Boat Fishing For Cod & Thornback Rays

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Boat Fishing For Cod & Thornback Rays

Monday saw us up and about around 4.00am, we had arranged another days charter fishing on Phil White’s boat, the Chinook III, out of Bradwell, fishing the sheltered waters in and around the Thames Estuary. For anyone who doesn’t know Phil is a regular in and around these waters and has been fishing and most importantly catching fish from the Thames since he was knee high to a grasshopper! We'd previously been out with Phil back in the summer, catching some hard fighting Smoothound and we were very keen to get back out at this time of year to target some of the nice Codling and Thornback that the estuary is famous for.

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After a relatively easy 2 hour 30 minute drive from Norwich, with the obligatory breakfast pit-stop on the way, we met Phil on the moorings around 7.30 and he was eager to get out, keen to ensure we'd be fishing by the peak time of the tide.

30-45 minutes later and we were on the fishing grounds ready for the first cast of the day. Rigs, tackle and tactics were kept simple; a standard 18-25lb class boat rod, fixed spool reel, 14kg mono, standard zip slider, 8oz of lead, 40lb snood mono and a strong size 6/0 hook, baited with a mixture of the Squid and Lugworm.

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With all the rods fishing and a nice scent trail heading down tide we didn’t have to wait long for the first action of the session as the one of the rods transmitted a famous 'Cod nod' through the tip. Within a few moments the first Codling of the session was safely onboard, not a massive fish, but one around the 2lb mark.

With the tide now really starting to run, the sun shining and the sea calm, confidence was high and for once this confidence wasn't misplaced as for the remaining 3 hours of the flood the action came thick and fast, with good numbers of fish around the 2-5lb mark, falling to our Lugworm and Squid baits. It was some superb sport and some of the best Cod fishing I've ever experienced in the UK, certainly in regards to numbers of fish.


By around lunchtime, and towards the end of the flood, the hectic sport eased and the Codling were replaced by hoardes of Dogfish and Whiting, which was exactly what Phil had predicted. Already one step ahead, he was soon upping anchor and moving us off to some deeper water, where there'd still be some tide and hopefully a better chance of a Thornback or two.

First cast in the new spot and right on cue, just as I was talking to Phil about what we should look for in a Ray bite, it happened, as one of the rods nodded, before slowly pulling over. It was like the Thornbacks had read the script!


With the remaining tide, extra depth of water and the fact that the fish was heavier than the Codling we'd been catching in the previous, the fight was a reel good one, but after a few tense moments the first Thornback of the session was safely on-board. A real cracker and beautifully marked, she weighed in around 8lb.


In the next 2 or so hours a further dozen or so Thornback fell to our baits, with a mixture of small males and bigger females gracing us with there presence, all of which were safely returned. Mixed in with these Thornbacks was also the odd Codling, with the two biggest ones of the day coming from the new spot; fish around the 7/8lb mark.

However, it wasn't until the very last cast of the day, that the biggest fish of the session turned up! After an extremely powerful fight, with the fish using everything in it's power to shed the hook, a big female Thornback lay safely in the net. On the scales she weighed a few ounces under 12lb and was a truly wonderful creature. After a couple of quick trophy shots, like all the other fish landed on the day, we carefully released the big girl back to her watery home, before packing away and returning for home ourselves.

Cod-fishing-6 Cod-fishing-10I’d just like to say a massive thanks to Phil, who was not only a first class skipper, but also a first class gentleman. He worked hard throughout the day and gave us a great insight into the Thames Estuary and how to effectively fish it, he also made sure we were on the fish, something which you cannot put a price on, something that only comes through years of experience.

Oh… He also he kept the kettle on all day and supplied the biscuits! I would not only recommend him and his boat, but also his coffees!

If you would like more information on Phil, or if you’d like to enquire about a days fishing with him then you can do so by visiting his website…

Phill White Charters

The Tackle Box Shakespeare Boat Rod 18-25lb Class Penn Fixed Spool Reel 14kg Clear Mono Breakaway 8oz Grip Lead Breakaway Zip Slider Kamasan 6/0 Hooks

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