Winter fishing on Anglesey is a cold and windy affair, but rewards can be great for those willing to step out of their armchairs and get a little rustled by the elements. When fishing winter storms on Anglesey, there is a much greater chance of catching a descent specimen. Bigger fish love the foul conditions, where they predate on other smaller fish. So if your a fisherman, get your rods out of the shed, dust them off and get ready for some winter species hunting. This will be the first of three blogs, on various species that I target fishing during these winter months. The first species we will cover is the mighty Cod.
North Wales fishing does produce good winter cod during colder winters, they can be caught from most corners of Anglesey, from the rocky platforms and breakwaters. Fishing on Anglesey in winter, is a style of its own and tracking the Cod down can prove quite a quest. Never the-less, it’s all part of the thrill of the hunt, to catch a prize fish for the kitchen table.
As a teenager can remember a friend catching 14 ld Cod from the end of Holyhead break water on the cold winter night after a howling gale, it was the biggest I’ve seen from the shore and to see a fish of that size emerge from the deep is an exciting affair and one that I wanted want to repeat again.
It was so cold on those Cod fishing nights we would flight over who had access to the petrol lamp to keep our hands warm, either that or it was a case of having to sit on your hands sometimes, it was that cold out, but it was worth it when that rod tipped bounced hard, signalling the arrival of the cod in the hours of the morning. Few people where out, most where tucked up in the warmth of their houses, but we where not. It was a small sacrifice to catch the bigger cod, when they were there.
There was nothing quite like pitching your broli shelter in the old days on the beach and getting all prepped out for a long freezing night after the Cod. Those cold nights, where it would get down to -5c after a storm, that’s when the cod would run. As long as you where warm and out of the elements then the fishing was bearable and quite enjoyable.
Here are my top tips on catching your winter Cod on Anglesey.
Catching your first decent Cod or Codling can be a great experience, and even more so, if its got a fair amount of flight in it. You know when its a Cod when that line stays deep very close into to the shore as you winding in and you can’t keep up with the fish, you know its either a Cod or Ray. Cod fight different to ray and Its very noticeable on the line, as it swins in towards you.
A little about the wonder full fish the Cod.
Cod are our winter species of fish that arrive on the shores of Britain between November and February, they come to feed on crab, worm and herring, which run this time of year also. They are a cold water fish and migrate south from regions such as Norway. They are wide mouth beasts and can swallow a fair sized meal in one sitting. They have ancestors on these shores also, such as Ling, Rockling and Pollack who are more distant ancestors. The Cod are actually called codling until the reach 7ld in weight. They become mature adult cod after this.
Here are my top tips for bagging some Cod this winter.
So its mid winter, you have been reading your sea angler magazine and you have got a bit of a buzz on, thinking you may be in with a chance of catching your first winter cod. Ok, if time is of the essence, then you should follow these points below, they will improve your chances of success I hope. In short, I’ve summarised my top points I would think through on where, when and how to target Cod when fishing on Anglesey. With over 25 years experience now, I guess I’ve got a little knowledge to build from, but compared to some of my peers, I’m still a rookie, every day is a school day.
Bait fresh bait
It’s super important for you to get the best quality bait and a lot of it. Don’t used old stuff its no where near as good as fresh. Black lug and squid should be your target baits or Blow / yellow tail lugworm. Head to the local, bait shop see the bottom of the blog on our resources part and you’ll see the three tackle shops I’ve listed. Malcom at ABC is a legend and will put you right and so is Mark at Winnies worms.
One of the most under thought of things is to do some speaking to local tackle shops on where the reports are coming in. If you don’t ask you wont know. Cod like bass move a lot. Find where they have been caught first, as questions to save lots and lots of time.
Your likely to need some heavy lifting gear for bigger baits, rougher ground and bigger fish hopefully. I use a Zipplex HST and a Pen 535. Standard Holyhead break water configuration.
15ld mono line on reel (Diawa), 60ld leader, 25ld hook length (Maxima ) keep lines strong and fresh over the winter months. Change lines from one winter to another as week and rock chaffe and fish all weaken your lines repeatedly. Hook lengths should get cut off after every session and replaced (take all discarded line and hooks home with you)
Tides & Times
Bigger tides such 30ft + at low water up after dark. Look for the biggest 2 tides in both January and February and try to mary that in with a good weather window over low some where and fish the tide up 4 hours maybe- if you can still hold bottom by then you are doing well!
Months best for Cod.
Dec, Jan, Feb when water temperatures are at their coldest, Cod have a natural anti freeze, like flounder in their blood and thrive on cold waters. They enter the River Mersey and River Dee and go way up the estuary’s mouth feeding on crab, quite a long commute from Norway isn’t it.
Type of ground
Rough ground is best for cod – find a spot that’s straight into deep water, breakwaters and promenades are a good example where you can reach deeper water and channels with ease. Cod do love kelp also, on the east coast where the catch them at Newcastle, they are bronze looking in colour, but around Anglesey they are more light coloured in nature from the sand that they feed over.
Hook and Bait Size
Minimum 2/0 upwards and depending on what baits you are using, will decide on the style of hook. Vikings are best for Crab, Mustad do some other great styles also, don’t go with fine wire, go with a big gape and a strong metal. Match the bait size you are going to use, along with the line strength.
Size of Bait
Ok this tactic we use to keep small pesky fish like pin whiting away and seek out the bigger bests. Use a 2 whole black lug worm and a whole squid as bait on the pennel rig mentioned below.
Rig set up
Pennel and or pulley, one hook rigs are best I find, if you are attempting to go longer distances and use bigger baits. A two hook clipped rig can also work if you are using smaller baits and targeting Codling of 3-4ld. I always use a grip lead of say 5-6 oz.
Hours of fishing
Darkness is the best that plummets the temperatures down lower and drives the cod in shore to feed after a storm. Pick cold spells also with some swell running in the water, the cod like the water to be mixed up.
Stormy seas are what stir up the sediment and allow the cod to hunt for their prey in the mixed up and murk waters. They are masters at navigating murky water conditions and feed most readily in these conditions after a blow, I find. However the key word being after a blow. Look for a glass calm night straight a NW storms that brings in with it a cold air temp
If your not warm and dry your not going to want to continue fishing. Dress appropriately. I use my super warm scuba under garments for cold night, take the waterproofs and the extra warm layers
Take two head lamps and a warm tilley or coleman lamp for warmth, also I know its old school but I do like to have a glow tip on the end of the rod for bit detection. A word on light discipline, as I like to call it, If your on a pier then fine but if your in a reasonable shallow water reigon like a beach, keep your light off the water, you actually spook fishing in the shallows, which could be your prize cod, feeding on the rise of the tide.
Cod give a very classic style of bite that you come to recognise, and with, it you must act quick to snag one as it moves. Cod eat on the move and they are quite clever creatures. The classic bite given by one is the large pull then a slack line. The rod will tug and give a thump (I would thoroughly recommend setting a ratchet if you have one on the reel as an alarm for when it goes) then watch as the line goes slack, as the cod is swimming in towards you pulling your grip lead out, they will then twist an turn trying to un hook themselfs.
Take a brolli and seatbox if you can for comfort, sitting down under the shelter of a brolli and also have some lighting such as a tilley lamp for warmth, you wont stick it out if your not comfy and youll make bad decisions the more uncomfortable you are.
Bring some warm food with you, soups and some warm drinks. I used to love making French onion soup for the flask, fantastic thing to take on a little night fish. Bring a second flask of coffee to wash it down. Stay off the beer it cools your core temperature down, which is not ideal at sub zero temperatures.
If your fishing comfy chances are its going to be beach or breakwater style fishing. If that’s the case then, you can get away with a brolli and seat box. They are the best shelter options. Ideally find a venue that has natural shelter from wind, or that you at least can have the wind on your back.
It’s all about location
Location location location as they say. Cant get more true. As you all know I don’t give my spots away freely on this blog and for a very good reason. 35 years of fishing has taught me many lessons! But you now I’m not going to leave you all in the dark either so fear not. Cod are quite predictable beasts, location wise on the island – there is a pattern and I’ve seen it. In winter they are feeding on herring, worm and crab here which as soon as you know that bait grounds gives you half of clues. They like deep water and they like murky mixed up water. Look for mixing front in the water and strong tidal regions.
Ok so here are some of my top spots that I know produce Cod on Anglesey
- Menai straight
- Beaumaris Pier
- Holyhead breakwater (the end of it)
- Treaddur bay on the right side of the bay
- Porth Y post
- Amlwch break water
Get there in the light
Arrive 2 hours before dark on the tides you choose to fish and set up your kit in plenty of time, check your kit and headlamps and set your broil, bait and rods up on the rest up the beach. This way your not rushed under the cover of darkness when the fish are already getting pulled from the water.
A reward for your Patience
You may not get it right the first session, the second or the third session. In fact it may take a fortnight or more to get catch a cod. But keep trying things, new places, different size tides, if you know a location produces fish. Test different states of tide and where you cast. Test baits alone rather than in cocktail. Fish it in different weather types
If your fishing rock marks you haven’t visited before, then go and see them the day before. Rocks are super wet here in the winter and should be treated with care. Roge swells you have watch for too, very big swells can build from the westerly storms, so wait until sea state has died down to fish. Think of flotation suits and life jackets too in winter, if it increases your safety, why not. Also no bloody welington boots on rock mark- thats asking for it.
Leave nothing but foot prints
This is a plead to all fellow anglers. This wonderful island we are blessed with an its resources, can’t sustain much more plastic along its shorelines, so for goodness sakes, take all your littler home with you, lines, hooks, bags, every single thing. Leave but your footprints in the sand.
35cm / 14 inches (This hasn’t changed since I was 16 ironically)- Don’t flout these rules, if the fish is under size, do the right thing and put it back in a kind and forgiving way, walk them out into the surf if you have waders on. If they are of size then, dispatch the fish straight away do not let it dry drown. I’ve growled at many anglers who do this.
Tides and weather info
I use XC weather for my Anglesey wind forecasts and I
Use tides for fishing to see what the tidal data is doing
Bait and tackle stores:
Cod fishing Books :
On amazon I found some pretty cool books on Cod and sea fishing in general, may be worth a look if you new to the sport- other than that get some old fishing magazines and read until you learn!
Cod Fishing Lessons :
I running a few sets of lessons winter fishing this year, that will focus on Cod and other species like Coal fish, Whiting and Ray. If you interested in having some coaching 1-1 in the colder months, click the image below and drop me a line on the contact form.
Thanks for stopping by and reading our blog we appreciate every single one of you. Feel free to leave us a comment, give the blog a like and share the content far and wide. If you have a favourite Cod fishing spot on Anglesey that you know of drop a mention in the comments below, we love to hear from you all.
Tan Y Tro Nesaf / Until the next time,
Front cover image this week by :Sea Angler magazine
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