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Cod, Gadus morhua

Irish Record Fish: 42 lbs 19.05 kgs
Caught: Ballycotton 1921
Boat Specimen: 25 lbs  11.34 kgs
Shore Specimen: 10 lbs  4.54 kgs
Photo Credit:

Karl Coffey / Dave Langford


Dave has a very good day on board John Johnstone's boat just short of the Bills Rocks in Clew Bay.  Whilst the rest of us were struggling with Pollack, Dave was taking in doubles of fat autumn Codling, on hookai lures baited with mackerel slivers, fished bumping along the bottom in 40 metres over mixed ground.  His next two drops accounted for two more Codling too...


Introduction: The Cod is a hungry bugger and has eyes just about bigger than its belly!  This is not a dainty feeder, and a small bait does not tempt a Cod.  Cod under 5 lbs are referred to as Codling.  They are normally caught in colder waters, either at depth or during the colder months of the year but they are present all year round.  As with all cod the really big fish, often referred to as 'lunkers', are found on the very bottom of marks.  Any fishing for Cod demands the bait stays on the bottom, whether from the shore or from a boat.

Boat tactics: A 30 lbs rod and reel is at the top end for taking on deep reef or wreck cod although the drop down to 20 lbs is acceptable for inshore waters.  They do like wrecks, reefs and tend to hunker down on the bottom.  That said, we take most of our cod out of Clew Bay over mixed ground.  A strong trace (not wire) is important.  A rotten bottom link is a useful addition - try using paperslips if you are down tiding.  Cod have been known to take just about anything, so long as the bait is big!  Your bait can never be too big!  Big Cod will readily take a whole mackerel, the largest of pirks, spoons and artificial lures, and big pennel rigs holding two whole squid!  The hooks have to be the match for the bait, so 4/0 hooks are standard and you can go a lot bigger! Sandeel is a good Cod bait but mackerel works extremely well.  If the standard size of fish coming aboard is smaller, drop the hook size down to 2/0.  Baited feathers will work but the key to targetting Cod or Codling is that the bait presentation has to be on the sea floor.  Remember that Cod use scent to find food.

Shore tactics: Ireland does not get the same action on the shore as some of the famous UK winter hotspots, but the Irish Sea beaches have produced fair numbers of Codling in previous decades and are showing recent signs of some regeneration after over-fishing by commercial boats, notwithstanding recent EU Commission proposals that all commercial fishing for Cod and Prawns cease (the Prawn closure based on the Cod being a common by-catch, so now you know what Cod like to eat in the Irish Sea!). Codling are significantly smaller fish and as a consequence you have to scale down the hooks and bait - but not too much!  They seem to get caught over rougher grounds, in deeper channels and gullies on an incoming night tide. Wexford Harbour and some of the Wicklow beaches gave up Codling every year.  We have had good reports from the south coast and in particular the Ferrypoint in Youghal, whereas Codling are still a common catch on the deeper water marks in the west and north west.  Peeler crab works really well early in the autumn with squid a good backup.  Fresh mackerel is excellent as it provides an oily scent trail.  Most Codling are caught at distance and often on marks that fish best at low tide.  Keep your traces simple to minimise snagging and losses over foul ground.