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Shad Fishing

Whitby earned the prestigious title of Cod Mecca Of The UK many years ago, and indeed there have been some tremendous catches of the species made from boats venturing out of this port in the past.

Back in the “good old days” hoards of anglers would line up along the quay with their 50 pound class rods in one hand and a bucket full of pirks and muppets in the other.

Not so today !! We All know that numbers of cod in the north sea, and pretty much everywhere else have dwindled in the past decade, and up untill 2 years ago we thought that the cod would never return en mass.

Luckily for us they did start to make a comeback, but along with this new breed of cod came a completely new set of rules.

After many months of experimentation, of Which Sea Otter 2 skipper Paul Kilpatrick was a key player, they found that these cod could be targeted very successfully on artificial lures, namely shads.

So out of the gloom and doom of years of poor wreck fishing came a wonderfully new method of inshore sports fishing, and one that has proven to be extremely effective to boot!!.

Cod fishing at Whitby was back and this time it was better than ever. Sea otter skipper Paul Kilpatrick admits he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Masses of decent sized cod some well into double figures were being caught on light tackle most times the boats put to sea.

The old ways of fishing just wasn’t producing the goods. The 20 and 30 pound monster cod were no longer around in the numbers they used to be on the multitude of wrecks miles offshore.

In fact it was due to bad weather and being forced to fish closer to home that the many Whitby charter boats discovered good stocks of cod in the 3 to 15 pound bracket just a few miles from the harbour.

Time For A Day Out!!

Were catching plenty of fish here Dave, and I’m not steaming more than 3 miles outside the harbour!” Paul explained. ” Come up and have a day out you will see it for yourself”.I Called Paul for a chat about the general state of play regarding cod fishing out of Whitby, and I was pleasantly surprised by the response he gave me.

Were catching plenty of fish here Dave, and I’m not steaming more than 3 miles outside the harbour!” Paul explained. ” Come up and have a day out you will see it for yourself”.

“Oh and bring some light gear with you – something like an uptider, or a 12/20lb boat rod and a reel loaded with light braid… were using shads for them !!” he continued.

Well This was all I needed to hear. I love lure fishing and anything that involves the use of light balanced tackle. So I packed a small bag of gear, grabbed my fladden maximus 12/20 pound boat rod and headed north to Whitby.

I was praying for good weather during the drive up, and when dawn arose I was pleasenatly surprised to see clear skies and warm sunshine!!.

Tackle Required.

Hollow Belly Shad FishingLike Paul Mentioned to me on the phone, this type of fishing involves relatively light gear – compared to what used to be used out of Whitby.

Although your still fishing in very deep water that can be over 180 foot in places, most of the fishing is done in around 100 feet of water, and with 30 pound braid you can easily get away with 8 or 10 ounces of lead, even on the bigger tides.

I use a fixed spool reel for this type of fishing because I feel it gives me better control. I can get my shad to the sea bed in an instant and pick it up again. I also enjoy using a fixed spool on lighter rods, but that’s just personnel preference.

Braid is the way forward for this type of fishing, and anything in the 25 to 50 pound bracket will do, but make sure you tie on a 50lb mono shock leader to cushion the powerful lunges a hooked cod will make. As a rule this should be about twice the length of the rod you are using.

Because most of the cod are being caught on shads, you’ll need to take a good selection with you. Paul advised me that the hot colours are black and pearl, green, yellow, and orange. However I did rather well on some rather fetching pink shads from calcutta!!.

Paul Reckons the 4 inch shads work better than the larger ones, and judging by his fishing performance on this trip I certainly wont disagree with him.

I know were talking inshore cod fishing here, but it really is worth taking a few chrome pirks with you – there are a lot of decent ling to be caught inshore too.

A baited pirk or just a plain baited trace is the way to catch these fish and Paul will advise you if there are ling present when you book a trip with him.

Interesting Rig.

It was great to see how Paul had tackled up for this session. There is no need to use a boom style set up, and in Paul’s experience that only causes more tangles. His approach is far simpler, and dare I say extremely effective, I didn’t tangle once.

All you need to do is tie a link swivel to the end of your shock leader, then tie on a 5 foot hook length of 25 pound mono to the same eye of the link swivel. Then you just connect your lead and drop the lot down. It really is that simple – and tangle free.

The Method.

cod on shads at whitbyWhen we arrived at the first mark, just 3 miles out of the harbour. Paul advised me that we were fishing over some broken ground that stretches for miles but there were a few irregularities that he knew held fish.

The aim of the game was to drop the shad to the sea bed, then start retrieving it at a steady pace immediately. “wind up 20 or so turns then drop it back down” Paul shouted from the bough of the boat – he was already up there fishing !!.

I did what Paul said but it was obvious it was going to take me a few drifts to get into my flow, because when I looked up I had a 5 pound cod thrust into my face as Paul walked around the bow to the deck of the boat.

On the next drift I missed a take. I was far too keen and sped up my retrieve as I felt something tap my lure. . I’d messed it up, you should keep retrieving at a steady pace, and slow down if you should feel anything tap on the end – it’s not like fishing for Pollock.

Paul managed another fish on this drift again around the 5 pound mark, and there were another 3 fish on board caught by caught by 2 of the lads on the trip and Paul’s son.

Right I thought it’s time for plan B and that’s when I decided to go for the 6 inch pink beauty that I’d brought with me.

Sure enough on the next drift I was straight into a cod of around 8 pounds and I wound Paul up something chronic – “you see your good for quantity mate but I prefer quality I said”.

I think I spoke too soon because after that Paul was unstoppable. He’d be in the wheelhouse positioning the boat for the next drift then up onto the bow like a whippet.

He fished like a demon for the entire afternoon and completely whooped my butt, boating 2 fish on a single drift on more than 1 occasion.

I didnt mind though as I was really enjoying myself and taking pictures which was my excuse for such a poor show!!. In total we caught over 50 cod in just a few short hours fishing, and everyone on board went home with fish for tea.

Ill certainly be visiting Whitby again soon for some super shad fishing – Maybe next time I’ll beat Paul at his own game.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more about shad fishing, here is a catch report from a days shad fishing on Sea Otter 2.