Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Summary of the Cod Season - Part 2: The Cod Run

The best cod fishing of the season was had in December. There was a good run of decent size fish in the Blackwater channel having come in during the stormy weather in late November. The numbers of fish per session was not large but the quantity was more than compensated by the quality.

2nd December: Low tide was at 7.30 pm so I headed out just before dusk and set up two rods both with 4/0 pennel pulleys with big crab baits. It was quite until after dark and I didn't have the first bite until the tidal flow began to slacken off at 6.40 pm. It was a smallish codling of about 2 lbs. This was followed by a number of bites in quick succession over the next 40 minutes. I lost a couple but landed another four in the range 2-4.5 lbs.

The bites then died off but I had one more cod before packing up at 8.15 pm. This fish was a little under 2 lbs with a deformed lower jaw and was released.
Result: 6 cod (2-4.5 lbs)

4th December: I returned to the same mark after dark. Shortly after setting up the first rod I had the first bite; a plump 42 cm cod weighing about 2 lb. This was followed shortly afterwards by a second of much the same size before I had a chance to set up the second rod. About 20 minutes later I had another codling of 2.5 lbs closely followed by a smaller chubby fish a little under 2 lbs and no sooner had I released it when there was a knock on the second rod. This was an even smaller codling, barely over 30 cm.

Five minutes later I had a better fish, 45 cm and weighing about 3 lbs. 20 minutes later I had a seventh codling, a little smaller at 42 cm, but quite plump and weighing a little over 2.5 lbs.  Another 20 minutes passed before the next bite close to high tide at 8.50 pm. This was about the same size.

The last fish, landed half an hour later just as I was about to pack up, was the best of the session, chunky 46 cm cod weighing 3.5 lbs.

Result: 9 Cod (7 keepers - fish over 2 lbs)

5th December: I had some crab left so after the success of the previous evening I headed out again to fish the same stage of the tide, a neap tide. In order to conserve the few crabs I had left I sent up one rod with the crab and the other with razor, both on 4/0 pennel pulleys. Initially it was quite and it was not until about 8.30 pm that I had the first fish, a cod of about 2.5 lbs. This was shortly followed by a small codling of under a pound. I had a few missed bites after that, then landed another 2.5 cod at about 9.15 pm. Ten minutes later this was followed by a better fish of 54 cm, weighing 4.75 lbs just before high tide (HW at 9.40 pm).

It was quite for half an hour before the next bite, this time a 2.75 lb cod. About another 30 minutes passed and just as the tide was starting to noticably drop I had a pouting on razor followed shortly afterwards by a 37 cm flounder.
Result: 5 Cod (4 keepers 2.5-4.75 lbs, 1 Pouting,  Flounder (37 cm).

8th December: Since there seemed to be a good run of cod on the last couple of sessions I returned to the same mark on Saturday evening with a fresh supply of crab. I arrived about an hour after low tide, at 8 pm. I got two rods set up and was fishing before 8.30 pm. There was not much activity for the next two hours. Then at about 10.30 pm, I had the first bite, a small codling of about a pound which was released. There was not much happening for the next hour, I had a couple of missed bites, lost what felt to be a good fish half way in as it dug its nose into the side of the channel.

Then close to 11.30 pm the fishing picked up. Next fish was a 3.5 lb cod, followed almost immediately by a smaller one of 1.5 lbs which was released. 15 minutes later I had a stronger tug, this was a much bigger fish and put up a good struggle. It was a 4.75 lb/54 cm cod.

No sooner had I landed the fish when there was a knock on the second rod, this was a smaller fish at about 3 lbs. 20 minutes later at 12.20 am I had another strong bite. This was the best cod of the night, a chunky 5.5 lbs, 57 cm fish.

I stayed on until high tide at 12.50 am but the fish had moved on.
Result: 6 Cod (4 keepers, 3.5 lb, 4.75 lb, 3.5 lb, 5.5 lb)

9th December: I just had a few crabs left so headed out late for a short session for the three hours leading up to high tide. However, it was quite. I missed a couple of bites and it was not until almost 12.30 am before I landed the first fish, a 2.5 lb cod. This was followed an hour later by a smaller codling, it was the same one with the deformed lower jaw which I caught and released on the 2nd December. Unfortunately this time it was not so lucky as it had deeply swallowed the bait. I got the hook out but when I tried to release it for the second time it just floated motionless apart from a few flicks of its tail.

I fished on until high tide and was packing up when I realized there was a fish on one of the lines. This was another 2.5 lb cod.

Result: 3 Cod (2.5 lb, 1.75 lb, 2.5 lb)

11th December: After obtaining another dozen crabs I headed out late in the evening arriving at the mark about 11 pm. The tide was building towards a New Moon tide, with a 4.1 m high tide scheduled for 3.50 am. Normally I would fish this location on slacker tides but after the success of the previous sessions I reckoned it was worth a shot. The weather had been relatively calm for the previous couple of days so weed would not be a problem although I knew the strength of the tidal current would make fishing difficult once the tidal race began. It was a dark night and a southeasterly wind which had picked up earlier in the day has now strengthened and producing choppy swells across the estuary. I got set up and waited for the cod to start moving.

It was shortly after 1 am before I had first sign of action.  There was a sharp knock on one of the rods, I grabbed it and felt  a decent size fish on the end. As I retrieved the downward double tugs told me it had to be a cod. It fought very strongly and I had to be careful not to let it get its nose into the side of the channel, I had lost enough fish over the years at this mark which had come off as I tried to bully them out of the weed and rocks on the channel margins. Finally I could see the leader knot appearing out of the murky water, I was nearly there, a few more turns of the reels and I could see the fish splashing about in the shallow water beneath my feet. With one more hoist of the rod I eased the fish onto the shore. It was a fine plump cod of 56 cm and a weight of 5.5 lbs.

I was just unhooking the fish when I saw the tip on the other rod bouncing. I dropped the fish, grabbed the rod and struck. I was into another cod, if felt another good fish but not as strong as the first. Still it pulled strongly as I hauled it up from the depths of the channel and it was a relief to see the shockleader emerge from the water. Soon I had the fish ashore – another plump cod of 51 cm with a weight of about 3.5 lbs.

The bites died off after that as the tidal current increased in strength. My 6 oz. gripper weights were swiftly dragged up stream requiring a retrieve and recast every 10-15 minutes. At about 2.15 am I had another bite. This was not such a big fish, although retrieving against the current gave the impression it was larger until I dragged it on to the shore. It was a 44 cm cod, with a weight of a little over 2 lbs.

About half an hour later there was a sharp tug on the rod on my left. The current had dragged the bait way up to the left so the line was running almost parallel to the shore. As I struck I could feel a very strong fish pulling on the end. I realized it was going to be difficult to safely land the fish with the amount of obstacles and snags that lay along this section of the shore. I kept the rod high, and kept the fish moving, if it got half a chance the fish would dive into the channel flank and it would be impossible to get it out. I could feel strong downward tugs as the fish fought furiously. After what felt like a long struggle I had it in close, but as the shockleader emerged I could see the knot was draped with weed, there was no way it would pass through the tip eye of the rod, so keeping the line taunt I tilted the rod back towards me grabbed the line and manually hauled the violently splashing fish out of the water. It was a fine cod, 60 cm but very stocky and weighed 6.5 lbs – a new personal best!!!

With arms aching from the struggle I decided it was now time to pack up, I had work in the morning.

Result: 4 Cod (5.5 lbs, 3.5 lbs, 2 lbs, 6.5 lbs)

20th December: In the lead up to Christmas I was busy with work. Crabs were also scarce and I was unable to get any over the weekend so it was not until Thursday of the following week that I got a chance to head out fishing again. I arrived at about 7.45 pm. A couple of anglers were already in my favoured spot so I set up down-stream from them. I had the first bite at about 8.20 pm, a 2.5 lb cod. I had a few missed bites after that and about half an hour later I had a strong tug on the line. This felt to be a substantial fish and fought strongly all the way in. I could see the fish in the shallow water in front of me but then the gripper got snagged so keeping the line taunt I made my way out towards it, until I had a firm grip of the trace and hauled on it, pulling it free. This was a fine fish, a 5.5 lb cod with a length of 59 cm.

I lost another good fish, it was putting a severe bend in the rod but came off about half way in. I recast but it was a bit of a mis-cast and barely landed more than 15 m out. But I thougth I would leave it for a while. Ten minutes later the rod tip suddenly buckled over and the line went slack. I grabbed the rod, reeled in the slack and connected with a good fish. At first I presumed it was another cod but then it burst onto the surface and splashed about as I hauled it in. It had to be a bass. Indeed it was, a fine chunky 60 cm fish weighing 6 lbs. That was a surprise!!!

15 minutes later I had small coding just under 40 cm which was released. Close to high tide I had a better fish of about 2.75 lbs.
Result: 4 Cod (3 keepers; 2.5 lbs, 5.5 lbs, 2.75 lbs), 1 Bass (6 lbs)

22nd December: This would be the last session before Christmas. I got to the mark at about 9 pm, a couple of hours after low tide. The tide was just beginning to push in at this stage. About half an hour after setting up I had the first fish, a 2.25 lb cod. However, it then went dead and it was not until 12.30 am before I had another bite. This was a better fish of about 3 lbs and was soon followed by a 2.5 lb cod. At about 1 am very close to high tide I had a good cod of 4.5 lbs/51 cm. This was quite a chunky fish.

I fished on a little longer but there were no more bites and packed up once the tide started to drop.
Result: 4 Cod (2.25 lbs, 3 lbs, 2.5 lbs, 4.5 lbs).

Monday, 25 February 2013

Summary of the Cod Season - Part 1

Although cod fish seems to have generally been rather poor this season I was quite successful and had some decent size fish that broke my personal best several times.

The season got off to a slow start, over the last few years cod have appeared in September or early October but it was well into November before the main cod run started.

Having had a very poor summer bass fishing and a mediocre autumn I decided to focus on cod fishing for the remainder of the year. Below is Part 1 (October-November) of a summary of my fishing over the last few months. Part 2 (December) and Part 3 (January-February) will follow over the next few days.

28th October: I fished Ferry Point in Youghal 2.5 hours either side of low tide. It was quite apart from a couple of dogfish over low tide. I had just one codling, a fish of about 1.5 lbs early on the rising tide, but it was a start. There were smaller fish there, they were constantly nibbling on the bait but couldn't get their mouths around big crab baits on size 4/0 hooks.
Result: 1 cod (1.5 lbs), 2 Dogfish

4th November: I returned to Ferry Point, again fishing over low tide and early on the rising tide. There was quite a cold northwesterly wind blowing so not ideal. I had one strong bite, at first I assumed it was a cod but the fight felt different, the fish was head shaking not pulling downwards like a cod. After a few minutes I hauled a 44 cm bass onto the shore. That was the only bite for the session. As the tidal flow increased it became too difficult to hold bottom so it was time to pack up.
Result: 1 bass (44 cm)

7th November: I decided to try a deep water mark in the Blackwater Estuary which has been very productive on previous years. It was a neap tide, slack tides are best for this location, it is almost impossible to fish on a spring tide. I arrived early on the rising tide and set up two rods both baited with crab on 4/0 pennel pulleys. It was quite for some time but in the two and a half hours before high tide I had fairly constant nibbles and bites, and reeled in a succession of small fish, flounder, a good size dab, pouting, a whiting and an eel. I am not sure how most of them managed to get their mouths around a 4/0 hook.
Result: 3 Flounder (37 cm, 24 cm, 28 cm), 1 Dab (35 cm) 1 Whiting, 1 Pouting, 1 Eel.

16th November: I fished a beach on the ebb and the early rising tide. There was a moderate surf so I was hopeful of landing a bass was well as a few cod. I set up two rods with pennel pulleys, one baited with crab, the other with razor. However, the fishing was poor. I just had a couple of coalfish on the dropping tide. The fishing picked up slightly as the tide began to push back in with a dogfish, another coalfish and a whiting but no sign of any bass or cod.
Result: 3 Coalfish, 1 Dogfish, 1 Whiting.

21st November: As it was again a neap tide I returned to the Blackwater estuarine mark that I had fished two weeks previously. Over the weekend and at the beginning of the week there had been quite a strong southwesterly storm so I was hopeful that the windy weather might have brought the cod into the channel. I got there about 8.30 pm as the tide was well into the rise (HW at 11.45 pm). I had a couple of bites but the fish were not hooked, or only lightly hooked and came off half-way in. Then at about 10 pm I had the first fish a codling of about 3 lbs.

This was followed about 15 m later by a bigger fish of 53 cm and weighing about 4.75 lbs

 I stayed on until high tide but the fish had passed up the channel and there were no more bites
Result: 2 cod (3 lbs, 4.75 lbs)

24th November: I retuned to the same mark. The tides were still slack so it was an optimal time to fish here. Low tide was at 8.50 pm and I got there about an hour afterwards just before the tide began to rise. There was a fairly strong northerly breeze blowing down the channel, quite cold but good for cod fishing. I was again using two rods with 4/0 pennel pulleys baited with a mixture of crab and razor. It was very quite for a long time and I was beginning to think the fish were not going to show up. Then just after midnight I had the first codling, it was a smallish fish, about 1.25 lbs, which I released. The cod then came on the feed and I had a series of bites in rapid succession. I missed some, lost a few as they dug their nosed into the size of the channel but I did manage to land three of them, these were bigger fish, the first was about 2.5 lbs, the next was a good fish of 5.5 lbs and a length of 57 cm. A new personal best.

This was followed by a quite period. Then at about 2 am I had a very strong tug on the line. It felt to be a big and very strong fish. I had let the current drag the bait upstream so it was a struggle to haul the fish back against the current and keep it from embedding its nose into the side of the channel. But I eventually got it close and on to the river bank. This was a fine cod of 6 lbs/62 cm. I had beaten my personal best for a second time in the same night!!

So a good night after a rather slow start to the cod season, three keepers (I release any cod below 40 cm unless deeply hooked).

Result: 5 cod, (1.25 lbs, 2.5 lbs, 2 lbs, 5.5 lbs, 6 lbs)

25th November: I had some crabs left so decided to try a mark further up the Blackwater estuary that can fish well in daylight in the 2.5-3 hours before high tide. I would normally prefer to fish here on bigger tides but thought I would give it a go. It was not a nice day, the wind direction had changed to southerly and brought persistent misty rain with it. Fishing was slack, but I did get a couple of small codling in the 2.25-2.5 lb range, 46-47 cm in length.

 Just before packing up I hooked a 31 cm flounder.
Result: 2 Cod, (2.25 lbs, 2.5 lbs), 1 Flounder (31 cm)