Cod Fishing UK

Cod are fat, crab munching fish that so may of us want to see more of on the end of our lines.

But the truth about catching cod is not what you expect. The lengths we cod anglers go to to catch these fish is unmatched in shore angling – the effort that goes into creating cocktail baits with two different species of worms and a whole damned squid, to then wrap the whole thing lovingly with baiting elastic to keep the dog fish and crabs away. Sometimes I wonder what we’re trying to do with this, declare our love to the fish?!

We’re not taking the cod out on a date. These fish won’t notice that you’ve gone to that effort. No, the cod is an indiscriminate scavenger that has a preference for bigger baits. Squid and worms are a favourite, but fancy cocktails are probably less important than getting the size of those baits right.

What really does make a difference is putting in the time and effort to find good marks and fishing those freezing winter nights until you hook into a shoal of these delicious bearded fatties.

Given that the limiting factor is probably not your rig or bait, it’s how much time you put in, here’s the tackle you really need.

  • A huge flask of a hot drink
  • Warm gloves you can still tie knots in
  • A very good head torch for illumination and safety, plus a back up if that fails on you
  • A bite alarm to keep you engaged

With these things you should be well on your way. You can even get full winter protective gear if you really want, which will keep you warm and dry in anything. This is the kind of mentality it takes to catch a lot of cod.

Now let’s talk baits and rigs and methods.

What the bass is to lure anglers, cod are to bait fisherman. Most of the cod fishing that’s done in the UK takes place in the North Sea in Scotland or in the North of England, but Chesil beach in the south is another popular mark. Cod as a species are in peril, but can still be caught by the sustainable method of rod and line if you manage to crack the locations and timing. Fishing at night is often much better, as cod will move closer in. It’s also common to fish for cod in the channels in estuaries as they push up with the tide, slurping on worms and crunching down crabs on the seabed as the water drifts over the sand and mud flats. From beaches, you’ll tend to catch cod in places with some rough ground and especially from shingly beaches. Cod are demersal fish, which means they feed on or near the bottom. They will hunt in the middle section of the water column when they’re older and are chasing fish, though.

There is something very exciting about catching cod, partly the fact that they grow to such a decent size. Cod are known as ‘codling’ until they’re about 5lb, and a 5lb shore cod is sadly a decent fish nowadays. It’s amazing how much people love these ugly fish, bloated with crabs and goggly eyed as they are, but it’s easier to understand than some people’s fascination with carp. At least cod taste delicious and roam the open seas, in a never ending glutenous feast. Carp just eat mud and then crap it back out as far as I can tell…

Where to catch cod

Cod can be caught over rough ground and on stoney beaches, as well as in estuaries across the country. Larger specimens are caught from boats with lure fishing gear over wrecks in the South West and East. Artificial eels are a favourite lure for their capture.

Cod can be caught all year round if you’re far enough in the North of Britain, whereas in the south they only grace inshore waters in the depths of winter. Inshore, you tend to catch codling, which are juvenile cod under 5lb in weight.

Best cod baits

Lugworm, squid and razor clams make for excellent cod baits. Bait presentation is also considered more important with this species than with some other bottom feeding fish.

Lure Fishing for Cod by Boat

While boat fishing, large metal lures called ‘pirks’ are often used, which are essentially long thin metal bars that sink very quickly into the depths and glimmer and shine at the cod. Perks can be very heavy – with some perks being half a kilo in weight. This is serious deep sea fishing. Another popular cod lure is the twin tailed curly tail – it’s a simple jelly eel with two curly tails. In my experience these curly tails aren’t as effective as paddle tails, but members of the cod family seem to be an exception to this. Other classic cod lures include the Rhubarb and Custard coloured (red and orange) Sidewinder and the Redgill. A more recent addition to these is the offshore Fish Minnow, which has a weedless design and more natural presentation that the classics.

Boat fishing for cod with lures is often done by drifting over offshore wrecks or by jigging close to a wreck in the deep sea. Jigging is retrieval style whereby the lure is lifted up virtically and then released to sink back down to the bottom. Like most fish species, cod love to hit lures OTD (on the drop), as this is a very natural presentation for an injured fish. Jigging therefore increases the amount of time spent with your lure falling. Jigging also allows you to fish one precise spot and stay away from the snags of a wreck and is just easy fishing – you can easily drink beer or chat or do whatever you want while jigging without thinking too much about anything!

Cod are a very mobile species that often demand fish finders to locate while boat fishing. One day they might be in one spot in great numbers, and the next they are likely to be gone. While shore fishing in an estuary however you do get the benefit of the Cod exploring enough to locate your bait, there’s still a bit of chance involved in them actually being present.

The best fish finders are quite expensive, but worth it for the huge increase in catch rate they offer. It helps to know there are fish where you’re fishing!

Cod are one of the most sought after fish for commercial fishermen and recreational anglers. People like them because their flesh is firm and doesn’t dry out easily during the cooking process compared to most other fish species. This is the fish that even your non-fishing friends have heard of. They cruise into our waters only once temperatures get cool enough, as this species is at home in the North sea and arctic. These fish grow to a substantial size and are prized for their eating, but not for their looks. As a bottom feeding fish, cod have huge great eyes to let in as much light as possible, a barbell on their chin and fat stomachs full of crustaceans. Larger specimens also feed on small fish, including sand eels, herring and their own kind.