Inshore: Spring Cod On The Rod - The Fisherman

Inshore: Spring Cod On The Rod

When the cod move closer to shore again in the spring, they can provide some great action and tasty filets. Photo courtesy of King Cod IV.

Proven tactics for spring cod fishing on your local wrecks and reefs.

While codfish are typically known as the “Winter King,” spring cod are a viable target and will offer a great opportunity on closer pieces as well as being a good addition to spring tog trips.

Cod migrate closer to shore in search of food as the water temperatures begin to rise, typically moving to shallower areas that offer abundant prey. This migration pattern is driven by the increase in baitfish and crustaceans in these areas, making locations with rocky bottoms, wrecks, and reefs hotspots.

Choosing the right gear is a fundamental aspect of successful cod fishing. A medium to heavy rod with a high-capacity reel filled with 30 to 40-pound test braided line is the standard to handle cod when fishing these types of pieces. You can always go the lighter route with 20-pound braid for a sportier approach, but you will run the risk of breaking off if you are fishing heavy structure. I personally like a 7-foot rod capable of handling up to 12 ounces for this type of fishing. If you think you’re going to jig, you can get away with something that will handle up to 6 ounces on the closer reefs.

Your typical cod bait rig will consist of a sinker loop at the bottom with a Dropper Loop of about 4 inches in length and about a 6/0-baitholder hook attached to it. Another 2 feet above that will be the same exact Dropper with the same hook, making your typical hi-lo rig. My choice of material is 40-pound monofilament for this setup. I personally like to tie this rig directly to my braided line with a Uni-to-Uni Knot.

When it comes to bait, fresh skimmer clams, and crabs are top choices for cod. With these baits, you have a great shot at appealing to and tog in the area as well. Don’t skimp if you have the chance to go fresh on the clams though. Cod will favor freshly shucked over something that has been salted and sitting for a while. Artificial lures, such as jigs and soft plastics designed to imitate baitfish, can also be highly effective, especially when tipped with a piece of natural bait to add scent. You can’t go wrong with an Ava Jig with a curly rubber tail on the shank of the hook for extra attraction. I’ve used the 5-inch Fishbites grub in this scenario and have had good luck with it.

Finding the right location and depth is paramount in spring cod fishing. Cod tend to congregate around structure, such as underwater rocks, ledges, and shipwrecks, which provide both protection and opportunities to ambush prey. Using a fish finder can be important in locating these structures. Starting your search in depths of 80 to 120 feet can be a good baseline, adjusting based on the time of day, water temperature, and fish activity. Mornings can often be more productive as cod feed actively during this time.

There are two primary methods for targeting cod in the spring: drifting and anchoring. Drifting allows anglers to cover more area and locate active fish, making it an excellent strategy for exploratory fishing. It involves letting the boat drift naturally with the current over promising areas, presenting the bait in a more natural manner. On the other hand, anchoring can be more effective in concentrating effort on a known hotspot, especially when fish are holding in a specific area. Both methods have their place in spring cod fishing, and choosing between them can depend on the day’s conditions and observed fish behavior.

By understanding cod behavior, selecting the appropriate gear and bait, and employing effective location and technique strategies, you can enjoy this spring fishery by itself or as an addition to your spring togging. Whether you’re a seasoned fisherman or someone looking to start a new spring tradition, the waters of the Northeast offer a good arena for cod fishing. If you don’t have a capable boat of your own, keep an eye on The Fisherman’s weekly report section of the magazine for headboats that might be sailing some of these trips.


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