Posts Tagged ‘Cod fishing’

The Humble Cod has a Colourful History

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

To most people the humble cod is the primary ingredient of Birds Eye Fish Fingers, or comes battered as a constituent of the “one and one” that they have just purchased from the local chipper on the way home from the pub. Little do they know that this big headed, barbuled chinned, coloured a mottled olive green/brown/red, white bellied, much loved fish has most definitely played a major role in the historical development of western society both in Europe and America.

COD, by Mark Kurlansky, a must read for all those who are interested in the marine environment.

Cod was one of, if not the main source of protein for most western and central European nations from the middle ages right into the 19th century. In the Middle Ages dried cod or stock fish as it was known underwrote economies, it predated the gold standard. Basque fishermen from northern Spain crossed the Atlantic to their “secret fishing grounds” off Newfoundland long before Christopher Columbus claimed he had found the New World, and returned with their holds filled with dried and salt cod.

Cod enriched the Pilgrim Fathers who settled on the eastern shores of that mighty continent we now call the USA, to the point where they no longer needed support from their mother nation England. Cod enabled them to become financially independent with the potential to outstrip the burgeoning economy of their home country. Tied to a set of ground rules, one of which was that they could only trade with England, the first settlers sought independence which was refused so kick starting the American Revolution.

All these little gems and more are expanded upon in a wonderful book simply titled “COD” by Mark Kurlansky, first published in 1997 the author charts in vivid style how prolific the species was and sadly after 600 plus years of human exploitation how humanity has mined the North Atlantic cod to economic extinction. No longer do they swim in vast shoals across the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and closer to home reside, coloured red due to the kelp and diet of crab, on the Moulditch bank off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, mans ignorance and greed has seen to that.

Today however, due to some minor miracle or quirk of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, certainly in my opinion not a result of  good fisheries management, cod are swimming again in reasonable numbers off Ireland’s south coast. Averaging 2/3 lbs in weight, on certain tides they are coming within casting range of shore anglers fishing beaches, piers, estuaries, and headlands from Wexford to Cork. Fishing into the dark using lugworm or peeler crab for bait, rod tops have been nodding and for the lucky few who are putting the time in some fine catches have been made. Yours truly has made a number of trips to various locations since early November, enjoying some excellent results in the process, culminating in the freshest battered cod and chips that I have had in years. On form the cod will stay around until January, get out and cast a line while the going is good….

Big Cod in the Surf.

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Frank Flanagan, a member of the Menapia SAC in County Wexford, kindly sent me a photo of a super cod that he landed during a recent beach session. Weighing eight pounds the cracking fish took Frank’s bait just behind the surf line. Southerly winds which had been blowing for the previous couple of days had obviously pushed feed inshore and the hungry cod followed.

Frank Flanagan of the Menapia SAC, Wexford, Ireland holds up a cracking beach caught cod.

Having enjoyed a productive session which included a nice plunp codling just a few days previous, and aware of similar catches there is no doubt that cod are running the shore in reasonable numbers this winter. They will most certainly be around until mid to late January, so get out there and enjoy what appears to be the best winter cod season along the southern Irish coast in years.

Mixed Bag from the Beach.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

It’s the 22nd of November and the temperature reads 9 degrees, with only two mild frosts to date we are a far cry from last year when we entered the freezer for a month of snow and double digit minus temperatures. Codling are definitely hitting the beaches with reports of fish to 5/6 lbs amongst the general run of two pounders. On some venues bass to 7.lbs are swimming with the codling, mobile phone images do not lie this really could be the best season in many a year. The key is to get out there regularly and fish the correct marks, tides, and times, high water at dusk or one/three hours after appearing to be the optimum.

Dusk, late November beach fishing in South Wexford, Ireland.

Arriving at my chosen location two hours into the ebb tide just as dusk was closing in around 17.00 pm, I quickly set up twin surf casting rigs utilising two hook (2/0 Kamazan 940′s) paternosters baited with lugworm, lobbing one in close and belting the other out. Using long (18 inch) snoods it quickly became apparent that schoolies and or coalfish were resident, quick single thumps of the rod tops announcing their presence. These fish tend to play with the bait, darting in for a quick nibble, shortening the snoods would have resulted in hook ups but I was after bigger things. A rattle and a slack line, rod in hand I tighten up and feel, a thump down is countered with a strike in the opposite direction, fish on. This feels like a good bass, pulling the rod around, quickly swimming in, backing up the beach and reeling like f**k I make contact, head shaking in the surf, a white belly in my headlight beam, MULLET? Now that’s a first, on lug of all baits, hooked fair and square in the top lip.

Beach caught grey mullet, on lugworm of all baits.

A few flounder, schoolie bass, coalfish, and dogfish follow in quick succession all on the inner rod before a classic thump thump slack line bite has me running up the beach again to make contact. Thankfully the rod heels over and I feel the kick of a nice codling, running 3/4 lbs lets hope that there is another. Shortly afterwards I get a repeat performance, another good fish on, the fight intensifies as the undertow takes hold then nothing. Reeling in I check the trace only to find that my hook knot has unravelled, you clot Ash.

A nice winter codling from a south Wexford beach.

Shortly after things went quite, I fished on until the bait ran out bang on low water at around 21.00 pm. It had been a good session with certainly the first two hours providing regular bites. In this day and age six species and two good fish in the three/four pound bracket is nothing to be sniffed at. With favourable tides over the weekend here’s to another crack at it.