So many times now I have seen very similar question’s asked on our sea angling forum – “Why are some anglers more successful than others when it comes to winter cod fishing“ Well there is no short answer to that, and most certainly the main factor is experience. You must remember that many of the best winter cod anglers have fished the coast for most of their lives, and the things they have learned only came from countless hours spent pursuing their hobby.
Winter cod fishing is like no other discipline in the sea angling world. Unlike other forms of angling you cant walk into a tackle shop and buy the ingredients of success. The best baits can only be sourced by putting in time and finding them yourselves. The best marks and the times they produce are often a close guarded secret and again, the only way to work it out, is the hard way – by putting in the hours.
Having said this, there are a few shortcuts these days, and the internet has certainly made things a lot easier than they used to be. One of the first things you have to ask yourself is how motivated for successful angling you actually are. The days when you could dangle a garden worm and a rotting limpet off the end of the local pier and catch a 20 pound cod are sadly no more (That’s if it was ever really that simple. This is a whole debate in itself).
Fair enough, if for example, age or disability makes things difficult for you, then you may have to take the easy route and buy bait from the tackle shop and fish easily accessible marks. Fair play to you and I hope you can get as much as possible from your angling experience.
If your able bodied and reasonably fit, then you have no excuse. If you want to be a successful winter cod angler then you have to put in the hard work. You will need to source your own high quality baits (There really are few substitutes) and you will have to put in the hours at various marks, some of them difficult to access.
Bait – Perhaps The Most Significant Factor In Successful cod angling from the shore
When you ask the best anglers, “What sets you apart from the rest of the field” the most likely answer is bait. I always remember the response of Ray Maddison when he was asked this question on our fishing forum. His reply was “I would rather be at the wrong venue with good bait, than at the right venue with poor quality bait”.
If you want to successfully target winter cod from the shore then bait should be high up on your list. Not only should you seek to source the very best bait possible you will also need to keep it in prime conditions. This can mean either freezing it as soon as possible or keeping it alive in a fridge or a bait tank until ready for use.
A good shore angler will always have a wide range of high quality baits at his disposal. These will include fresh peeler (When in season), frozen peeler, fresh lugworms (Blow and black lug), Mussels, other shelfish, white ragworm, and perhaps edible crab cart.
I m not about to tell you where to source all these baits, you’ll have to work that out for yourselves. But be certain of one thing, shop bought bait is often poor quality. The angler who sources his own and keeps it in top condition will be the man catching the most fish from a mark you fish.
There are literally hundreds of marks on our coast. Even anglers like myself who have fished most of their lives don’t know every mark. So if your just starting on your sea angling journey, do yourselves a favour, prepare for a long haul, don’t expect to know everything about every mark overnight, do expect some hard work and let downs, and always be willing to learn (Keeping an open mind).
The secret to good fishing marks lies in finding a variety of marks that fish in a multitude of conditions and tide states. Your aim when setting out should be to find 3 marks. You need 1 that can produce when its calm, one for a moderate sea swell and another for when its very rough. If you can find a mark for each of those conditions then your well on the road to a bag full of cod.
Again its easier said than done. Best advice is to pick a couple of marks and fish them hard over several seasons. Also keep you ear to the ground in the tackle shops. Often you can pick up information on what marks produce under what conditions. When fishing your chosen marks, give them ago under different conditions, and always keep a record of your results (An angling diary,is your best friend in the early days). Over time a pattern will emerge and you will be able to work out best times and conditions for a selected mark. If you want to read a bit more information on fishing marks, then there are a lot of articles in the marks category of this site.
Day/Night And Conditions
Another major factor in cod angling in the conditions. Make a mental note of this – Cod WILL NOT turn up just anywhere at anytime, they are creatures of habbit. It is your job to crack their code.
Day time cod angling is perhaps the most difficult to crack, especially if the sea is calm and the water is clear. Essentially cod like rough seas and coloured water, its these conditions that provide the food close to shore and the right conditions for them to move in close. For successful daytime fishing you will need to find a mark where you can cast into tidal flow (Easier said than done). Casting is also of importance during daylight and you will often find that those anglers who have a good cast will reach the tide flow and thus catch more fish.
Night Time Cod Fishing
Cod fishing at night is a little easier. The cover of darkness often gives the fish confidence to move closer to shore than they would through the day. Having said this, don’t expect to find an abundance of cod all over the place. Fishing the right marks under the right conditions is still highly important. Thiose anglers who think you can simply turn up on any peir and catch fish are only fooling themselves. Fishing is not that easy, and it never has been despite all the stories you hear about your great uncle alberts cod caught 5 yards out on a handline.
If your lucky enough to get a good swell, coupled with coloured water during the hours of darkness then your chance of finding cod feeding at close range will increase dramatically. Unless your into match fishing, or are scarred of the dark then perhaps you should focuss on nightime fishing during the first few years of shore angling for cod.
Timing, Its All About Timing
How many times have you heard the remark “You should have been here last night” ? Timing is essential in sea angling. Often on our fishing forum we get requests for help in choosing marks. Often anglers want us to tell them where to fish in 2 weeks time. anyone who knows sea angling will tell you its pointless to do this. Fish wait for no man, and you have to be in the right place at the right time to catch them.
So planning your session weeks in advance is pretty pointless. Unless you get extremely lucky it is inevitable the conditions will all be wrong and your session fruitless. The best conditions for shore angling are when there is a decent onshore swell running. On the north east coast this means a swell from either the : North West, North, North East, East Or South East.
There are various weather websites and webcams that will allow you to keep track of the prevailing conditions. However non are very accurate outside of 48 hours, so dont even think about planning your fishing session outside of this timescale. If your interested in keeping an eye on the weather then these sites may be of interst to you :
Winter Cod Fishing Tackle
You could probably fill a library with information of all the cod fishing tackle, and yet in terms of actually catching fish tackle is probably the least part of the equation. Any decent beach caster and reel will catch you a cod. Im not going to tell you which is best because opinions differ so greatly on this. Im also not going to go into this in too much detail as there is a lot of information on tackle both on the main site and in the fishing forum.
If you choose a rock rod from : Greys, Zziplex, Sonik, Centuary or Conoflex you wont go far wrong. Reels should be of 700-9000 size and again any reel from the main manufacturers will do a job for you : Greays, Abu and penn all offer quality rock fishing multipliers.
In more recent times many anglers have started using long rods of 16 foot in length coupled with thin diameter braids on fixed spool reels. The advantage is said to be greater casting potential (The jury is still out on this school of thought). The long rod debate deserves an article all for itself and this is something we may cover in the coming months.
Terminal tackle should be kept simple. Single hook rigs fished with a rotten bottom are probably best for shore cod fishing. There are a range of rigs shown in our tackle section. You could also consider asking for more information on this subject in our fishing forum if you desire.
Clothing And Other Accessories
For many reasons, clothing is important. To enjoy a nights fishing in winter you need to stay warm. Yet for the roving cod angler this can prove difficult. Flotation suits, despite all their benefits in terms of safety, have no place in shore fishing from the rocks. The health and safety brigade will probably come down on me like a ton of bricks for saying this. However large cumbersome suits make it all but impossible to climb cliffs and walk along scaurs and rocks.
The best clothing for rock fishing is light breathe able layers warn underneath a pair of studded chest waders and a waterproof jacket or smock. Again I cant advise you on best makes as the magazines and shops are full of options. Best bet is to check what the other lads are wearing on the shore. Always make sure you buy studded waders as normal soles have no grip on rocks and it wont be long before you need medical attention should you slip.
You will also need a decent headlight. Dont be tempted to scrimp on this item. Without a decent light you will struggle. Forget about tilley lamps and such like, they are only suited to static beach fishing. Having your hands free and still being able to move is essential, and therefore a quality headlight is the only way forward.
Sea Angling, You Get Out What You Put In.
In terms of angling, the more effort you make the more you will get out of your sport. Pay attention to your bait supplies and learn marks for varying conditions and you wont go far wrong. The successful shore angler is a mix of many things, he is a professional bait collector, an excellent walker, a climber, and sometimes a mountaineer, he’s a fantastic weather man, and he understands the coast and marine environment far better than any academic.
So that about rounds off this article on winter cod fishing. If you have any questions then please ask below using the reply facility. If you would like us to produce an in depth article on anything mentioned above then please use the reply box below to make your request. I would really enjoy hearing from you and would like to hear your thoughts on what makes a successful shore angler. Please do take a few minutes to leave your comments below.
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