Arriving in Whitby on a cold December evening to fish the piers you can find plenty of accommodation like the Arches or Ashford Guest Houses. The George Hotel located very close to the harbor side also caters for fishermen and provides free space for your catch until your departure date.
There is nothing like staying in a nice hospitable place when you have been fishing in the cold depths of winter.
Fishing on the Whitby Piers really should have gotten into it's own in December. By the end of November and the beginning of December then hopefully the cod fishing should really be getting better. At the start of December we would normally expect some very good fishing with good size whiting and codling getting caught. Unfortunately this year the season has started slowly, mainly due to the weather patterns in my opinion. We have only just started to get the first cold snap of the season, so water temperatures have been higher than you would expect at this time of the year. Things do now appear to be looking up with a recent good Northerly blow that has stirred the sea and given it a bit of color, coupled with a cold spell we might at last have turned the corner.
There have been a few good reports of fish being caught from all along the N / east coast so hopefully this will continue.
Both piers at whitby fish well but most folk seem to keep to the left hand pier, probably because it is a bit more accessible than the far pier and at the moment you can not access the far end of the pier due to some sea damage . During December when fishing for both cod and whiting I would always 'tip' one of my worm baits with a bit of mackerel strip, normally a good bait for whiting.
I normally only eat whiting by making fishcakes – a lovely tasty fish for making these. My family and especially the kids, love them. The trick with whiting that I have always found best, is to boil them first before using them in fishcakes. If you try to fillet them, they are a boney fish and have loads of small bones but if you boil them for a short while first, you can just peel the flesh off the bone and it makes it a whole lot simpler to use.
Peeler crab is a top bait for cod at the beginning of the season before Xmas but after at the start of the year I would normally prefer Rag or Lug. My preferred worm bait has always been ragworm, many, many would disagree I know, saying big black lug or 'yellow tails' fish better. Everyone to their own but I always preferred ragworm for a few reasons. In very cold weather, and I have fished Whitby pier when it was minus 10 degrees, ragworm will stay alive longer than lug, lug tenders to freeze when it is really bitter and I have had ragworm freeze to be fair, but it will last longer . Ragworm is also a tougher bait and will stay on the hook a bit longer than lug in rough weather. I have always loved 'rock fishing' and found rag to be tougher and a better bait than lug. Like I say earlier, everyone to their own.
I remember one night when we fished Whitby east pier, every time we reeled in the ice was coming off the line onto your fingers as you guided the line back onto the reel! Might not sound bad but believe me at 2 or 3 in the morning when your cold and hungry, it hurts! The worms froze solid.
'Coalies' will also be about but again I've had better luck catching them just down the road at Sandsend in the car park. They can sometimes be to a good size too and they will usually put up a spirited fight.
If you fish into the harbor off either of the Whitby piers then eels and flatties are probably the mainstay here. Lug tipped with a bit of mackerel will account for flatties at any time of the year. The far pier has kelp beds and rough ground casting out to sea but it does throw up some really good cod in the right conditions.
Mussel and razor are two very underated baits as far as I am concerned, they both fish well and mussel fishes very well after a good storm when the sea is dropping off and has a good color to it.
'Darn Sarf' they are rarely seen and I have had many discussions about the pro's and con's of using mussel. A lot of the guys stick to big blow lug or 'blacks' and will not use anything else. One of the guys I sometimes fish with is like that, will not use anything else besides big lug, possibly tipped off with squid, another underated bait. I have out fished him using rag and other combinations, he has outdished me on many occasions as well but until you try something, who is to know whether it will work or not?
I often keep a few mussel in a jar wrapped in elasticated cotton ready to use. I have found it better to do it this way than to try loading a hook when your hands are cold and wet. Plus if they have been in a jar for a while, they tend to smell a bit more and I believe the smellier or rancid the better to be honest.
I'm not putting myself up as an expert on the subject but with over 40 years of experience behind me, fishing a lot of area around the English coast, I think I know a little about the subject. I did fish the N / east coast for around 20 years on a very regular basis. Only being limited by "Her who must be obeyed" as most of us are!
It's always a good idea to phone one of the local tackle shops to see how the fishing is doing and you can always book some top class bait at the same time.
One thing I would say here is remember, if you are going to fish off a pier, breakwater or jetty of any type. The last thing you need to happen is loose that fish of the season when trying to lift it up the side. Get yourself a decent 'drop net', you can either buy one or make one, quite easy to do out of an old bike wheel! Many years ago off Saltburn pier I lost a fish that I estimated to be around the 20lb mark, got it half way up the pier and it fell off.
I know it is quite easy to over estimate but I have always believed that the only person you are kidding is yourself so no point in exaggerating! I had a 3lb cod under that one and did not even know it was there until the 'lump' dropped off.
I always carry a net now if I am fishing piers or jetties or a gaff if I am fishing off a steep beach, I have no intention of losing a good fish again and never have. How many times do you read on the forum's or in the angling press about the fish that came off in the surf when someone was trying to beach it.
Whitby is a great place to be if you want to catch some fish in December.