Hum­ber cod haven

Com­bine some leg­work and a clever squid tac­tic for top catches

Sea Angler (UK) - - Contents - Words by Cliff Brown Pho­tog­ra­phy by Mike Dob­son

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

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