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How To Catch Cod

The Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is the most common member of the Gadidae family of saltwater fish found in waters around the UK. Its body shape is distinctive, with a blunt head that has a well developed chin barbel, three dorsal fins and two anal fins. The colour of this type of fish varies, depending on where they live. Fish that live above sand usually have a speckled brown back and white underside; other specimens that live above rock or seaweed can be grey, blotchy green or pale reddish orange in colour.


This type of fish can reach 20 lb (9 kg) or more in weight, although fish in the 1 to 5 lb (0.45 to 2.25 kg) range are the most common size caught off the UK coast. The UK record for a fish caught from the shore is 44 lb 8 oz (20.23 kg) and for a line-caught fish from a boat is 58 lb 6 oz (26.53 kg). In the days before overfishing took its toll, commercial fishermen sometimes landed specimens of over 200 lb (90 kg) in weight.

How And Where To Catch cod

The best coastal waters to catch this variety of fish are where the underlying sea bed is uneven, either consisting of mixed pebbles, boulders and sand or, preferably, solid rock with seaweed filled channels or fissures that lead towards the shoreline. Good coastal locations for this type of fishing include Cumbria, North East England, Eastern Scotland and South Wales. This variety of fish generally prefers water at least 6 feet (1.8 m) deep but they will feed in shallower water on an incoming tide.

Breeding Habits

This variety of fish spawns between January and April, particularly in March and April, in water between 300 and 650 feet (90 to 200 m) deep, where the temperature is 4c to 6c . Breeding grounds around the UK include the North Sea and the mouth of the Bristol Channel. A mature female can lay up to 5 million eggs in a season but very few of these will survive to become adult fish. The eggs are planktonic and hatch after 8 to 23 days (12 days on average); the larvae are 1/6 inch (4 mm) long. After about 10 weeks the young fish grow to around ? inch (2 cm) in length and move to the sea floor. There they feed mainly on small crustaceans. By the time they reach their first birthday they will be 6 to 7 inches (14 to 18 cm) long, growing to 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35 cm) long by the end of their second year. This type of fish becomes mature when it reaches about 20 inches (50 cm) in length, at around the age of three to four. The main diet of the adult fish is sprats and young herrings, but they will also eat sand eels and assorted crustaceans.


Lugworm is the most popular bait for catching this type of fish. The recommended method of preparing the bait is to push two or three lugworms on to the hook, then to tie two more lugworms alongside these worms using bait elastic, to create a sausage shape about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in length. Shellfish, such as cockles and mussels, can also be used as bait. They, too, need to be aggregated together using bait elastic to form a sausage shape about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Peeler crabs can be used as an alternative to cockles or mussels.


The most suitable rod for this type of sea angling is a beachcaster rod between 12 feet 6 inches and 13 feet 6 inches (3.8 m and 4.1 m) in length, with a heavy duty reel and 18 to 22 lb (8 to 10 kg) breaking strain line. This robust set-up should cope with any snagging on seaweed or other obstructions.

Pulley Rig

The most common rig used for this type of fishing is the pulley rig. A pulley rig consists of a snood line attached in the middle to a swivel at the end of the main line. At one end of the snood line is a hook and at the other end is a large lead weight (up to 6 oz, 170 g). When a fish takes the bait, its weight pulls the lead weight up the line as far as the swivel where the rig is connected to the main line. This arrangement reduces the risk of the lead weight dangling in a position where it could become snagged on rocks or other obstructions, whilst the fish is being landed.

Over Fishing

Although sea anglers take relatively few fish compared to commercial fishermen, there are concerns for the long-term viability of this fish species. The UK government has laid down Minimum Landing Sizes (MLS) for a number of fish species and these cover both sea anglers and net fishermen. The MLS for cod is 35 cm (13.8 inches) in length.

Books And Websites On How To Catch Cod

The definitive book about this fish is 'Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World' by Mark Kurlansky (ISBN 0099268701), which has received amazingly good reviews, even from non-fishermen.




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