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Already this season, there have been indications that we could be in for a better than average cod run.
By Tom Melton

Inshore wrecks and reefs have been yielding a decent pick of bacala, and some cod were even caught inside Moriches Inlet in early November. Among the inshore structures cod are likely to set up on this month is the Moriches Reef, which has been one of the more productive inshore locations the last few years. The reef is located approximately 2.4 miles south-southwest of Moriches Inlet in depths of 70 to 75 feet.

The Moriches Reef, which is roughly 14 acres or 450 yards (4-1/2 football fields) long and 150 yards (1-1/2 football fields) wide, is made up of 13 barges, tugboats and trawlers. The makeup ranges from the smallest, the “Capt. Sam” at 76 feet, to the largest, “The Boat” at 167 feet. Add in several dozen tanks and you have the make-up of a fish and bait holding magnet.

From October throughout the winter, and at times into early spring, cod become a staple on the reef. Although you may not encounter the jumbo cod found off Coxes Ledge or some of the offshore wrecks, you will be rewarded with a solid supply of market size fish, with a very occasional 20-plus pounder added to the cooler.

For cod, most anglers employ a simple bottom rig consisting of a single 6/0 hook and bank sinker. Others opt for a two-hook rig, but like blackfishing around structure, the added hook in my opinion, just adds to the snag possibility. You can also add in a plastic grub in yellow, green or red threaded onto the hook and pushed just above the eye of the hook. Some anglers also use feathered or plastic squid-like teasers. For dunking clams, fresh skimmer clams make the perfect bait. I prefer to put a pretty large piece on the hook, and allow the clam to dangle off the hook in an enticing manner. Sinker weights will vary from 8 to 20 ounces depending on current, sea and wind conditions.

There are two preferred ways to work a baited rod. The first is to cast away from the boat and slowly work it back towards the boat, covering a wider piece of bottom.

The second, and the one I prefer is to drop straight down and keep the bait as still as possible. I have seen more jumbos caught in this fashion than any other method.

If bait is not your favorite method, then jigging is always an option. The Shimano Lucanus jigs or butterfly jigs cannot be beat for cod. The various butterfly jigs are simply dropped to the bottom, and then reeled up five to 10 cranks and dropped back down. At times cod will be off the bottom, so varying your drop and retrieve depth is paramount. The Lucanus jig is more of a saltwater drop-shot rig. Drop the jig to the bottom, and then gently twitch the rod tip. On the Lucanus, you could also add a thin strip of clam that will flutter enticingly in the current.

Tackle is up to you, but a good starting point is a 7- to 8-foot rod rated for 20 to 40 pounds with a fast taper that allows you to use jigs or bait. Match the rod to a Penn Squall size 25 or 30 and you have a great cod set up. Spool up with 40-pound braid and attach a 15-foot length of 40-pound fluorocarbon at the business end. Join the fluorocarbon to the braid using a double uni or Albright knot.

This time of year it is critically important to get accurate and timely weather forecasts before heading out. Recent Decembers have seen their share of fair weather days. Pick a nice day with winds out of the north and favorable sea conditions, and you should be on your way to putting some tasty cod fillets on the table.

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