Humber cod haven
Combine some legwork and a clever squid tactic for top catches
Top tactics for catching the river’s cod.
Scrambling across weed-covered, sea defence boulders when landing fish may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but such discomforts are trivial when it comes to catching cod. It’s a fact of life alongside the low-lying farmland inside the Spurn Headland, where the countless thousands of boulders have been positioned to prevent the vast Humber Estuary swamping the sparsely populated area.
While nearby Paull may be easier to reach, anglers with a sense of adventure and a willingness to put in the legwork gravitate to a boulder finger called Old Hall, found on the riverbank south of Ottringham in Yorkshire’s East Riding. It’s a noted hotspot, having plenty of room for anglers, where cod can be caught until late May every year.
One of the regulars at this mile-long stretch is former England international Neville Charlesworth, who is willing to make the 20-30 minute walk to the boulders stretching between a sluice to East Bank Farm. Hardly surprising when you discover he’s had bags to 50lb and four doubles to 14lb 5oz here.
He’s fished the mark regularly during the past 20 years. It was his friend Dave Brown, who has since passed away, who revealed the tricks for fishing at Old Hall. They used lug tipped with squid to catch the cod and had fantastic bags of fish. Some time after that, Neville decided to take his small boat out in the Humber and take part in the boat matches.
“I thought that if I turned up with peelers and pounds of lug I should walk it. What a rude awakening I had; I came back with
about 20lb of fish while the other boats had 60-70lb,” he admitted.
“I couldn’t believe it and was told the boat anglers only used squid. I thought I would try this from the shore at Old Hall, where, with a bit of practice, I found that big cod just loved whole squid. I kept it quiet for three or four years and I suddenly started winning a lot of big-fish matches instead of bag matches. It’s truly remarkable, plus it’s cheap.”
He added: “Two boxes will last the season. At £80 that’s the equivalent of fishing only four matches with worms, and a no-brainer to me or other anglers on a limited budget.
While Neville likes his squid approach and was happy to demonstrate it for Sea Angler, most anglers still take decent catches on peeler crabs from April to October, with lug and squid favoured from October to April.
“The best winds to fish are southerly to westerly blows, while an easterly kills the fishing,” advised Neville, who travels to the venue from his home in Hornsea.
Here the Humber’s deep water is found at about 100 yards range, but southerly winds push the fish closer to the sea defence bank. Very small tides are not very productive. Weed can be a problem during north-easterly winds, and fishing the last three hours of a big ebb tide can also be a problem.
Large tides are the best for codling (7m river tides). Both the flood and ebb tide can be very productive, with the last three hours of the ebb producing good bags of whiting.
“The tide rip on the flood tide is strong, so you need to cast your bait uptide and then let out your line until the lead weight settles on the seabed. The ebb tide has about 30 per cent less strength than the flood, making it easier to fish” he advised.
From early October to as late as May can be good for cod, while whiting start to disappear at the end of January.
“The beauty of fishing Old Hall is you never know what you might catch; thornback rays and dogfish were caught from the end of September. I’ve fished this place more than you can believe and it was the first time I’d seen these fish so far downriver,” he said.
Summer fishing can be great fun, with plenty of flounders, eels and bass to 6lb caught, along with those rays and dogfish, and because few anglers fish at Old Hall in summer, it is relatively untested.
“It’s a truly remarkable method, plus it’s cheap”
Neville uses a versatile Zziplex M4 GT rod (13ft 4in long and casting 4-8oz) with a Daiwa Mag reel coupled with 12lb line with a 5oz Breakaway Impact lead.
“My rig is a one-down Pennell with 60lb body and 30lb hooklength for cod, or a two-up, one-down rig with long hooklengths for whiting. I use size 5/0 hooks for winter cod and size 2/0 for whiting,” he said.
While the venue at low water is a vast area of energy-sapping mud, where in places it can be knee deep, don’t worry because there is no need to fish at low water. Southerly winds can take away the mud, but it eventually returns due to the constant dredging dumping it back at East Bank Farm. New anglers to this venue are better fishing four hours up and four down to prevent any need to venture on the mud.
As Neville landed yet another codling, he quipped: “I’ve even witnessed my pal George Smith (England international and Penn Sea League 2012 and 2015 champion) crawling out of the mud of the Humber.”
Neville Charlesworth with a typical Old Hall cod
The squid approach certainly paid off
Swinging in another fish from the murky waters
of the Humber
It’s worth clambering across the boulders
for a tally like this
Cod love squid on a Pennell rig