Cod fishing a good bet for January

Posted 1/4/22

By CAPT. DAVE MONTI In Rhode Island and waters south of Cape Cod, cod is king in January. The cod bite off Rhode Island has been good this season with fish at Cox Ledge and even closer in the East Fishing Grounds three miles east of Block Island and at

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Cod fishing a good bet for January


In Rhode Island and waters south of Cape Cod, cod is king in January.

The cod bite off Rhode Island has been good this season with fish at Cox Ledge and even closer in the East Fishing Grounds three miles east of Block Island and at Shark’s Ledge south of Block Island. The minimum size for cod in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts south of Cape Cod is 22 inches with a catch limit of 10 fish/person/day.

Last week the Francis Fleet Party boat out of Pt. Judith, RI said, “We had a much improved day on the cod grounds. We worked closer to Block Island today and found much better action. You had to pick through the piles of short sea bass but we still managed a decent pick. Some nice codfish and more shorts starting to show up.“

Capt. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA), said, “The winter cod fishery in Rhode Island can be amazing. The cod will school in shoal water south of Block Island and offer an awesome opportunity to get out on the water during the winter months.”  

Few private boats are still in the water in January but in Rhode Island three party boats and a handful of charter boast fish throughout the winter for cod. In recent years I have in the winter on some of these boats with good success.

Where to find cod

Cod are bottom fish that are basically lazy. They are not aggressively hunting, they pretty much stay on the bottom, often near structure (underwater wrecks, rock piles, holes, humps and drop offs), waiting for prey (cod like to feed on maceral and herring) to come by. So you have to go to where the cod are to catch them. They are not likely going to come to you.

Capt. Rusty Benn of the Seven B’s party boat said, “Winter cod fishing has been pretty good. The cod have been left alone most of the season up as anglers are targeting different species so we find them pretty regularly right around Block Island in December and January. We like to fish an open bottom near structure.  One of the biggest problems are dogfish.”

Rick Bellavance said, “If fishing on your own boat for cod plan to move around a bit, keep the bottom machine going and try each hump and bump. Try each spot at different times of the trip, focus on one area and hit the spots in that area hard. Take notes throughout the day and over time you will have the info you need to have success each time you go."

Recreational angler Rich Hittinger and RISSA 1st vice president said to find cod, it is very useful to have a good fish finder. “Cod have a developed swim bladder and they show up well on a good fish finder. Many trips we have spent 30 minutes driving around the area until we see good piles of fish and when we stop right on them we hit them immediately.”

Cod rigs and bait

A hook or two, a bank sinker that holds the bottom and sea clams are often used as bait to catch cod. 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 and jigs usually do a good job of this. A common rig used is a diamond jig with a colored teaser tied about 12 inches above the jig. Sometimes anglers tip the jig and teaser with fresh bait (a piece of sea clam).

“We fish hi/low rigs but bait the bottom hook with clam but then put plastic bait like a shad or worm on the top hook. One half or our hits come on the top hook with artificial bait. This works particularly well when sand ells are running and it helps keep the dog fish away,” said Capt. Tony Guarino of Booked Off Charters. “But jigs are my favorite way to catch cod. We use a slow pitch jig made by Yo-Zuri that we buy in Japan, fish usually hit the jig on the drop.”

“I like Viking jigs with a teaser above with pink and green colors generally working well for me. Grub style teasers also work. The jig weight will vary depending on tide and current but 8 ounces is what we are often in the water with,” said Capt. Chatowsky

Cod fishing experts generally use seven to eight foot rods with a big of backbone.  Shimano, Diawa and Penn are popular names when talking cod fishing rods and reels.

Who’s fishing for cod?

Party boats (inspected vessels that take more than six anglers, often 50 to 75 anglers) out of Rhode Island fishing for cod this winter include: the Seven B’s at, the Frances Fleet at and Island Current III at Rates per angler for cod fishing are about $100.

Charter boats (six or fewer anglers) range from $750 to $1,200 per vessel depending if the cod trip is close to shore or offshore (and length of trip). Charter boats fishing for cod this winter include: Big Game Sport Fishing Characters,

Captains Brian and Peter Bacon,; Booked Off Charters,

Captains Tony Guarino and Wade Baker,; Drifter Charters,

Capt. Richard Chatowsky,

Where’s the bite? Cod and black sea bass.

Cod fishing is good when boats are able to fish. This weekend the Island Currant party boat said, “Our Friday trip was sold out and we had yet another cooler filler, freezer buster trip. Lots of nice green cod on the local grounds and plenty of mixed variety mixing in, to keep the rods bent the entire day.”


Mild temperatures have led to no ice or unsafe ice conditions in, any Massachusetts and rode island ponds and lacks. Fishing in ponds stocked this winter would be a good bet for trout fishing.

Anglers are reminded to renew their licenses for salt and freshwater for 2022. For licensing information and a list of trout stocked ponds in Rhode Island visit; and in Massachusetts visit .

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to or visit

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