Sea fishing on Anglesey in the winter months is prime. The crowds have left the island and there is not a soul in sight on the beaches most nights. Night fishing is an exciting winter past time for most anglers, with the promise of a big cod for the pan, and the prize is always worth the wait. With winter comes with it north westerly gales and biting temperatures, it can put most anglers off the sport this time of year. But the more hardened anglers or should I say seasoned anglers, are able to tolerate and even thrive in the cold winter months whilst fishing here on Anglesey. There a just a few tips an tricks to help you stay warm and enjoy the hunt for your winter fishing specimens. Then you will be ready to go out and catch your first winter specimens on a cold crisp night here.
Oceanography and environment
The water temperature here on Anglesey drops to about 5c in late jan early feb, which is quite cold for most. With these sharp drops in water temperature, come the more cold water species of fish on their migratory routes.
For those of you unaware, the fish, just like the birds, move and migrate to the favourite summer and winter destinations in search of their favourite food. I will do further blogs in the future regarding this phenomena for you all, but needless to say it’s a wonder to imagine the distances that fish cover in order to reach both feeding and breeding grounds. North wales I might add is THE top destination for fishing in the UK, and the fish travel thousands of miles in some cases to over winter in more ambient temperatures.
While the water temperatures are cool to cold in these parts due to the drop in solation from the suns grazing angle, many fish disappear from the shallows and move to deeper waters where they are safer from storms and predators and more insulated from the colder temperatures.
In February and March fishing has its barren two months as the entire breeding cycle is underway offshore, meaning that the fish travel to their respective offshore deep sea breeding grounds to spawn in safety. So just like the hunger gap on the land where your spring greens are not quite ready and the land is otherwise farrow, so too is the ocean is in its farrow cycle also. Everything in this wonderful world in which we live revolves around cycles.
Needless to say in the winter months of Feb and March we don’t do much fishing. The rivers are discharging very large amounts of cold run off water in the mountains which some fish can find hard to tolerate and the cold easterly winds whistle up, which all make the fish stop feeding and bring them in to a hibernation state. The old saying from when I was small was “ when the wind blows east, the fish bite least” ! So save these months for heading into the mountains.
Fish Species on Anglesey
So what species might we encounter during the cold dark winter months on Anglesey?. Well, fishing on Anglesey during the winter months, you will most likely catch Cod, Codling, Coal fish, Whiting, Dog Fish, Bull Huss, Herring, Bass and a few more smaller species such as ling, rockling, maybe some winter flounder and dab too.
My favourite fishing to do an Anglesey has to be Cod fishing. There are many locations on Anglesey to head to get your prize fish species here. But few produce the big fish like back in the 1960s, I guess this is a result of over fishing in Europe and scandanavia as a whole.
The cod move down from Norway and Scandinavia to feed on the herring shoals and on smaller fishing like Pouting and Poor cod, (both barbed chinned cousins of the larger Cod) in our local. They also feed on crab edibles and hard backed this time of year.Smaller juvenile fish like these can be easy hovered up by large cod, having caught a couple of double figure cod im my days, I can attest to how large the gape of their jaws are. They could swallow a rugby ball with ease.
Anglesey fishing Locations
So the areas to head for Cod are not quite as east as they once where..If you are serious about hunting the cod down you may have to do some legwork. The Menai straits is probably the more certain destination to catch your prized fish. There are many spots both along the Anglesey side of the Menai strait that will produce Codling and Cod. Pwyll Fanog in th Straits is a prime location if you can get past the tackle loss. The Swellies area between the two bridges I am also told in good faith, fishes very well.
The end of Holyhead Breakwater can produce some beauties the night after a big westerly blow if the winds drop right off…pick your spots well and do some home work by speaking to the local tackle shops and forums these days are rich with information and catch reports.
Treaddur Bay can produce big cod in the winter also and main areas such as Lilly pond bay, Ravens point, the sewer pipe and Lees caravan park all can produce good Codling and the occasional cod. Tackle losses can be quite heavy at Lees and the sewer pipe from what I can remember. Lilly pond and Ravens point are not so bad as the deep water goes directly onto sand.
Time and Tides for fishing on Anglesey
They say time and tide waits for no man and this is very true. Tides are a key point to think of when you are fishing on Anglesey both in the summer and winter months. Rock marks and beach marks differ greatly, as in when they fish best. There is usually a window of 2-3 hours when the fish are feeding at the optimum and you really have to nail it right or you can be out in the cold for hours wasting your time.
Beaches fish best from low water up to high water, I never fish a beach with the tide down, as the fish are retreating after the maximum tidal flow has ebbed, and they don’t want to get stranded as the tide retreats. (unless you are fishing 1 hour after high while the current is still powerful- I would say that is the exception, especially on a spring tide with a wind direction that is pushing the tide up).
Rock marks I like to fish from low up also but they will fish down towards low water better than beaches as there is more water on their fish’es backs so they don’t have to think abut retreating to safety.
My tacktick is to fish low up or 2 hours after low up on say 80+% of my trips out. From years of trial and error these time slots work best for me, others will have different data and opinions. Anyhow to fish for cod I would arrive at most locations at Low water in the day light, the reason for this is, I can see where the channels are, where the snags are, look for free tackle before I fish. Arriving in the day light also gives you the added bonus to make a play of where is best to fish how to escape an incoming tide and take some nice pictures and relax! Plus setting up in the dark is not too much fun, things get lots and miss placed and it generally feels more rushed and stressed. I like to have my lines in the water by sundown with plenty of time to spare.
Best weather for fishing on Anglesey
Cod and most species will feed after a good blow. The water is churned up and discoloured and they can use their instincts to hunt almost camouflaged. Fishing on Anglesey, if I’m targeting Cod in particular, I will watch for a very strong westerly gale and then they day after it drops I will fish a low water tide, two to fours up depending on the size of the tide and its strength.
For Bass you want to fish the beach in a storm, so windy in fact that you couldn’t walk your dog!! That’s the old saying.. Fish again from Low to mid tide up and cast into the third breaker.
Whiting are a different kettle of fish, you want a calm calm night with not a ripple on the water and you will catch millions, a star filled clear night with a frost is a typical whiting fishing night here on Anglesey. I love the second or third bend on Holyhead break water to fish for whiting in the winter months.
Keeping warm fishing over winter on Anglesey
So tips and tricks for cod and winter fishing overall. Well lest assume first that we are on a beach or at least a non steep ground location. I like to bring s brolli for wind shelter, this is a must. You can get them for many locations online and don’t cost an arm and a leg to buy. I like ones with detachable wings to keep the wind from whistling through. Leeda and Mustad make good ones.
Next an all in one thermal suit is amazing, I don’t have one now, but im considering it. Companies like Leeda, Fladen and Imax make good ones. The is the option of going for a full flotation suit also at the same time with these models.
Lastly another good tip for keeping warm is have a Tilley lamp. Now there are two different schools of thought on this one, some anglers say the light can scare the fish off, others say not. Anyhow they make a good warm companion and I like them for Winter months, plus if your headlamp gives up. I like Coleman north star and Coleman Power house models.
Headlamps- take two with you in case one runs out, I use now the Cree lamps which are very good headlamps for incredibly cheap. Be mindful when charging not to over charge them though, they have been known to catch fire! I charge mine in the kitchen where I can keep an eye on it!
Thermos Flasks of warm drinks for the trips are a must for winter fishing on Anglesey. I have a couple of types but Thermos or Stanley still produce the best quality ones.
Bait for winter fishing on Anglesey
The most east one to answer for you all.. Black lug worm and squid. This works for all three special uniformly and you can juts go with lug if you prefer and a full squid. Second best is yellow tail lug worm and rag worm I guess. I like to what we call cocktails with the bait, by mixing and matching the baits together to create stronger scent trail in the water. The squid acts as a flag to the fish you see and the worm produces the blood scent that the fish can pick up on.
For whiting I use small worm baits on small hooks tipped with squid again. For Cod and bass we try to go with bigger hooks and use bigger baits.
Bait for winter fishing – summery plus some others I haven’t mentioned :
Black Lug, blow Lugworm or yellow tail lug worm, Rag worm- There are the primo in winter baits in my humble opinion, even better if in conjunction with other baits.
Squid, Razor fish, Mussle, Peeler crab, Molluscs and clams – Great for tipping off worm baits
Mackerel, Herring and Sandeel- I keep these to a minimum as it only attracts the dog fish and Bull Huss.
Tackle for Winter fishing on Anglesey
How it generally works is that we use stronger rods, reels and line sin the in winter months. Why? Because there is more weed, more drag and bigger float some to deal with. Plus sometimes bigger baits to cast out in stormy seas and strong winds to target bigger fish.
Light tackle pairings like my summer style you may have seen like when I’m fishing for Mackerel or Pollack, is very different to this style of fishing.
I like to use two heavy duty rods for my winter fishing rods for winter fishing a Zipplex HST and Century Carbon metal, these are tough strong rods that can deal with 3 free fish and a strong tide over rough ground if needs be. I used to love the Century tip tornado– my favourite of all time!
To this end in the winter I use a Penn 525 Fishing reel loaded with 18ld mainline and a shock leader up to 70ld for casting a 5-6oz weight out into the surf.
If I’m fishing beach locations what I will use is my Century rod with the reel low down and a reducer in the base for longer range casting. The reel of choice is always a Abu 6500CT (silver) my favourite reel of all time! I have 5 with varying options abilities- yes I know I’m a bit of a fishing geek. When I’m going for long range beach species, I will use a two hook clipped rig for more aerodynamic capabilities.
I use a Shakespeare seat box (small) with a break away back rest for transporting all of my fishing goods around. I use a Ian golds dual head rod rest, as I generally like to have two rods for fishing one close in and one far out. I like the Ian gold’s rod rests with the yellow plastic cups and rod supports. I pack two to three rig wallets with pre made rigs for specific species. Mostly Cod, Bass and whiting this time of year. Hooks are paired to match the species that I’m targeting, along with the hook line strength.
Rigs that I like to use and two hook Pennell’s for cod, pulley rigsfor cod or one up and one down style rigs, that has a 30cm line running below the weight to make sure at least one weight is on the seabed if the tide is running. If you want to know more about the style of rigs or anything else juts comment below and I can do further blogs for you all on these topics. If you don’t have time to build your own you can buy them here.
Weights are typically 4-6 oz gripper weights either breakaway a firm favourite and also Gemini if I’m fishing off a beach only- I find that they sometimes don’t release their legs on rough ground. I find it best to make your own, here is one of the moulds that I use.
I take a bucket for the bait and sometimes if I’m fishing over low water I will dig some works also while I’m there. Fresh bait on demand.
Size limits, ethics and sustainability
Fishing in the UK has had size limits from the shore since I was a boy, these limits have been put in place to safeguard the future generations of the species we have come to know in these parts of the world. I have had countless quiet talks with many anglers who flout these rules. The reason is simple, you take out the large fish and juvenile fish and we will destroy our stocks. So take a look at the size limits for Bass, Cod, Whiting, Pouting, Coal fish and Dog fish here. You can purchase a fish measurer from most tackle shops or from here.
Releasing your catch.. If for what ever reason your fish is undersize, unhook and walk it back into the sea, holding it using a rag, (as your heat in your hands can damage a cold blooded fishes scales) and the hold the fish in the water and release it slowly. I wear waders so that I can enter the water up to knee level to do this. Its nice seeing them swim off to fight another day 😉
Litter.. Do I have to mention this even? You have no idea how much littler is discarded by fishermen all along our beautiful coast. It honestly saddens me. If you take plastics out with you, please take them home with you. Discard bait without its plastics in the breakers and take it home to dispose of. Burn it if you will-as long as it doesnt not end up in the marine cycle.
Take a spare bag with you, and if you see marine littler pick a few bits up. It cost you nothing and you can re pay your dues to mother nature in return for the good will she allows to us to live here..
Winter fishing Locations Anglesey :
Holyhead breakwater: Second bend or end of the beak water proper
Beaumaris Pier : Towards the end casting out into the channel
Treaddur bay : Ravens point,
Rhoscolyn : Lilly pond bay
Porth daffarch : Flat rocks or porth Gurddu
Menai Strait : Pwyllfanog, Swellies and Brynscencin are all good spots
(for the purpose of the blogs I wont link directly to each one of these locations, but if you do a quick google search you will find them easy enough)
Tides & Solunar– https://tides4fishing.com/uk/wales/holyhead
Fish sizes and catch by laws–
Websites and forums :
(quite a good little site to show locations on a map)
There is no denying I love fishing so much it over spills into other ears of my life! I have been teaching fishing now for a couple of seasons and really enjoy the one on one approach to help developing such valuable skills in others here on the shores of Anglesey.
This winter will will be running some more 1-1 coaching and offering half and full days winter fishing for the more hardy anglers in these brisk conditions. Conditions might be brisk however but the rewards are great with catches that can come. I teach most styles of fishing from Bass, Beach, Rock, Float, Boat and more. If it maybe of interest to book a session, drop me a message and say hello here.
Winter fishing on Anglesey is a very productive time of year to bag a good catch this time of year. With the beaches and rock fishing marks on Anglesey quiet this time of year, competition is at its lowest for the fish that grace our shores.
Cod, Whiting, Coal fish, Pouting, Poor cod, Conger, Ray and and many more all are prevalent along the shores this time of year and are hungry for food. Get good fresh bait, pick your tides and and local well and you will be in for a good evenings fishing.
Pop into the local fishing shops and talk to the patient owners about what being caught and where, to get an inside line whilst your here, they ca give invaluable advice on catches, conditions, baits and tides to fish. Both Malcom at ABC in Beaumaris and Mark at Winnies Worms in Holyhead are both super good guys and will point you in the right direction.
I was fishing last night and whilst thinking about this blog I realised one of my favourite past tie while I was fishing was simply stargazing. The stars last night where juts unreal, it was so beautiful to be out in the cold crisp nights air and to be a part of what felt a pretty big universe. So nature can reward you greatly for just being out there and part of it.
Most of all though, leave nothing but foot prints in the sand and I hope you have many happy hours of fishing here over winter, maybe see you on the shore line. Tight lines.
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Front cover image by : Sea Angler magazine
Bit about the blogger : My names Nick Fraser and I’m a local Marine Geologist and Oceanographer. I have moved back to the island of Anglesey for the past five years having grown up here and moved away. I am a passionate outdoor lover with a penchant for all things natural. When I’m not blogging in ofter found climbing, fishing or out in the wild in and around north Wales.