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Yak Fishing for Inshore Atlantic Cod

Posted: 06.27.2016

kayak fishing

When searching for a likely spot to catch cod, I am looking for irregularities in bottom structure . . .

Yak Fishing for Inshore Atlantic Cod

By Eric Hromada


I am very fortunate to live in an area of New England where we have a diverse range of habitat that attracts and holds a range of species. The rocky shorelines, beach fronts, marshes, and estuaries hold Striped Bass and Bluefish in the warmer months. In the spring and fall, Atlantic Cod can be found in the relatively close to shore, deep and cold water.

With the technology available to kayak fisherman, finding cod holding structure is fairly easy. Spend some time looking at nautical charts of the area you intend to fish. Nautical charts are available in paper form and electronic formats. I like to use the paper charts (available at most boating stores) so I can make notes next to the areas I fished. I also use a cell phone application that enables me to view nautical charts wherever I can get a cell phone signal. I find the cell phone application to be very useful if I am fishing new or unfamiliar water.

When searching for a likely spot to catch cod, I am looking for irregularities in bottom structure such as rock piles, ledges, humps, or any area featuring sudden or dramatic depth changes combined with rocky structure. Depth is also an important consideration, Cod prefer colder water temperatures found in deeper water. During the spring and fall most of my cod fishing is in water between 60-80 feet deep.

Once you’re out on water, use your depth finder to pinpoint the areas that look most promising. Spend some time paddling around to investigate the bottom structure. When you locate a bottom feature that looks promising, mark the location on your GPS. Keep paddling until you’ve covered the area, collecting different GPS positions as you discover them. These areas are best fished by first determining the speed and direction of the drift, then positioning your kayak up current of the structure and drifting over the target area. Cod will hold tight on structure, you may find that the action is best when you are presenting you bait in a specific location. You will also find that the speed and direction of the drift changes as the tide and weather changes, pay attention to your drift and make the necessary adjustments to ensure you’re fishing the structure effectively.

Cod are fairly easy to catch once you locate them, they can be caught with bait, metal jigs, or soft plastics. Atlantic Cod are bottom fish, and your lure or bait must be fished on or near the bottom to be effective. For simplicity sake, I prefer to use jigs and soft plastics to eliminate the mess factor associated with bait. For jigs I have always had good success with the Luhr-Jensen Crippled Herring, I use these jigs for everything from Stripers to Mackerel and everything in between. Diamond jigs in either silver or gold are also very effective. For soft plastics I prefer Hogy Lures 7” Original or Jigging Hogy in bubblegum rigged on a jig head with suitable enough weight to fish in water 50-100 feet deep. The bubblegum color Hogy is always my first choice as the color suggests the abundant squid that share the same water.

When choosing a jig or jig head to use with a soft plastic, it is important to consider the weight. The weight must be sufficient enough to get your lure to the bottom and maintain contact with the bottom long enough to be fished effectively. We usually target waters ranging from 50-100 feet with heavy tidal and wind driven current. In the right circumstances they can combine to sweep you away from the structure very quickly, pulling your jig up and away from the bottom in the process.

When a Cod strikes your jig you’ll know it, often you will feel the jig suddenly stop during the upward motion, they will also hit as the jig drops and you will feel additional weight on the next upward motion. When you feel the bite, a normal hookset is usually enough, then start cranking. Lighter tackle can be used in nearshore situations, allowing the angler a chance to truly appreciate the fighting ability of a Cod.

 Unfortunately, recent survey results indicate that Atlantic Cod in the Gulf of Maine are being overfished. As a result the fishery has been experiencing periodic closures and shortened seasons for the last two years in an effort to reduce fishing mortality. It is always wise to check for updates to the recreational fishing regulations before targeting Cod. If you do catch a Cod, and do not plan to eat it, handle it with care and release it gently to increase its chances of returning to the bottom safely.