In Denmark, the cod is famous for being the traditional New Year’s Eve feast, but to the angler, the bearded fish is much more than a good meal. It’s both a fun and beautiful catch at the end of the line, and in addition, it can grow to be very big.
Fishing for cod is ideal from small boats or tour boats, since the cod is often found in deeper water where they gather in large groups. In Denmark, we have a tradition for tour boat fishing, and these boats are found throughout most of the country where good cod fishing is nearby.
The cod is also caught from piers and harbors where the depth and food options are just right. This type of fishing is fun for both experienced and novice anglers, as well as for kids and youths.
Cod fishing from pier and harbor doesn’t require much in terms of gear. However, it’s important that your rod isn’t too light, since the catch often needs to be lifted over a bunch of rocks at the pier or harbor. Besides, the cod likes to burrow into the vegetation at the bottom when you fight it. And here, you’ll need to use the strength of the rod to keep it from the bottom.
The biggest cod ever caught weighed 55.5 kilograms and was caught in Finnmark. The Danish record boasts a weight of 36.25 kilograms and was caught in 2014.
A 7-9 ft. rod with a casting weight of about 40 grams and a robust spinning reel is perfect for cod fishing. The line doesn’t have to be thick. If you use a braided line, you can use a line of about 0.17 millimeters. That provides you with good contact to your bait when it sinks toward the bottom. If you use a nylon line, don’t use more than 0.30 millimeters. That will grant you long casts. If the nylon line is too thick, you’ll lose casting abilities as well as the feel of the bait due to the water pressure on the line.
If you fish from pier or harbor, being able to safely land the fish is important. Mind your surroundings and the distance to the water. Smaller cod can be lifted via the line, but when the big cod bites, it’s best to bring a long net for landing the fish. Make sure that the handle is long enough to reach the water level.
When you fish from harbors and piers, always study the rules for the area in which you wish to fish. There may be restrictions on where you’re allowed to fish.
What makes the cod so incredibly interesting is the fact that it can be caught using a multitude of methods from pier, boat, or coast. One of the most popular and effective methods is cast fishing with jig, lure, or rubber bait. Since the cod is largely a bottom-dweller, being able to reach the fish quickly is important.
If you hear about an angler catching a “measurer” ("måler" in Danish), it means catching a cod weighing more than 10 kilograms.
Once you’ve cast, let your lure, jig, or rubber bait sink to the bottom. Remember to study the bottom conditions of your particular area. If you’re in an area with a lot of big rocks, try to keep the hook clear of the rocks. Here, you might want to choose rubber bait with an upward-facing hook. This way you’ll get less contacts with the seaweed or rocks.
When the bait hits the bottom, immediately start to slowly reel in. You can do this either by spinning slowly or by carefully jerking the top of the rod, after which the bait once again starts to fall toward the bottom. When spinning, you’ll want to let the bait fall toward the bottom several times. More often than not, the cod is found near the bottom, which is why you should keep your bait close to the bottom. One exception to the rule: If bottom fishing proves unsuccessful, fish a little higher in the water column.
Remember to bring some tongs for dehooking your catch. The cod happens to be quite the glutton, so the bait may well be stuck deep in the mouth.
Did you know that the cod’s beard barbel is full of sensors that it uses to find food?
Minimum size limits
The North Sea, including the Limfjord and Ringkøbing Fjord: 35 centimeters
The Skagerrak/Kattegat: 30 centimeters
The Belts and the Baltic Sea: 35 centimeters
Catch caps for cod in Øresund
The cod is not preserved in Denmark, but the EU has introduced so-called catch caps for selected areas. This means that anglers in 2021 can take home five cod per day from April till January and two cod in February and March in Øresund and the western part of the Baltic Sea.
You can catch cod all year round, but the peak seasons are in fall, winter, and spring. Does this mean you shouldn’t fish cod in summer? On the contrary! You still have the chance to catch a lot of cod that put up a good fight and taste exquisite.
The cod can reach an age of up to 25 years and weigh over 50 kilograms!
The cod is widespread all across the North Atlantic, around all of Greenland and North America. In Denmark, it’s found in the Skagerrak, Kattegat, and Baltic Sea. It used to be very common along the Danish coasts, and late at night, it was possible to catch many good-sized cod. Today, this is no longer as likely, so coastal cod fishing usually takes place near harbors and piers.
The cod can both be found quite close to the coast and as deep as 600 meters. It prefers temperatures between 2 and 10 °C, but it can survive in up to 20 °C.
Did you know that the cod can lay up to 9 million eggs?
When the cod is fry, it mainly eats larvae. Later in life, small crayfish and worms become part of its diet, and when the cod is fully grown, it will almost exclusively eat various species of fish, such as herring, sprat, and sand eel. The big mouth can consume large prey, and the cod will often eat fish beyond what seems possible.
The cod spawns in the North Sea in February-March, in the Kattegat in January-February, and in the Baltic Sea in March-September. In the inner Danish waters, the cod spawns in Øresund, the area north of Øresund, and further north near the Swedish coast.
When the cod are ready to spawn, they gather in depths of 30-60 meters, and eggs and semen whirl freely around the water while the males and females brush up against each other. After the spawning, the fertilized eggs rise to the surface where they float around until they 3-4 weeks later hatch into 4-5 millimeter long larvae.
When the fry is about three months old, it heads for the bottom, usually in somewhat shallow water among algae and eelgrass. In fall, when the fry is 12-15 centimeters long, it heads for deeper water where it will remain for the rest of its life.
The cod can grow really big in Denmark. The Danish record weighs 36.25 kilograms and was caught in 2014 in the North Sea.
Official Danish record: 36.25 kilograms