Bag-up On The Mersey - No Codding!
Winter boat fishing on the River Mersey can be unbelievably good. You could catch a 30lb cod or a bag of 20 codling in a day, says Dave Houghton.Winter boat fishing on the River Mersey can be unbelievably good and there is plenty of shelter from the worst of the weather and a chance to bag a cod of 30lb.
Okay, that would be an exceptional fish and is an unconfirmed catch but there have been dozens of fish up to 25lb and with the right bait, tackle and on a good mark, it wouldn't be unusual to catch twenty codling in a day.
Timing is as important as having a hook on the line.
Cod hunt for food when swimming against the current, so an essential element is to have some tide run because at low water they just mill about, and it's a time on the Mersey when only small flatfish are feeding.
The most popular mark in the river for cod fishing is along the edge of the shipping channel close to the rocky shoreline at Seaforth Container Terminal.Newcomers to the river should start in this area and one good spot is near to the C20 buoy at the helicopter-pad end of the rocks where you will be able to anchor in about 45 feet of water.
C23 is another productive spot that has produced lots of good winter cod.
It is amazing how high the cod move up the river; shore anglers catch them at Otterspool but the limit for small boats is around the Pier Head, Liverpool's famous waterfront.
If you are going out for the first time, try upstream on the Liverpool side and before reaching the Pier head is Brunswick Dock, and a great spot for codling is to anchor about 200 yards offshore opposite to the wooden jetties.
There's a powerful surge of water as the Mersey pushes itself towards Widnes every time the tide changes and a good anchor are vital.
Try something like a big grapple anchor with 25 feet of stainless steel chain to make sure of staying in place; if you don't hold bottom you won't catch a cod.
Uptiding is the style most of the locals practice in the river, casting about 35 yards with fixed nose wire grip leads weighing between six and 8 ounces, depending on the strength of the tide.
The sharp end of the rig should be a two-hook Pennel rig with 6/0's carrying a mixture of black lugworm, mussel and crab; big baits for a fish with an cavernous mouth.
Downtiding will catch fish but braided line is necessary to combat the strong tide run and (I know this sounds obvious), but do make sure you have enough lead on to keep the bait on the bottom!
Another trick is to use a hook trace no longer than three feet, otherwise the flow of water lifts the bait off the riverbed.
45 feet down the Mersey is desperately murky with very little light, and because cod hunt by their senses, a fresh juicy bait is essential and so you need to change the bait regularly.
Lighter kit will catch a lot of whiting during the months of October to February as they pack into the river on most states of the tide - a great treat for youngsters and a moral booster after a couple of gruellers!
England International boat angler Steve Quinn - a regular writer for Angling Times - is a member of Wirral Boat Club and if you are planning a Mersey trip for the first time give him a call on 0151 645 1943 for advice on launching and fishing spots.
The best launching is from the beach at Victoria Road, New Brighton.
Officially, a permit should be obtained from Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council for using the beach with a boat and trailer and their telephone number is 0151 638 7070.
Dave Houghton and wife Angela run the highly successful Leisure Angling of Liverpool that specialises in holidays to Ireland. Leisure Angling is celebrating its 21st birthday this year. The new Leisure Angling brochure can be ordered on 0151 734 2344 or www.leisureangling.co.uk
The new Leisure Angling brochure can be ordered on 0151 734 2344 or www.leisureangling.co.uk