What to Catch


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Date updated: Oct 2013

Season: October – March

Socio-economic Importance: 

Cod is one of the four primary commercial fin fish species within the KEIFCA district. As the ‘fish of choice’ for much of the UK population, its economic value is high. It also holds great value for the RSA sector with cod fishing around wrecks being especially prevalent.

Ecological Importance:

Minimum sizes:

Legal Minimum Size: 35cm

Average Breeding Size: 60cm

Where and when to catch them:

The southern beaches of the district are rightly famous for their winter cod fishery, including Dungeness, but when the cod are in, the east coast and estuaries can also produce good catches. Other places to try are the Thames at Gravesend, the river Medway at Chatham  by the ‘Lloyds’ Building (now Civic centre), Deal Pier and the piers at Dover and Folkestone, Sandown Castle, Sandgate , Hythe and Dengemarsh.

Essex shore marks include Southend, Walton and Clacton Piers, Canvey Island sea wall and the beaches at Jaywick and Holland on Sea.

Boat fisherman will find Cod in deep water close to most of the Essex and Kent ports during the winter months.

What tackle to use:

Shore tackle will depend largely on venue, lighter rods in the estuaries and rods capable of casting heavy weights and large baits a good distance from steeply sloping pebble beaches.

Uptiding is a favoured method on boats but some perking occurs from ports where deep clear water can be found.

What bait is best to use:

For big cod, big baits putting out a strong scent-trail are the order of the day, pennel-rigged squid, stuffed with lug-worm is the classic bait. Live bait is also effective and avoids the sometimes plague of bait-stealing whiting, but only legal-sized fish should be used (cod are a gape-limited predator and will readily take sizeable fish)

Best conditions for catching them:

As with most fish darkness  brings the bigger cod closer to the shore in numbers.  Darkness and big tides, preferably following a good blow that has torn up the inshore ground and left shellfish, worms and crustaceans exposed. At Gravesend and Ingress Park, codling will feed close in, ideal for light tackle fishing and short casts. On the southern piers and beaches, hordes of whiting will often strip even the biggest toughest baits meant for cod with their unmistakeable and constant trembling of the rod tips, almost as soon as the bait hits the water. As always it’s always worth casting one rod out as far as possible, and dropping another close in. From October through to sometime after Christmas is the time to target cod, or until the arrival of the shoals of sprat that put a sudden end to cod-fishing, as the cod move up in the water gorging on the small silver fish and ignoring  any bait used.


Conservation minded anglers however will do their best to return the smaller fish which will grow relatively quickly to become something worth keeping, and will have had the chance to spawn a new generation before they are caught again.