When Do Cod Spawn? 

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Are you curious when do cod spawn? Our article provides valuable insights on this topic, covering the best baits to use during spawning, an ethical perspective on fishing for cod at this time, and essential gear tips. Join us on a journey with cod angler Daniel O’Neill, who has caught remarkable double-figure cod while deep sea fishing.

when do cod spawn?
A Norwegian cod fisherman. 

Cod fishing is both a challenging and rewarding form of angling, demanding anglers to invest significant effort in catching these remarkable species. Join me as we delve into the exciting world of cod fishing and explore their spawning patterns!

The Short Answer

Cod typically spawn in colder months such as winter and early spring. However, the spawning times for cod change depending on the species and their location. Atlantic cod is the most common species. They typically spawn in the North Atlantic between January and April. 

The Long Answer

Cod typically spawn in colder months, however, their reproductive systems are greatly influenced by their surrounding environmental factors, including the temperature, geographical location and daylight hours. 

The reproductive timing of cod is aligned with environmental cues to enhance their chances of a successful reproduction. Cod tend to search for spawning grounds in deep water marks, where females will lay eggs that float in the water while males release sperm fertilizing the eggs externally. 

To find the exact spawning times of cod in your area, consult local fishermen or marine biologists. Cod spawning times vary depending on location, making it challenging to specify a general time frame for their spawning.

What Time of Year Do Cod Spawn?

man holding cod
Close-up of large cod.

Cod usually spawn during the early spring months, typically between January and April. However, the exact timing of the spawn can vary depending on environmental factors. The best time for Cod fishing is from November through the peak of winter until mid-January. As a result, peak fishing times only slightly overlap with Cod spawning.

Where Do Cod Spawn?

man unhooking cod
Norwegian fisherman catching a large Cod fish, outside of Lofoten.

It is common for cod to migrate into deeper water marks when spawning. The areas in which cod spawn are called ‘spawning grounds.’ These spawning grounds are found beyond large shelf edges, otherwise known as drop offs. 

Spawning grounds usually have gravel beds, which prove effective for both egg protection and egg attachment. Sometimes cod can have migratory behavior, returning to the same spawning bed each time. However, this is not a commonality amongst all species of cod. 

Cod require cold temperatures in order for their eggs to hatch. This temperature is usually the reason for seeking deeper water. However, if the cod’s primary feeding ground is already very deep they may choose to lay eggs there. 

At What Water Temperature Do Cod Spawn?

senior with a cod
Senior fisherman in the ocean, fjord fishing.

Cod spawn in temperatures between 40°F to 48°F. This temperature range is vital for cod to have an effective spawn. Spawning can be triggered by specific temperature cues, therefore if the water temperature is too cold or warm, the spawning process may be delayed.

How Many Eggs Do Cod Lay?

cods hatching
Fish eggs.

The number of eggs a female cod lays differs drastically depending on the age, size and health of the individual fish. A rough estimate is between hundreds of thousands to several million eggs per fish. Of course, larger fish spawn more eggs than smaller cod. Sadly, very few of these eggs actually form into fish, due to the natural selection process and vast amount of predators in the cod’s natural habitat. 

How Heavy Do Female Cod Get During the Spawning Season?

Female cod experience a significant increase in weight when spawning, mainly due to the growth of eggs inside them. These eggs contribute to the majority of the fish’s mass, but the females also tend to consume more food to build up extra reserves required for the spawning process.

monster cod
Very large cod taken from the Barents sea. 

During one of my fishing experiences, I had the pleasure of catching my personal best cod while boat fishing near a large wreck off the Irish coast. The fish I caught was a spawning female and was approximately three times heavier than the average cod. Although I wasn’t specifically targeting cod that day, it turned out to be an exhilarating fight, especially considering I was using a small Daiwa rod. 

The skipper on the boat taught me how to identify if a fish was in the spawning process. He directed my attention to the enlarged abdominal area of the fish, explaining that it was filled with eggs, causing it to protrude. After this demonstration I promptly released the fish back into the sea.

What Is the Best Bait for Cod During the Spawn?

I don’t recommend targeting cod while they spawn for two main reasons. First, there is an ethical standpoint that we’ll discuss in detail shortly. Second, during spawning, cod tend to be less active in chasing bait fish since their primary focus is on conserving energy.

fishing lures
Small metal lure suitable for spawning cod.

If you still wish to target cod while they are spawning, lures resembling small fish or squid can still attract them. The main reason for this being that cod will mistake your lure as a threat to their young. I have also personally heard  that anglers have had success using natural baits such as sandeel or mackerel when targeting spawning cod.

Should You Fish for Spawning Cod?

commercial cod boat
A commercial boat suitable for targeting cod. 

As mentioned briefly in the previous section, ethical angling practices suggest avoiding fishing for cod during their spawning. Anglers targeting spawning cod may disrupt the natural process and harm the overall cod population. I personally recommend targeting cod during their feeding seasons as you are much more likely to receive a bite.

Do Male Cod Guard The Nests?

happy cod fisherman
Happy cod fisherman.

Male cod are well known for their protectiveness and ability to guard their offspring. They are typically territorial, and this behavior intensifies after fertilizing a nest. The male cod will tend to the eggs until they hatch. Protecting them from potential predators as well as other cod in the area. However, once the eggs hatch, the cod larvae must fend for themselves.

How to Catch Large Cod 

In this section, I will provide you with my insider knowledge on how I would personally recommend catching your first cod. Firstly, start by selecting a charter boat and requesting to fish a deep water wreck. From the wreck, you will require a jigging setup. I personally have great success with the Shimano Bassterra and Daiwa Saltiga combo.

charter boats
A selection of charter boats.

Unlike most cod anglers who use monofilament line, I recommend braid. Most cod fishermen dislike braid line as it tangles when casted. However, when fishing wrecks there is no need to cast, and the increased benefits of a high sensitivity and the ability to hook set better make braid the go to line for me. I personally recommend the Tronixpro X8 Power Braid, 30lb.

Add a fluorocarbon leader to the braid. This will benefit the setup as the cod are less likely to see the line, making them more prone to biting. The Seaguar Blue Label fluorocarbon leader is a reliable option.

For further tips on catching cod I highly recommend checking out this video from Fish Locker:

YouTube video

Final Thoughts

To avoid damaging future populations of cod, it’s crucial to understand when they spawn. Personally, I recommend targeting cod in deep water when wreck fishing during their feeding time to support their sustainability. This article has extensively covered the best baits to use during spawning, an ethical perspective on fishing for cod at this time, and essential gear tips. Good luck and tight lines.

Daniel O’Neill
Fishing Expert
Meet Daniel, an avid writer and fanatic angler with a deep love for fishing. As a fly fishing guide and instructor, Daniel brings a wealth of expertise to his writing. With a degree in Business Information Technology, his analytical mindset enhances his understanding of the sport. Daniel's fishing ventures have yielded impressive results, including memorable catches like mullet, sturgeon, double-figure pike and atlantic salmon. In Ireland, he excels as a spearo, specializing in targeting pollock and bass. As a writer for Cast & Spear, Daniel combines his firsthand knowledge, educational background, and unwavering passion to create engaging content. His articles provide valuable insights, tips, and techniques, empowering readers to elevate their fishing skills and embark on thrilling angling adventures.
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