A blustery day to hunt for mega cod

It was the kind of day that tests the senses. The wind was easterly, blowing in from the North Sea as I made my maiden fishing trip of the new year to Hull with big cod the target after encouraging reports.

Stewart Calligan

Big waves and swell made beach fishing very difficult to impossible. There had been word of cod of up to 10lbs, large whiting and some fine flounders and dabs in the River Humber and the day of my excursion had been chosen carefully to take into account the weather, tides and availability of bait.

New Year bargain shoppers swelled the Hull traffic but I wanted to fish from 8am to midday to catch the high tide so I endured the morning rush. The easy option was to fish at St Andrew’s Quay, on my side of Hull city centre. A quick decision was made thereby avoiding Hull Marina area, the flood barrier and The Deep, Victoria Dock and the busy King George Dock.

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At my chosen venue another angler was already fishing and was landing a nice whiting. It was two-and-a-half hours to the top of tide with a medium current running inland from left to right. A big six-metre tide or 18ft of water was forecast.

Clinging drizzle was blowing into my face by the now south easterly nithering wind. As the fishing saying goes, east is least and west is best. Undeterred I set up my rods and put a cocktail of lugg worm, mussel and squid on large hooks.

After a quiet hour I decided to collect the masses of litter around my feet. Empty beer cans, polystyrene coffee cups and fast food containers filled two plastic bags I found under a bench.

About an hour from the top of tide one of my rod tips began to quiver. I reeled in the smallest cod I’d ever caught - all of six inches. It was small but perfectly formed. The size two hook was gently removed from its mouth and in the process it coughed up a sprat. The codling and the sprat were returned to their nursery.

Just before top I had a good pull on my other rod tip. A better bite, I thought and visions of the codling’s father or mother flashed through my mind. It was not to be as I landed a small flat fish. These flatties have small mouths compared to cod, but they still manage to swallow a size two hook, baited with lugg worm and squid. Another small but perfectly formed fish swam back to the nursery.

The tide had changed direction running out to sea now and was picking up speed. Weed was soon attached to my line by the strengthening current. The rods were pulled round as my weights were plucked from the muddy bottom. Weed and tide can soon pull a rod over the wall and into the river, never to be seen again. The red life belts at various intervals along the river bank stand witness to the dangers of the river and one must always take care.

I quickly wound in my line and the day’s fishing was brought to a premature end. Among the weed on my line was the ever-present plastic bits and pieces. How I wish anglers and the public would take more care with their litter. Our tidal rivers are a particular challenge when it comes to pollution. The tides ebb and flow twice a day and it is rare for the river to get a good swill out.

As I was having a litter ‘rant’, a fast-moving patrol boat in battleship grey went past. My research found it was HMS Explorer, a training vessel of the British Royal Navy assigned to the Yorkshire Universities Royal Naval Unit, serving the universities of York, Hull, Sheffield and Leeds that’s based in Hull and operates along the east coast.

Thousands of European anglers will be competing in the 22nd European Open Beach Championships at Sand-Le-Mere Holiday Village, Tunstall, near Withernsea on February 28 to March 1. Contact East Yorkshire County Council’s events office for more details and entry forms or enquire at your local fishing tackle shop.