If you want to catch a big Cod you really need to fish for them in winter, as this is when the bigger specimens are almost always caught (when the water is cold). Winter Cod fishing can be a bit of a waiting game, holding out for a bite that may or may not come, but the rewards can be amazing when your new personal best graces the landing net.
From Brighton it is normally possible to catch Cod every month of the year and this is mostly 15 to 30+ miles offshore, fishing on the wrecks for Cod. But in winter the Cod migrate inshore to feed and spawn. If you are new to winter Cod fishing it might surprise you to learn that when we say inshore we mean very close in – typically 3 or 4 miles.
This inshore migration behaviour has been documented in numerous scientific papers over the years and our part of the Eastern English Channel is recognised as a primary winter feeding and spawning area for Cod. Perhaps this is best summed up, with links to the supporting evidence, by our official local government body – the Sussex IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Coastal Authority):
“Within the Sussex IFCA district cod begin to migrate inshore to their spawning grounds during autumn and spawning occurs during winter and spring. They then move to feeding areas, which may be associated with herring abundance”
Source: Sussex IFCA
Winter Cod Season
You can never set your watch by the first inshore catches but Cod tend to start making an appearance inshore in October and are caught until early February. The peak of the winter Cod season runs from mid November until mid January. Larger mature fish spend this period inshore feeding up prior to spawning. There are certain hotspots that produce and these are generally rough ground marks 50 to 100 feet deep (15 to 30 metres).
Tactics Tackle Rigs and Bait
The good news is it’s all very simple. You can uptide or downtide fish from the boat, both are good methods. 20-30lb class boat rods or 4-10oz uptiders are best, matched to 7000 sized multipliers loaded with mono or braid. Rigs are simple running ledgers with a 6/0 to 8/0 pennel rig (2 hooks) on a hook length of around 5 feet of 80lb mono.
With either method it’s all about using the correct amount of lead weight to keep your bait nailed hard on the bottom, and this varies depending on depth and amount of tide running. With downtiding it’s an edge to bounce your bait down the tide away from the boat. Bottom line? Leads from 8oz to 1lb cover almost all eventualities.
You will hear a lot about using squid or lug and they are good baits, especially when used together as a cocktail. But here’s the deal – in Sussex the best bait BY FAR is Cuttle Fish. Big baits are best and you should change them regularly to keep a fresh scent trail going. Take care to present your bait well with the hooks nicely exposed, bait elastic can be a help for presentation and to provide a bit of protection if Whiting are being a nuisance.
Do YOU want to catch a big Cod?
If you want to catch a big Cod we run trips throughout the winter. Please call Ray on 07850 171722 to make a booking. For more information please look at our Cod Fishing page.