At the time of writing this I am also working on the prospects/hot spots pages for the next issue of Sea Angler Magazine with an eye on the coming cod season and I have got to say it looks good!
Well for many of us the cod are already here and although I haven’t actually hooked a codling yet, this week maybe, I have seen a few landed. Most striking is that they are not really as big as I thought they would be and this raises a few interesting issues. Back in the day it was said that the cod doubled their weight each season and I must admit to thinking that this September would see the last year’s crop of 2lbers return as fives! But no, depending upon where you fish, they all but that and in fact in the South East some as small as 3lbs. Other reports do put them at 5lbs, but of course you have to factor in the freelance sea angler’s reputation for exaggeration because most do add on a bit. I have always based my reports and news in the match result weights because they are truthful and in the case of codling size a match fish is 3lb and a freelance fish is 6lb.
Anyway, in some regions the fish are thin, as are the enormous shoals of whiting and I believe all this is down to the number of fish and the available food. Add in the dogfish hoards and the sea is being swept clean of food and those fish are struggling to put on weight. On the plus side of course is that with winter coming and the lower sea temperatures and gales the dogfish will soon move into deeper water in many regions and the codling and whiting will be inshore after the gales to feast and its then they pack on the weight – November and December.
In the meantime it’s a fact that the bigger codling will come from the rough ground and the richest sea areas in terms of food. Current reports put Chesil Beach and East Anglian venues as best for the plumper, fitter fish and the cod drought in South Wales may be over, whilst further north into the North Sea the codling are usually fatter anyway, I wonder if that down to fewer dogfish?
On my own patch, Kent the codling are expected to range from 3lb to 5lb and at that size the great thing is that they pull the string – no mistaking a codling bite and they pull and are far more difficult to land up a wall etc without a net. Of course the added bonus is that the off fish with beat 6lb even 7lb and now we are starting to talk cod!
And what about catching one or hooking one, how difficult is that going to be?
Well the answer does depend on the angler and lots reading this will have ambitions way above their ability – I don’t mean to be rude, but a majority of sea anglers, especially novices, live in a dream world when it comes to catching cod.
The first problem is finding a venue – A productive and worthwhile venue and lots can’t be bothered to make any effort in this direction and simple fish their nearest mark, usually close to the car park. Ignore the stories, look for facts! After that the choice of tide and weather are paramount and then there is the question of day or night? This makes up around 40% of the solution to catching cod – Remember you can’t catch em if they aren’t there! The spring tides are the best without doubt and coloured water is better in daylight than clear. At night clear water can be productive but make an effort to find and fish the venues best tide time. On some marks it’s the flood on some the ebb, but mostly around high tide. Long marathon sessions can be fun and tiring, but with knowledge you can spend the same hour on the venue as the cod!
Catching cod consistently from the shore is not about throwing cash at the subject, it’s about using a few brain cells and getting out there and making an EFFORT!
I would say tackle is just 20% of the subject and a quality rod and reel costing around the £200 is all that’s needed. Check out the TF Gear sea fishing tackle range because we’ve worked on a range of functional, tough tackle that can cope with the winter season. Look for a good reel in particular because that will help you to a smoother, longer cast – most beach casters in the 4oz to 8oz range are adequate and you only get a designer label for that extra cash – spend it on a top of the range reel instead.. Avoid cheap tackle, especially if you are a beginner because you will need all the help you can get. A couple of sessions with a casting instructor is next, 20%. He will put your right on tackle balance etc and may even add a few casting yards and they are vital in winter!
The remaining percentages needed to catch cod include the small things like bait – Black/yellowtail lugworm, quality frozen squid and fresh peeler crab if you can get them are the only essentials, other baits you can forget. After that terminal rigs, hooks, leads and the comforts like a day shelter, rod rest, good clothing are all not to be neglected because an efficient, warm dry angler is a contented angler and he will be more likely to be successful.
Things to avoid – rumours, myths and tackle shop talk – it’s usually too late to capitalise on a venue rumour, but what you can do is note the tide and weather on the venue and when it repeats, fish there then!
Be honest with your ability – if you are short on casting range looks for a pier or deep water beach where you can reach the fish and if you are really down on casting skills then only fish at night because the inshore sea is more likely to be stacked with fish closer in under the cover of darkness.
My final piece of advice is to buddy up, find a mate who knows how to catch cod or join a group club that have knowledge and ability and copy them – That’s how we learn life – copy others because it’s all been done before and nothing says that it’s not YOUR turn!!!
Before I go, some good news for sea anglers is the opening of a new venue soon at Dover in Kent – Because the Prince of Wales pier is closing for a new Marina the Port Authority are opening an inside section of the Admiralty pier near the Cruise terminal.
Tight lines, Alan Yates.