Why start Cod Fishing? The Cod is one of the most prized fish to catch from the shore. They make good sport and also taste great! The conditions and environments where Cod are found also add to the challenge and the feeling when you finally land one. The 60’s and 70’s saw massive Cod catches, sadly over fishing has seen Cod numbers decrease, a figure I have seen is 98% over the past 150 years.
Cod look similar to Whiting, but they do not have the black spot on the base of the pectoral fin. The lateral line is more pronounced and stronger on the Cod. Colour however, is a little more complicated. They have a white underbelly, with fawn to brown mottled top / back. Cod living in kelp forests and weedy bottom often take on a reddish orange, very stunning to look at. My first Red Cod was caught on achill island in County Mayo, Ireland, it was beautiful!
Most of the species landed on UK shores while Cod fishing are around 1 – 4 lbs. But bigger ones are out there!! 10lb from the shore is not uncommon, fish over 10lb and bigger exist. Norway shore anglers catch Cod over 20Lb on a regular basis. Commercial boats have netted Cod in three figures!, very unusual these days.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links – it helps pay for my Cod fishing!
How to Target Cod from the Shore
Cod are around all year, but late September sees shoals of Cod head to our waters, spiking in late November to January! They love mixed ground and surf, eating anything they can get into their huge mouths.
Shallow marks are generally fished at night or in coloured water as the Cod feel more secure in these conditions. Deep water rock marks produce fish 24/7, but night is the prime time for these heavy feeding predators.
Big tides tend to be better for shore caught fish. A great storm will bring Cod onto the feed and they love some water movement. Deeper water will fish in most tides, so consider your mark, the weather and tides when deciding where to go shore fishing.
Beach Casting for Cod
Getting your rig into the right place is the knack for Cod fishing. If you are fishing rough ground try to feel for holes and deeper water channels as this is where the cod will hold. Nice channels that funnel the tide will hold food and attract the hungry Cod. kelp forests are abundant on rocky shores and Cod love to use them for cover.
Steep beaches hold Cod behind the waves on a rough day, or the calm just after the storm. Big weights around 8 oz are needed to hold bottom, keep you line high and out of the under tow and weed. Prevent your line being pulled into the shingle by the waves as you will loose the lot in a matter of seconds. A quality rod rest about 7 foot long and the use of rods 13 – 15 ft long will aid you in this.
You need to research your mark to look and find the features that will hold the fish. But if you cant or are at a new mark consider this. You do not always have to cast to the horizon. Cod can be caught 20 feet out in the dark on a surf beach! Hunt the fish down, try long casts, then slowly work into towards the shore line. Cover some ground to find the fish! You also need some quality fishing tackle
Spend some time on understanding a new mark. Many beaches are worth visiting on a low tide. You can find mussel beds and areas of boulders which will hold prey items when the tide has flooded. Pinpoint these “Cod Fast Food Take-a-ways” and get your bait around them when you are Cod fishing. Crab fishermen will help you locate small reefs and broken ground with their crab pots, look along the coast line and see if you can see
any cliff promontories that would have linked to where the pots are, chances are once they were connected and there is quality, fish holding broken ground between the two points. Fish with your eyes!
- I have highlighted here in orange how from looking at the beach you can see lines of broken ground running off cliff features. These are the place to start your Cod fishing.
- In blue I have picked out some gullies and areas fish will hold in the interchanges of the sea bed. Click image for a larger version
Rigs for Cod Fishing
Keep your rigs simple. You are going to be placing them amongst rocks, in strong currents or in the surf. A complex rig will get knotted and cause you no end of issues.
A single paternoster or my favourite a pulley rig will be perfect for Cod fishing. Hooks from 4/0 to 6/0 are required for the big baits you are going to use. Rig line wants to be heavy duty as you are generally using a lot of weight to hold bottom, generally about 60 to 80lbs. The paternosters should be made from 20 to 30 lb line.
If you want to buy your own Cod fishing rigs look at this deal – 7 Sea Fishing Rigs Flapper Pulley Rig Double & Single Hook Clipped .
The rigs only need to be from 2 foot long to five foot. Use short compact rigs in rougher conditions. Increase the length of the rig in clearer, calmer conditions!
If your tackle get stuck in the bottom you can either pull the line until it breaks (wrap it around your arm protected by a coat or similar) or let the line go slack, the tide will often release your rig from a snag. Never use your rod to break you out of a snag, this will likely damage your rod.
Tackle for Cod Fishing
Rods and Reels for Cod fishing need to be tough and able to last. If you are fishing conditions where there is a heavy swell running, hence you are using large sinkers you need a stiff and long beach caster. At lest 12 to 14 feet in length. A rod of this size will help you keep the line high and prevent line breakages in the waves and surf.Rods from £20 can be found here – Shakespeare Sigma 3 Piece Beachcaster 4-8oz Rod. There are also some Rod and Reel Combos worth checking out!
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Large beach reels filled with 20 – 30lb main line will be need to cope with rough sea conditions, with ample shock leader. Here are some class beach casting multipliers – Abu Garcia Multiplier Reel – Ambassadeur Classic 6500 C3 CT Mag
. Reels on this page include a huge range of multiplier reels.
You can get a reasonable beginners set up for around £100, but this will not last constant, heavy Cod fishing sessions, but it is all you need to get started and develop your skills and bank balance.
Buy good quality line and inspect it regularly for damage. There is no worse feeling in the world than hooking your dream Cod, only to watch it swim off to freedom because your line was worn! (sounds like somebody talking from experience).
Cod Fishing Bait
Peeler Crab, Lugworm, Mackerel, Squid, Mussel, Razor Fish, Ragworm and Hermit Crabs all make great Cod baits. I prefer Lug and Squid cocktails, but lots of it on the hook.
Now the rule, I have learnt here is BIG, BIG baits!!! You want to thread lugworm on the hook like they are going out of fashion. I reckon you want a good 6 inches of compressed bait on the hook snood (snood is the line from the rig body to the hook). You want that bait to be dripping with scent, because when the Cod are hunting in rough, dark seas they will be using scent to locate your hook.
Ground bait is also well worth considering. If you have found a feature on the seabed that looks like it will hold fish consider how you could ground bait the area. Carp anglers use a method called spodding where a tube is cast to s spot which deposits ground bait. I really think we need to try this in areas of lower tidal flow and of course in calmer conditions! What do you think?
This video from Matt Hayes and Alan Yates shows the basics of hooking a Lug onto a hook. Think about adding a number off worms to the trace, compact it down with a bait stop.
To keep costs down it would be worth digging your own bait, coz you really need stacks of the damn stuff to catch a Cod.