Bait and Tackle for Catching Cod
To quote Dr Michael Kennedy : ‘Theis a voracious fish, with a mouth like a trawl and a swallow like a vacuum cleaner, and its stomach contents are usually a pretty fair cross-section of the marine life in the locality in which it is captured.’ In British waters, most of the cod’s diet is made up of crustaceans and worms, except when shoals of sprat or herrings are being followed.
The cod has a hearty appetite, but it would be a mistake for the angler to take this as meaning that choice of bait does not matter. When they are feeding inshore, cod can be extraordinarily pernickety. On some days a good bunch of lugworm is all that they will look at; on others a fish bait is necessary for success. A sprat fished whole will often account for big cod. Sometimes a sandwich bait is very tempting to cod — a lugworm is threaded on the hook first of all and a mussel follows it. It very often happens when fishing with this bait that the mussel is snatched off first and then the cod returns for the worm. However, not long ago I found that the cod preferred the mussel so strongly that they would not come back for the worm at all, and it soon became clear that the latter was a waste of time.
One thing is axiomatic in cod fishing : use a very big bait.
, of course, will take the most extraordinary things on occasion. It is recorded that among the odd things found in cods’ stomachs have been a hare and a bottle of whiskey.
For beach casting
Very much the same sort of gear as that recommended for surf fishing for BASS will do for beach casting. Some cod beaches, however, particularly those on the east coast, are very steep with a powerful undertow, so that there is a case for using heavier gear than on a shallow, sandy bass beach. Some cod experts prefer a lead as heavy as 150 g (6 oz), since this will hold well out in heavy winter seas. I leave it to the individual angler to decide whether this sort of fishing is worth the candle. At Dungeness, a cod beach which has produced some good catches over the years, long casting is said to be required to reach the fish, which may be feeding as much as 135 m (150 yds) out.
For shore cod fishing, a multiplier loaded with 11 kg (24 lb) b.s. line will do all that is required, and there are many circumstances in which a lighter one could be used. A supply of spiked leads is essential for winter cod fishing. A useful average size is 100 g (4 oz) but circumstances will dictate what the angler must use. Hooks should be large — look at the size of a cod’s mouth —and, as indicated above, they have to carry a good sized bait.
If you are using a spiked lead, a very useful thing to have is a detachable French boom in light metal. This can be fixed on to the trace just above the lead so that the hook link will be well clear of the spikes which would otherwise foul it. Fishing this way some anglers use two hooks below the weight.
Boat-fishing rods have improved in design a good deal since the introduction of fibre-glass and it is possible to buy one quite cheaply that will give excellent service. For a short boat rod, the ordinary objections to whole glass, which are principally concerned with its curve under pressure, do not apply. If you are buying a cheap rod, however, make sure that the rings are of good stainless steel. Sometimes the reel fittings on a very cheap rod are not particularly satisfactory either.
I always use my surf-casting multiplier for light boat fishing and, in most areas, there is no need to put on a heavy line simply because one is boat fishing. An exception is the fishing at Deal, on the ‘heel’ of England, where very heavy tides make it necessary to use very large weights and correspondingly heavy tackle.
Where possible, use a runningfrom a boat. The old-fashioned ‘banker’s’ lead, much used by professional line fishermen, is still very effective. With it two hooks may be used below the weight.