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Fishing on angry seas: Winter cod fishing in the Atlantic

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Cod fishing is so punk. I don’t mean cod fishermen are running around with green mohawks and nose rings, no. Cod fisherman carry with them a fierce independence and attitude that I associate with that musical genre. You have to. Setting out to fish the Atlantic Ocean anytime from late fall through April can be unpredictable, kind of like walking into a mosh pit. Weather reports can be, and often are, wrong. Conditions can change for the worse very rapidly. A two and one half hour ride to the fishing grounds can turn into a five hour ride home (more on that later.)

What is it about cod that draws out fishermen on the most uncomfortable days of the year? Must be a fantastic gamefish (no.) Must grow to tremendous sizes (not really). I bet they jump out of the water (never.) Number one is fishermen love to fish and cod are the only show in town during these months. Two, they taste great! Three, at least for me, is cod are an intriguing fish. Codfish are tied to European and American history. Fortunes have been made, naval battles fought, people have died, all for this fish. It’s like catching a piece of history (see Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky.)

2015_0315_fishing_2That leads me to the King Cod . I had been hearing some good reports through the winter about this captain and I was aware of the boat from my days fishing in Center Moriches. So I called up Captain Joe Tangel to find out when I could go fishing. The date was set for Saturday, March 7. The NOAA marine forecast was calling for southwest winds 15-20 knots with gusts to 25 and 2 to 4 foot seas. I had reservations about the conditions, but when Captain Joe called me Friday night to say we were going, I was all in.

We left Senix Creek at around 6 a.m. The temperature was a balmy 15 degrees. We had to break ice to get out of Senix Creek and into Moriches Bay. Talk about punk! I could see the cards were stacked against us as soon as we left the breakwater of Moriches Inlet. If it was 2 to 4 , it was a tight, choppy 2-to-4. NOAA lied! It was a long ride out due to increasingly difficult conditions. We anchored up and started fishing. Captain and crew worked tirelessly against the ever-increasing wind to keep us where he wanted us to be. I caught about a half-dozen small cod. Everyone caught some cod and took home some fillets. In my opinion, that was quite an accomplishment considering how angry the ocean was getting.

Captain Joe had to make a decision to end the trip a little early for the safety of the crew. We all hunkered down for a long ride home in eight to ten foot seas. I can’t wait to get out on the King Cod when conditions are better, because I think Captain Joe can dial them in.


Brian Nigro is a lifelong avid fisherman and former charter boat captain. He’s fished from Alaska to Mexico and lots of places in between, but his favorite place to fish is right here on the East End.