The Bristol Channel once held a reputation as one of the best cod fisheries in the UK and until recently, many were convinced that that we’d had the best of it. Perhaps we have, but then the 2019-2020 season is not one to be sniffed at as, for whatever reason, numbers of codling have once again returned to the inshore waters of the channel. The majority of fish have been in the 2-4lb bracket, but occasional cod nudging double figures in weight have kept things interesting.
Many anglers believe that a four year cycle plays a part in the cod fishing here and with the last season of note occurring in 2015-2016, this makes perfect sense.
As codling return to the Bristol Channel year on year, growing in size but reducing in number owing to commercial pressure in the channel approaches during the summer, it’s great to see fish of this stamp figuring in catches having successfully run the netters gauntlet.
As usual, it was those tackling the upper reaches of the channel who were first in to the season’s fish, with boats such as Channel Explorer operating out of Portishead and skippered by Chris Buxton, making some bumper catches. Uptide tactics, as ever, account for the lion’s share of the fish here.
Shore anglers also got in on the action early on, again from the upper channel marks around Clevedon and Portishead.
Venues such as Battery Point, Walton Bay and Ladye Bay produced some excellent codling sport and together with plenty of thornbacks and conger there was no reason for the rod tips not to be knocking.
The pulley rig has long been a favourite rig here, having been brought to the channel by visiting East coast anglers in the 1980’s, it was soon recognised as the perfect set up for tackling the reefs and associated broken ground found within casting range on many of the marks here, it’s very concept ensuring a hooked fish trails behind the lead that travels up in the water and away from potential snags.
Other productive venues that generally begin to produce the goods by December include Sandpoint and Brean Down and both have been on good form . The beauty of these marks is that there are cleaner options, with both sand and mud within easy casting range.
This season has been no exception and typically anglers have gone away from these marks with bags of six fish or more this winter.
The recent storms and excessive rain fall have undoubtedly slowed things down a little, not so much because of the freshwater in the estuary, but more than likely the level of chemicals and other deposits that make their way in to the many tributaries that feed the channel.
But with March now underway, it’s highly likely that we are in for a treat with a spring run on the cards any time soon.
Any of the marks listed above will produce the goods, but the main focus should be on bait.
Peeler crab is not cheap, but it is a highly effective bait at this time of year and will out fish the worm baits associated with pre-Christmas cod fishing more often than not. Presented on a wide gape hook, such as the Varivas Big Mouth, a 4/0 is perfect for both the size of bait and a codling’s accommodating mouth.
Look for neap tides which open up many venues that are unfishable when the tidal pull is at its strongest. Mild, overcast weather is often a winner with a southerly wind a particularly fishy one.
East winds can cause the fishing to slow up. Avoid shallow venues, particularly first thing in the morning if the weather has been especially cold as most fish, with perhaps the exception of flounder, being reluctant to feed. The weather really is critical for successful fishing, take a look at XC Weather for a detailed forecast that will help you plan your next trip.
The deeper marks with rough ground at close range can often fish as well at 40 yards as they can at 100, so if fishing two rods, it often pays to drop a bait in close. You’d be surprised just how productive it can be when fishing practically under the rod tips.