The Cod Squad

The return of the coldwater bottom fish.

Cod Are Back.

After a virtual disappearance during the early nineties, followed by picky fishing in recent years, this year’s Cod action is red hot at Montauk, NY. News of 200, 300 and even 800 cod per boat per trip (for party fishing boats carrying 60 fares) recently began blitzing the fishermen’s network. To confirm the reports, I booked a fare on the Viking Starship on March 13. Here’s how we did–and how we did it.

Though its early spring, the Atlantic is still winter-rough. So booking a fare on a party boat like the 106-foot Viking Starship is the best way to go, even for guys like me who own seaworthy private boats. Our “calm day” consisted of a 3 AM departure and 2.5 hours of slogging through 4-6 waves and 38-degree water, in the dark, and with the wind gusting to 25, to reach the grounds. I slept in the bunkroom on the way out.


Note these “small” ( 45-foot) private boats and how much they are rocking–and the wind had laid down a bit after sunup.

Though we went midweek, it was still a full boat. We arrived at 11:30PM and staked out the choice stern position to avoid the crowding and increased tangles that result when fishing along the sides of the boat. At the stern, your line never goes under the boat and you are right there at the mates’ bait station to select the choicest offerings ( skimmer clam).

The bite is red hot from about 5:30-am until 7:am. After full sunup, it slows. That’s why they depart at 3AM. This 15 pounder, and 26 more like it, ate fresh skimmer presented on hi-lo rigs weighted with 14-ounce sinkers for me and my two companions. Some anglers used jigs, but bait reigned on my trip.


Here’s “Parker” Pete Galindo, with an 18-pound cod whose belly was chock full of herring.

The Pool fish went 33-pounds. Many fish in the mid-twenties were caught and the boat’s 62 anglers accounted for more than 300 fish on my trip.

Continue reading for the “How-to.”


We used 7-foot conventional rods rated at medium-heavy matched to high-speed conventional reels loaded with 50-pound mono or 50-pound braid. You can use less weight with braid, but remember party boat fishing involves more tangles than private boat fishing. Braid is tougher to clear when you wrap-up with your neighbor.

The tip needs to be stiff enough to handle a weight or jig up to two pounds. Fish during the mid-phases of the moon, when currents are weaker, and you can get away with as little as 8-ounces. Also, many double-headers are caught. You’ll appreciate the beef if you score two at a time. The long rod length helps you to keep the bait still, by moving the tip opposite the waves ( up during a trough, down during a crest). Cod like usually prefer a still bait–though they sometimes slam a working Norwegian jig and chase herring for a living. Go figure.

Cod fishing hasn’t been this hot since the 1980’s. Dress warm, take a party boat and get in on the action.These skippers will put you on the fish as they do it every day. The boats have full galleys, bunks and heads. The crew cleans and bags your catch for you. Live like a king for awhile. Once your boat goes in the water in late spring, all that work, plus clean-up, is on you.


Email Newsletters and Special Offers

Sign up for Boating emails to receive features on travel destinations, event listings and product reviews as well as special offers on behalf of Boating’s partners.

By signing up you agree to receive communications from Boating and select partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You may opt out of email messages/withdraw consent at any time.