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Winter Cod Fishing Hints and Tips

Marsden Beach, South Shields, Tyne and Wear – a fantastic cod mark along with the surrounding  areas
Beautiful Dunstanborough located in Northumberland close to the castle which is a popular tourist attraction
Beautiful Dunstanborough located in Northumberland close to the castle which is a popular tourist attraction

Born and bread on the NE coast of England, we really are spoilt for choice with cod/codling, both winter and summer. When the conditions are right and the opportunity arises to target cod from the shore, knowledge plays a big part in how your session could plan out. Certain baits have advantages over other baits depending on the area your planning to fish, bait changes can help target bigger spawning cod November – February, my favourite choice for this time of year is cart, bluey, herring, cuttle fish and squid all bound into a cocktail.

Beautifully present crab cart baiting
Horse mussel which unfortunately humans can’t eat however these are deadly attractive to cod

Early season September/October, personally I find freshly gutted black lug, live black lug, fresh or frozen peeler crab or soft backs work extremely well over clean to mixed ground which can be found in the below image along with large fresh blow lug and mussels. Which cod could ever resist this fine bait, well of course unless there is no cod there!

The above image show an October cod caught in flat seas over heavy ground at a mark known as the target located in Ryhope. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this mark, I highly recommend going with a local who knows how to access the cliffs. Early season hungry cod look for pretty much most baiting especially during or after a storm!

Best conditions to target cod/codling
Here in the NE of England stormy conditions/rough seas are the best time to go on the hunt for some prime fish, winds from the North, North East and South East are usually best! Darkness is another great factor giving fish confidence to move into the shallower hunting for pretty much anything they can find.
Daylight can still be very productive during or after a storm given that there is plenty of colour in the water, daylight fishing tends to be best in deeper water.

!!As seen on the below slide, some of the marks are not easily accessible. Although I am showing these marks in my post, myself and Limitless Sea Fishing ltd cannot take any responsibility for anglers who do try to access these marks. We recommend that you ALWAYS seek local advice or guidance especially if you are not 100% confident!!

Rigs, tackle, lines and rods
When it comes to rigs when targeting cod I rarely switch; simple pulley pennel rigs when fishing over clean and mixed ground, no fancy bling components or bait clips. I simply use a lead with a built in tattoo needle which I cut down to my desired size and simply bend it (creating my bait clip). The same goes for rough ground fishing apart from I rarely use a pennel hook, instead a single hook with a length of paper clip wrapped round the shank, see photo. 

Rods
This is a funny one, personally I think it’s down to personal preference, that goes for brand, length, reel position, what reel you use, what ground you fish and if you use mono or braid. My advice would be if your casting style isn’t great, get some lessons or go for a through actioned rod using the conventional “overhead thump” style of cast this works extremely well with a continental style rod. 

As for other rods (don’t want to bore you to death) if you fish clean to mixed ground or rough ground for that matter, try a friends rod before making a mistaken purchase, some advice I can give is if your using braid something with a nice through action with a sensible tip even the softest of rods will accommodate most fishing scenarios when using braid, this is down to the zero/minimal stretch in PE line.

Monofilaments 
Whilst using mono over clean to mixed ground, think of what you will mainly be casting out and also what you mainly target ?. Some anglers prefer longer rods whilst others prefer a shorter rod again this is personal preference. Myself personally would use a powerful rod with heavy line over mixed/rough ground with a leader.

Big Cod Baits
Come November – February the big female spawning cod are looking for that three course meal haha. I tend to find big cocktail baiting’s mounted on 4/0, 5/0 and 6/0 occasionally even 8/0’s when I’m feeling lucky, any fish baiting’s combined (bluey and herring being my favourite) along with mussels, razor fish, edible crab (cart), squid and even cuttle fish, all great meals for them big spanner’s.

Where to find them?
The first few rough seas can make weed/summer growth a pain, this usually clears up after a big storm. During storms deep gulleys surrounded by outer rock scars are great for lobbing your chosen bait in, beach marks with gulleys and features can be a great option too. On a dying sea the likes of piers (not really my thing) deep tidal marks are all worth a look.

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Shore Skate Fishing

Starting off from the beginning, I was always brought up around fishing, As a young lad I spent a lot of time with my father fishing around the east coast. Back then we weren’t fishing for anything special, just the usual dog fish, cod, ling ect, but little did we know that even back then there were local anglers tackling much bigger and rewarding fishing in our local waters! It wasn’t unto we went into lock down that I started to get back into angling and that’s when I decided I wanted to start targeting common skate. Even more so that during the summer months they turn up very close to my local area so it’s an absolute treat for all us local anglers.

The above picture is of me with my very first female skate, if I remember right she weighed in at 147LB! It took me almost a year and a half to finally catch one, after many blanks & failed hook-ups the day had finally come. And that night is when my obsession for these beautiful fish started!! Since then I’ve gone on to land in total 14 Females up to 205LB & 5 males up to 149LB

Baits

Where I fish our preferred baits are typically mackerel, anything from small Joeys to whole jumbo mackerel but I do like to switch it up now and then and use blueys & whole unwashed squid cocktails which I find just as effective. In reality anything that gives off a good smelly scent is sure to work when targeting skate.

Terminal Tackle

When it comes to targeting skate and the tackle I like to use I like to try and keep it as simple as possible: Starting with main line I like to use an 80LB braid straight through to my trace, for traces I typically use 200/250LB mono, a 6FT rig body with a 3FT hook snood! but have landed a few previously on 100LB mono. When it comes to hooks my favourites at the moment are Koike 10/0 circles in a pennel formation with the barbs crushed, we’ve found this to give us virtually no deep hooked fish and almost every time hooked in the side of the mouth as shown by my picture above!

Rods/Reels

When it comes to picking rods and reels I like to use ones that pack a bit of power, my current setup is 2x Kompressor SS paired with my Daiwa BG8000 but I’m looking forward to getting out this year and putting my Limitless Avenja PRO-sport through its paces!! Which I can already tell will handle the job. Before I switched over to fixed spools I was using either Penn 535’s or Fathom casting specials which I personally found to be top reels for the job and they’re reasonably priced! Really any beach caster with a bit of back bone will handle a skate!

Venues

Typically most of my skate are taken over clean sand or muddy bottoms but that doesn’t mean to say you can’t catch them over other types as I’m sure many people have hooked into them at the most unexpected spots which I have in the past, which takes a bit more doing trying to retrieve such a big fish over snaggy & kelpy ground!

Skate fishing has to be one of the most rewarding these days, but it’s can also be one of the most testing types also. It can take months or even years of targeting just to get that first interaction with one but when that day finally comes it will be sure to change you from there on!! Nothing beats that sound of a screaming drag, your rod thrashing around in the rod rest and feeling your heart beats reach 100MPH knowing that you’re moments away from strapping into one of the best fights of your angling life.

Martin Gibson

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Summer Cod Fishing With Arran Stead

Living on the North East we’re extremely spoiled when it comes to Cod fishing, however most anglers put their Cod fishing gear aside when February time comes, for me this isn’t the case. As much as I like standing on sand and rocks in the depths of winter lobbing baits into rocky, kelp filled gullys with the chance of some big bags and fish, over the years I’ve had my fair share of Cod but around 8 or 9 years ago I got a taste for catching these favoured species in the summer and have not looked back since.

Whilst everyone is awaiting the winter cod season during the summer months I’m usually stood in my t shirt and breathable waders on a rocky surface catching beautifully coloured red/orange cod, wrasse and pollack in the sun dreading the winter months.

There is lots of venues and areas in the country where you can target Cod in the spring/summer months but I’m basing this article from my own experience on the NE coastline, North Yorkshire and the Southeastern coast of Bonny Scotland.

Summer/Spring Cod usually start to show on the big tides in May given that we have had a nice warm spring and crab are plentiful, May and June are the months where you find a mix of coloured Cod held up in kelp and boulder filled gully’s I also find your standard coloured Cod these are what I refer to as tidal fish, fish that you find in a more deeper opened environment usually swimming past in the tide run picking up small fish and crustaceans. The marks I tend to find these tidal fish often require long distance casting, for me a decent 50lb braid with a 80-90lb braided leader for added abrasion resistance and to absorb the power of long distance casting. As we get into July we are at prime time to catch these beautiful fish and you will find by then the Cod have settled into the kelp beds given them their golden orange/red colour from the iodine in the kelp you will find these fish may stay coloured into September/October.

Now targeting summer Cod is completely opposite to winter fishing, you want the sea to be as calm and as clear as possible. Now tides all fall down to the venue your fishing for example if your fishing into shallow gully’s a big ebbing tide means their isn’t going to be a lot of water, this however doesn’t always mean no fish but for me personally when lobbing in close into these gully’s or holes I prefer a medium sized tide. As mentioned before regarding what I call tidal fish a big tide is certainly beneficial.

So let’s get onto tackle, I’m a true believer that simplicity is important both financially and also for landing that fish you have just hooked into. Summer cod tend to habitat amongst kelp, rock and ledges so rotten bottoms are a must! A good strong line, rig body and hook length is needed I’ve already stated the main line I use and that is paired with fixed spool reels but each to their own. Rig wise a simple rig or clipped down rig using a lead with a bait clip or a canny link to keep your Rig as simple as possible any additional unnecessary components may cost you a fish or your leader/mainline, for my rough ground rigs I tend to use a 100lb rig body paired with a 50 or 60lb hook length. Some people may use a pennel hook but me personally I prefer to fish with a single hook this again stops any further snags/lost fish IMO, I use a paper clip/piece of wire wrapped around the shank of my hook this holds the baiting in place. A simple beach caster with a bit of back bone is ample to ease your fish over the ledges, boulders and through the thick dense kelp, hook wise I like a hook with a wide gape my hook of choice being the Ultra XT from Limitless, choose your hook by gauging the size of your baiting I use anything from a 3/0 to a 6/0. Bait… top quality bait is a must a fresh crab or half a fresh crab bound in with fresh mussel is my favourite, can’t get your hands on fresh bait then don’t worry top quality frozen bait can be just as effective.

By reading this article I hope that some of my knowledge may be useful to anyone reading, now go and find a nice patch of kelp and rugged terrain and reap the rewards by watching that beautifully looking coloured cod come through the crystal clear water whilst the sun beams down on you.

Arran Stead

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Plaice fishing from the shore

Fishing for plaice has become one of my
favourite sessions, to both plan and fish.
Through the spring, plaice move into
shallow coastal waters to feed after a
winter of spawning offshore. It’s during this
time that my annual plaice hunt begins,
usually mid march. Carrying on until early
november usually.
This flatfish species are usually found on
sandy banks and muddy/sandy beaches and estuaries throughout the
UK. I have found sunrise and daytime hours to be most prolific fishing
times, although it is noted by scientists studying natural behaviour that
plaice are most active at night, laying still in the daytime hours, burying
themselves into the seabed for camouflage.

Baits

● Peeler crab
● Black lug 
● Ragworm 
● Squid strips 
● Mussels 
● Clams 

Small lugworm or ragworm baits, tipped with a small piece of a peeler crab is by far my favourite bait for plaice, but your choice of bait should match what the fish are feeding on in the area you’re fishing. I’ve also found lugworm tipped with thin strips of squid to be productive.

fresh popping peeler crabs!

fresh live rag worms!

this flounder was tempted by some beads and an added spinner blade “bling” as we call it.
Plaice

Rigs

Shore fishing rigs for plaice are generally either flapper rigs, or 1 up 1
down rigs. The wessex rig being a variation of the 1 up 1 down and often
my go to. I like a rolling lead, with weight depending on where I’m
fishing.Hook size is down to your discretion, but between size 4 and 1/0 are the general sizes usually associated with plaice fishing. Long shank aberdeen hooks are ideal for plaice as like flounders, they have a tendency to completely inhale baits and are often deep hooked. You will often find the bite indication of a plaice to be a low nibbling bite, whilst the fish settles down next to your bait and eats it. With the bites not being massively positive, you may find yourself leaving it a little while to develop. It’s because of this that flatfish will often take a hook down deep. A long shank hook makes disgorging easier, and can also aid in bait presentation. As this is my
take on plaice fishing, I’ll say that my usual hook size is a size 4, as I usually keep what plaice i catch for the table or freezer.

There is a fair bit of debate over whether
“bling” on your hook snoods is necessary,
with many anglers preferring to keep their
snoods clear of beads. Personally I’ve
always used 8 to 12 beads above each
hook, usually black and dark green. It may
be my imagination but i’ve always found
this colour combination to attract fish,
especially plaice and Flounder ( pictured ).The addition of a spinner blade can also add extra
attraction.

Before concluding this article I’d like to mention a few differences
between plaice and flounder, as the two species can be hard to tell
apart. There is a lot of variation within the two species of colour, bony
ridges and lack of spot density and how bright their spots are, and the
easiest way to tell is shape.

Pictured here is a flounder. With its very faint
spots, long paddle tail and almost diamond
like body. Underneath they are a bright white.
Occasionally you may find a double sided
flounder, which is white both sides or doesn’t
have a white side at all.

plaice.

Pictured here is a Plaice. Notice it has more
defined red spots. The spots can be even
more vivid than they are on this fish. It also
has a narrower, less squared off tail and the
body shape and fins are a more rounded
shape. Underneath they are a more off white
colour compared to the bright white
underneath of a flounder.

So to conclude this article on my take on Plaice fishing, i’d like to thank you for taking your time to read, and i hope you find something within this article that helps you in the future targeting this fun fish.

Tight Lines all.

Kyle Stubbs.
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Bass Fishing with Bait by Kyle Stubbs

For me, like many others, bass fishing has become more of an obsession than a hobby. From catching my first over 20 years ago, to the last only a few weeks ago, the feeling is the same every time. Big or small never matters when you feel the eager thump on the other end of your line. Growing up in Coastal North Wales, I have been spoilt with opportunity to hunt this silver thoroughbred fish in some of the most pristine habitat the UK has to offer. This article will be my take on rigs, methods, baits and other miscellaneous tips that I have found useful in my life-long pursuit of silver.

Baits
· Peeler crab (or softies)
· Rag worm
· Blow lug
· Black lug

Live baits
· Live prawn
· Live mackerel
· Live sand eel
· Live butterfish

There are many products that are marketed to enhance catch rates, baits and attraction for fish. I have always been a believer that for Bass, you should keep it simple. Fresh bait is key!!

Match your bait to the ground you are fishing, and the prey species most likely to be what the fish in the area are hunting.

I have often found the larger specimen fish are picked out by using live bait. Not always of course, but when the opportunity presents its-self to put a live bait out I like to try and make the most of it. The excitement of having a live bait swimming around under your float, knowing it could disappear any minute is completely unmatched by anything else in an angler’s world in my opinion.

A simple sliding float rig or locked in float with specifically cut hook length matching the depth you would like to fish is perfect for this. Your float should be rated with high enough buoyancy rating (usually in grams) to suspend a small ball or inline lead and the weight of your bait without dipping below the surface.

For live baiting with joey mackerel, I like to use a 5/0 chinu or circle hook.

If I want the fish to stay up in the water ill hook it through its jaws or lightly through its head.

If I want the fish to swim down, ill hook the fish behind the dorsal fin.

For other live baits, you should use your discretion when baiting up as to what size and pattern hook you feel may be best suited to the situation.

Rigs (shore)

There are many variables that should come into play when you decide on what rig you’re going to fish with. These include what bait you’re using, tide in the venue, the type of ground you’re fishing over and how you’d like to present the bait in the water column to name a few.

So, for example, as a fast-running estuary angler primarily I like to use a very simple running ledger rig, as I don’t need to achieve any distance in my casts. I like to use a small rod and a 4000-size reel, aiming to place my baits in and around eddies just off the main flow of tide. Fish are often holding in these areas, waiting for an easy meal to come by.

A pair of 3/0 or 4/0 chinu or Aberdeen hooks on 4 feet or so of 60lb mono or Fluro, leading to a swivel on my mainline is how I set up, with a zip slider and a 2-ounce lead running freely on my 15lb mainline.

When fishing this type of area with this type of rig, my bait is almost always a whole peeler or soft crab. Baited to look fairly natural, leaving the legs on one side. This gives the crab some natural movement as it moves along in the current. After all, I expect the bass to be looking for crabs with legs! Keeping your bait as natural looking as possible will only ever benefit you when it comes to bass fishing. Another type of venue I often fish for bass is open beaches, during or just after some stormy weather. You may hear anglers referring to a heavy surf as,” looking Bassy”, and this is often the case. The action of the waves on the beach stirs up worm and other food species, inevitably attracting predatory fish. Along with the water being heavily oxygenated by the gas exchange caused by the surface agitation, this can be a peak time for fish activity and a very attractive period for anglers.

Surf beaches are they are often called, can be fished with many different rigs and baits.

A favourite and often under rated rig in my opinion is the trusty 2 hook flapper, baited with rag worm, blow lug or black lug. Hook size will be down to your discretion and usually matched to your preferred bait size, but I like to start with a 1/0 or 2/0 and work up or down in size, depending on missed bites or possibly a good stamp of fish showing from the off.

Other rigs to use include the pulley Pennel, pulley dropper, dropper loop rig and a single hook flapper also.

Grip leads will help keep your bait where you want it to be in a violent surf and stop it washing up at your feet minutes after casting as sometimes is the case. I like to start with a 5 or 6 ounce. Remember if you’re power casting, you ideally want to use 10lb of shock leader for every ounce of weight. So that’s a 50lb leader for 5oz and 60lb for 6oz and so on.

Fishing low diameter line without a shock leader is possible when fishing in close, but keep in mind a leader will also protect your line against anything abrasive on the seabed, possibly being the difference between landing that big fish and feeling him part the line and swim to freedom, ending up as another story about the beast that got away!

So, to conclude this article before I turn it into an all-out book on my way of bass fishing, I’d like to say thank you for taking your time to read it, and I wish you all the best of luck in the future. I hope that in some way, it helps you or at least it gave you ten minutes or so where the primary thought in your head was that of the next adventure you have planned to look for those streaks of silver, we all love.

Tight lines all.