past three years seems to have produced reasonable numbers of juvenile cod, these having now grown on to be the smaller fish showing from so many areas.
What’s really pleasing is that the fish are back in to areas where recently they pretty much disappeared from, namely the Menai Straits in North Wales, The Mersey and the Bristol Channel.
Currently the bulk of the fish weigh from 1lb to 3lbs, and from now until mid to late January will give good sport. For most of us though, the best fishing will be from now until Christmas.
WHEN AND WHERE FOR COD
Cod can be caught from shallow sandy surf beaches found in East Anglia and west and north Wales, from steep-to deep beaches such as Dungeness in Kent and Chesil Beach in Dorset, from mixed rough and heavy rough ground such as those found in the Northeast of England and eastern Scotland and from pretty much everywhere in between. Wherever you live in the UK you’re within reach of good cod ground.
Cod are pretty predictable fish. If you watch the weather forecasts, when fishing in the south and west coasts of the UK look for strong southwest to westerly winds that create a good surf on the beaches. It’s the swell and wave action that scours food out from the sand and will bring the cod in. Ideal conditions are a good gale coinciding with rising tides, then as the winds ease but the sea remains rough and coloured and the tides reach their peak size, that’s the time the big catches are made. In the east of the UK look for southeast to northeast winds to put surf on the beaches and again fish the big tides for the best catches. This is a slight generalisation as individual marks can differ, but it is fairly accurate. Find surf and swell on a beach and the likelihood is that the cod will be there.
If the sea is well coloured after a storm, or you’re fishing say in the Bristol Channel where the water never clears and is always cocoa coloured, then you can catch cod by daylight, but generally speaking most good anglers will only fish a flood tide at night when after cod. Cod are more confident close inshore during darkness.
Look to fish the biggest spring tides, especially those falling the three days prior to the very biggest tide of that cycle. Once the tide heights start to drop back, the fishing usually gets less and less consistent.
Low tide and the first two hours of the new flood are always good, as is the hour prior to high water and maybe the first hour back. Some marks will fish all the flood tide in, others only on the outgoing tide. All marks are different but the early flood tide is a good time to try in most areas.
HOW TO BUILD A PENNEL PULLEY COD RIG
The best rig for cod is simple to make, the two-hook pennel pulley rig.
Here’s how to build one.
1. Start with 50-inch length of 80lb Rig Body Line.
2. To one end of the rig body tie on a Gemini lead link.
3. Slide on a Breakaway Impact Shield followed by a 3mm bead and crimp. Leave about 1½ins for the Shield to slide in to avoid hook snood stretch during the cast.
4. Above the crimp slide on a 5mm bead, a Pulley Rig bead and another 5mm bead.
5. Measure the free end of line leaving it slightly shorter than the main rig body line and tie a double figure of eight knot in it to form the hook length.
6. Slide on a size 4/0 Viking pattern hook by the eye only, then tie on another 4/0 Viking hook below it. The top hook can be positioned in the top of the bait by simply twisting the line around the hook shank three times and sliding it in to position putting the hook point in and out through the top of the bait.
Cod like big baits. This is very important, don’t forget it as it will increase your catches.
The best baits for cod are blow and black lug worm, ragworm, whole squid, big mussel baits and fresh peeler crab. In the winter lug worm, a half lug and half rag combination, or lug with a whole razorfish lashed down one side with bait elastic will be the most reliable baits.
When baiting with lugworm slide on three or four blow lug, or one or two big black lug on to the lower hook and up the hook snood. Now put another two worms alongside those on the hook and bind the whole lot together to form a sausage shape.
Cod baits need to be about 6-inches long, even bigger is not a problem for the big mouth of a cod. You can also tip the lug bait with mussel, slipper limpet, a strip of squid or crab to increase the scent value.
TACKLE TO USE
What tackle to use. Go for a 4-6oz beachcaster 12 to 13ft 6ins long. Rods suitable for cod are the Penn Powerstix beachcaster, The SALT fixed spool and multiplier beach rods, also the ABU Atlantic 464 and the Penn Affinity Surf. Match these to a Penn 525Mag2 multiplier loaded with 20lb line and a 60lb shock leader. For the fixed spool rods ideally a Penn Sargus 8000 or Penn Surfmaster 850. These reels have the line capacity to cast long range. This is tough tackle for tough conditions. More experienced anglers will often choose an ABU 6500 series reel for the extra distance and fish just 15lb line. But in all cases use a 60/80lb shock leader to take the strain of casting.
In big rough seas always choose a heavy grip wired lead. Cod hunt on the seabed and if a bait is anchored it makes it easier for them to find it. 5 or 6oz leads are best with release wire leads.
My own personal tip is to get the time, tide and weather conditions right, get good bait, keep your hooks sharp, and above all be confident, you will catch!