No Fluke

Time to catch some cod


If you think fishing is over, think again, as it is time to catch codfish. Cod fishing is great fun for adults and children as all you have to do is lower the line, hit bottom and wait for a tug. I know I will be keeping my eye on the weather and when the winds or temperatures are seasonably mild I’ll be grabbing my fishing gear for a cod fishing trip off Rhode Island.

In Rhode Island the minimum size for cod is 22” with a ten fish/person/day limit and a yearlong season (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31). Cod fishing in the spring and summer has improved in the past several years with a winter season that runs from mid-December through February. The season generally ends when cod forage fish such as herring and mackerel leave the area.

Capt. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA), said, “The winter cod fishery in Rhode Island has been very good. The cod fishery provides anglers with a great opportunity to get out on the water during the winter.”

Fishing for winter cod off Rhode Island has been good the past few years, which is not the case off other New England states. Capt. Richard Chatowsky of the charter fishing vessel Drifter said, “Last year the season was short but it was very intense. The fishing was about as good as it gets. We caught fish to 25 pounds… overall the fish we kept averaged about 12 pounds.”

During the past couple of years anglers have been catching cod closer to shore, off Newport and Beavertail when tautog fishing and in 2015 the cod bite at the East Fishing Grounds, three miles east of Block Island, was very good. I fished the East Grounds Sunday. We caught five nice fish in 90 minutes and then the bite shut down. The bite in the wind farm area was good early last week; we tried there Sunday and did not hook up.

For the past couple of years charter and party boats fishing for winter cod have found them south of Block Island, the Shark Ledge area as well as at Cox Ledge which is about 20 miles southeast of Pt. Judith.

Cod rigs and bait

There are two common ways to catch cod, bait rigs or jigs. Both methods work depending on what the fish are interested in on any given day. So, it you are going cod fishing, you should be prepared to use both methods.

Common bait rigs have two hooks and a bank sinker heavy enough to hold bottom. Some anglers like plain hooks with no jewelry, yet others prefer the hook shanks coved with small brightly colored rubber or plastic tubes. Both hooks can be tipped with fresh sea clam, baited in a natural way natural way (not clumped all together in a ball). Some anglers use artificial bait for the top hook such as soft plastic baits or worms. Bright colored plastic baits in green, pink, orange or red are popular.

Jigs of various sizes, color and weight depending on conditions are used too. Cod will generally eat anything that is in front of them, they are not picky, but you have to get their attention as they cannot see very far. They often find your bait by scent… or by color and movement and jigs do a good job of this.

Diamond jigs from 8 to 14 ounces are often used with a colored teaser as noted above about 12 inches above the jig. Many anglers prefer a traditional boat style rod with a conventional reel to catch cod. However, spinning gear is also used. Rods are generally 6 to 7 feet and have enough backbone to bring in a cod with as much as 16 ounces of weight attached.

Forty to fifty pound test line, both monofilament and braid are used. However, I prefer braid line as it does a better job of putting you in direct contact with the fish. Some party boats use monofilament to reduce the time it takes to undo angler line tangles as this happens often on party boats and untangling braid line in the cold is very difficult.

Codfish is good for you too

The website says that cod, a cold water fish, is particularly good for you. The site relates that, “Cod offers a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which helps lower risks of cardiovascular disorders including atherosclerosis. Cod also provides a good source of vitamins B6, B12 and niacin which factor into a reduced osteoporosis risk...”

Where’s the bite?

Tautog fishing remains very strong off Newport with anglers often limiting out. Angler Rich Hittinger, 1st vice president of the RI Saltwater Anglers Association said, “We limited out on tautog south of Newport in about 65 feet of water last week.” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Black fishing continues to be rock solid. Most anglers are leaving with limit catches or very close to it. We did see slightly slower fishing midweek due to some south wind that did not allow us to get to the prime grounds. Pool fish have been tipping scales between 8-11 pounds. More herring are showing up on the beaches and some codfish are also coming over the rails.”

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at or e-mail him with your fishing news and photos at

Dave Monti

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