The Bristol Channel is a big river that has a reputation for superb shore cod fishing in its fast flowing, murky waters. But there are challenges, and even dangers, as well as big rewards for those who fish it.
Cod weighing more than 20lb are caught each season by dedicated anglers who are prepared to tackle some of the rough ground, riptides and tough terrain that lies between Minehead and the Severn Bridge. I suppose the most attractive thing about fishing the channel is the fact that you can catch just as many fish in daylight as you do at night, because of the chocolate coloured water. And because the tide moves so fast the fish have no option but to feed all the time to keep their energy levels up.
The cod season tends to start at the end of August and runs right through to the middle of May, with the best time being October to Christmas, then again in March and April, which is generally known as the spring run of fish that feed up before they move off into the Irish sea for the summer. The Bristol Channel is well known for its fierce tide flow so you need to use big baits and lots of it, with the most popular bait being blow lug and squid closely followed by ragworm and peeler crab which are better baits in the spring. The big specimen cod fall for whole squid and big chunks of mackerel throughout the season.
The best way to present these big baits are on strong pulley rigs made from 80lb line straight through with a pair of 4/0 or 5/0 hooks baited pennel style, this seems to be the most popular rig with channel cod hunters. The best tides for the cod are generally around 9mtr to 11mtr tides Weston-super-mare scale, which enables you to fish comfortably with a 5oz or 6oz breakout lead. A simple slosh 20 or Penn 525 size reel with a 20lb mainline and a leader will be ample to face the murky waters, attached to a 4oz to 8oz rod at roughly 12ft to 13ft long being ideal.
My ideal cod venues would be those at Sandpoint near Weston-super-Mare, fishing at low water. You must be very careful when fishing these low water marks because of sinking mud and slippery rocks covered in weed, so a mobile phone is a must if you get in any difficulties, and to let other people know where you're going and when you intend on returning home.
As well as cod in the winter months there are also big whiting, thornback rays, dover sole, dabs, flounder and a few conger eels to be taken, so it's nice to keep your options open if the cod are not biting. You cannot beat local knowledge, if you're stood on a beach and someone is pulling in more fish than you, have a chat with them, most anglers are pretty genuine and happy to help. It might even help you to land the cod of a lifetime!
I cannot stress how important it is to take all litter home with you and return as many fish as possible. The Bristol Channel minimum size to take a cod home is 15 inches. The future lays in every anglers' hands, if you look after the sea, the sea will look after you.