The two most important species of cod are the Atlantic cod which lives in the colder deeper waters of North Atlantic and can weigh as much as 96kg and the Pacific cod that are found in eastern and western regions of the northern Pacific and weigh up to 23kg. Both species are a popular table fish and there livers are processed into cod liver oil. They also provide vitamins A, D, and E, and omega 3. When fished for nearly all large cod are caught while boat fishing over wrecks but in recent years it is getting harder to find them due to over fishing and nearly every wreck that would hold them is being netted. In 2000, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) placed cod on the endangered species list. The WWF issued a report stating the global cod catch had suffered a 70% drop over the last 30 years, and if this trend continued, the world’s sustainable cod stocks would disappear in 2015. The Irish record Cod of 42lb was caught in 1921 off Ballycotton by I.L. Stewart
Cod fishing in the past
I was too young to go fishing back in the late 70s, unlike my too lot older brothers. Back then they were dropped to our holiday home in Youghal by our father on the weekends after work, where they had opportunity to fish for large cod in late autumn and right through the winter months. Back then cod fishing was off the charts and with cod being landed off Youghal beach over 16lb by my brothers it would make you think twice when you land a cod over two pounds today and then someone says “that’s a nice fish”. As I got older and more into my fishing, I still missed some good opportunities to catch large cod off the Monkstown wall. It had produced a lot of big cod right up to the season of 2004. Since then every time when large numbers of cod start running up the river commercial fishing boats are right behind them. It still hard to believe that this is still allowed to happen to our harbours.
As I started to get interested in specimen hunting I decided to book some charters boats that fish for big cod. As I was talking to the skipper [Colin Barnes] he was telling me about the large fish his crew were catching and his boat also landed the Irish record coalfish. After hearing all his stories I booked some trips on the dates that had the right size tides. I then asked what I should bring with me to entice those big cod to feed. He suggested Four to five inch Orange shads as the top choice. Second were large hawk eyes with a perks, third being jelly worms. With phone calls to every tackle shop in cork the only one that had what I needed back then was the Halfway Angling. With a quick spin out there with the lads we met Dan Lynch the owner for the first time, he advised us to use 50lb braid when using a booms and for the leader about five to seven feet of 50lb mono attach to a shad’s. He advised us to bring more of a selection of soft plastics with us. He was right to say that as we were traveling to a cod wreck that is about 31miles out from Union Hall and it would be no good in saying “I should have bought it”.
A selection of soft plastics, feathers, lead heads, perks, aluminous perks and leads
With the fishing gear packed, lunches made and the fifty mile journey travelled to Reen pier were Colin was waiting for us on the Holly Jo. It then took over two and a half hours to get to the cod wreck. With the first drift started and fish showing off the bottom on the fish finder it did not take long before we were into fish. As we were new to fishing soft plastics we were all striking the plucks instead of waiting for the rod to buckle before setting the hooks. With a few fish missed and some landed over 15lb the skipper said that there is far bigger on this wreck. We were all excited to here this and more so with every new drift we started.
As happy as anyone could be me with two cod over 15lb and Liam with two over 16lb all caught on the orange shad
With every drift we learned what depth the fish were feeding at, we did this by counting the rotations of the handle as we started to reel. All the fish were hooked were between 17 and 22 turns off the bottom, anything more than 25 turns of the handle and we dropped our soft plastics to the bottom and start counting all over again. This gave us more time fishing the layers of water were the cod were feeding. As we were reeling my son Derick was counting out loud and as he reached 22 his rod calved over and it started to strip line, after making some head way the fish dove again. it was a hard and long battle and he was enjoying every minute of it. When the cod was landed we knew it was over 20lb
Derick with his 24lb cod well deserved he fished hard all day without taking a brake
Back then every boat I booked was cancelled due to bad weather and on the days he could get out there were landing a few fish over the cracking 20lb mark. As I keep saying about fishing you need luck to hook the big one and skill to land it.
Back to the present few years
When I go cod fishing I normally fish off a boat drifting on the cod grounds outside and inside Cork Harbour using baited feathers with as small perk or a luminous lead. The perk size and lead varies depending on how fast the drift is, and if there is a lot of rough ground I will swap the perk to a lead
In the last few months I have given the boat fishing a break and decide to enjoy some cod fishing from the shore. I must admit it is a lot of hard work digging bait and picking peeler crab in cold conditions. This year I started cod fishing in the Waterford side of Youghal harbour with Dan lynch and on his first cast, at low water, he landed two small codling. As the tide started to fill we were landing cod up to three pound, not monsters, just nice fishing.
Dan first cast landed him two small codling off the pier beside the council yard
With the moon Phase right for the next few days and a good south westerly wind on the way I met my friend Damo at the same spot. As the tide started to turn we knew the cod were on the way and like clockwork our rods started to bend. When cod take the bait it can swallowed it and it is near imposable to get the hook out without it dying. Within reason, I would return all the lipped hook cod to ensure I do not take too many, an attitude that hopefully more anglers will adopt.
Out of fifteen cod Damo landed these five were the only ones that could not go back and as he said that more than enough for any man to take.
With that session over I was planning my next one, and again it had to be a venue in Youghal.
As the weekend was closing in I decided to buy some crab and dig lug and some huge king rag just in case I needed to bulk up the bait.
King rag don’t get much bigger than these ones
With my work day over I put all the bait and fishing gear in the jeep and headed fishing.
As I arrived in Youghal town I decided to drive along the quays to see was there anyone fishing. The first angler I met was Morris and as I looked beside him I could see that he had already landed some nice cod. As there was space next to him to set up he invited me to join him for a friendly competition for heaviest fish.
Morris Tobin with some lovely cod from Youghal Harbour, long may it last
The following night I decided to fish Monkstown wall with my friend Bill Brazier and as we arrived I could see a lot of anglers along it. We decided to head to the pier beside the car park in the hope that there was no one on it. As we passed it I could see a few friends that I have fished with over the years landing fish. As there was plenty of space on the right hand side we decide to set up camp. With the rods out we started to chat with the lads. They were telling us that the fishing was good over the last few weeks with lots of 3lb to 4lb cod until a commercial boat went up and down the river dragging its nets. It the same old story [greed] I still can’t figure out why they can’t stop the commercial boats doing this. With the hopes of catching a cod fading I was deciding to pack up until the line went slack on Bill’s rod. With the rod in his hand and the reel gathering up the slack he soon found he was into a nice fish. For the next few hours we landed over 16 cod and two whiting
Bill with a 3.5lb cod from Monkstown pier a nice fish to get the confidence back that there is still some fish around
For the next few nights I haunted Monkstown with some nice cod up to 3.75lb all caught on large baits that were mounted on a pennel hook
A full crab with all it legs and claws peeled and two lug make a nice cod bait especially on a pennel hook rig
Out of 17 cod these nine were deep hooked and I was unable to return them
As my friend Terry Jackson was working in Cork he still managed to join me for a few hours before he had to go home. As we were fishing I noticed that Terry’s rod was being hit more violently than mine and the bite indication was excellent. I thought it was his rod but it was more to do the 60lb braid he had on his reels. With a pleasant few hours fishing over it was time to take a picture of Terry’s cod.
Terry first time fishing the famous Monkstown for cod he said if the fishing was like this in the North he would do a lot more of it
Monkstown wall can hold a lot of anglers along it, just make sure you stay away from the rocky areas outside the wall because you won’t be able to land your fish and also you will lose your rigs.
Monkstown pier is well lit up at night and is always worth a cast at low tide
Rods and reels when using soft plastics, a 20lb to 30lb rod the longer the better, a fast hi-speed reel loaded with 50lb braid
A variety of soft plastics especially orange shads and wave worms use on 50lb fluorocarbon line attached to a boom
Rods: A beach caster able to cast 6oz leads if fishing strong tide pull estuary’s if not a standard beach caster will do match it with a good reliable reel loaded with 15lb mono with a 60lb shock leader. A pennel hook rig baited with peeler crab, lug, razor-fish, Marine mussels, and rag worm. You can mix them in a variety of combinations.