Sea Shorts: The Art of the Cod Jig

You probably don't want to go fishing with this particular piece of art, but what it represents is a long-held tradition in Newfoundland, eastern Canada.

 This beautiful wood inlay was created by Denis Abrard, who is based in Newfoundland. You can see more of his work at his website  www.denisabrard.com . Image credit Samantha Andrews/Ocean Oculus

This beautiful wood inlay was created by Denis Abrard, who is based in Newfoundland. You can see more of his work at his website www.denisabrard.com. Image credit Samantha Andrews/Ocean Oculus

The cod jig is a fairly simple piece of fishing equipment. The line which is wound around the wooden hand-reel has a weight and hook in the shape of a fish attached. Fishers unwind their lines from their boat - traditionally a small wooden boat called a dory, lowering their hook down into the ocean depths - and hopefully next to some hungry cod.

Now cod are what we call a demersal species - which means they tend to live near the bottom of the ocean (though they will come up higher in the search for a good meal).  This means that the lines needed to be pretty long to reach cod swimming near the seabed. Some lines could extend down to 60 meters! 

Once the fisher is pretty sure that their hook is down with the cod, the next trick is to catch one. Since the hook doesn't have a tasty morsel to attract an unsuspecting cod, the fishers use another trick - moving the hook up and down in short, fairly sharp movements. This "jigging" technique tends to catch the attention of a cod. One gulp and the cod is caught! Now it is a battle between fisher and cod. The fisher needs to pull the cod up to the boat, but the cod (unsurprisingly) fights back, twisting and turning trying to get free. Sometimes they do, but for the unlucky cod that ends up on the fisher's boat…