It’s time for speckled green again. The Murray cod season is again open in Queensland and New South Wales. These iconic Aussie fish can be caught in the rivers and dams of southern Qld, much of NSW, the ACT, northern Victoria and the south-east corner of South Australia. Already social media is buzzing with pictures of cod addicts who were counting down the days until the opening of the season on the 1 December. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to catch a Murray cod in my most fished area – The Qld/NSW Border Region.
The Cod Dams
In Queensland we have several well-known cod lakes. Two of the most productive are Leslie and Coolmunda Dams. They provide an ideal place for anglers with boats or kayaks to venture out in search of the old goodoo. Leslie has quite a few granite rock formations but apart from that, both lakes are quite featureless. A few standing and fallen trees in their upper sections are prime cod country when the lakes are full but when the level is low, this water is usually too shallow; particularly during the warmer months. While they may appear void of cod lairs, if you look closer using a quality sounder, you’ll soon find areas which are more likely to hold your quarry. Along the drop off to the old river and creek beds are plenty of sunken snag piles. Many of these were on the steeper edges where it was easier to cut off big trees than pull them over with dozers before the lake was flooded. These old tree stumps and root balls are a great hide out for Aussie natives and are definitely worth investigation.
Trolling deep diving lures is a great way to cover the drop off ledge. Cod will often be on the prowl and will move away from their homes when they are actively cruising and looking for their next meal. They won’t always be in this feeding mood so it also pays to repeatedly work the better snags.
Casting lures like spinnerbaits and lipless vibes in both hard and soft versions is a great way to work over the better looking snags. Use lures heavy enough to probe the depth the snag is in.
Further south are another three top cod dams. Glenlyon, Pindari and Copeton are home to some monstrous fish. These lakes have a lot more structure in the way of standing and fallen trees and rocky formations. Casting around the edges of these lakes is a good approach. Accurate casts can really pay off especially for the smaller cod. These smaller fish tend to tuck into the shadows created by rocks which jut out slightly further than the rest of the shoreline. The big models will hold around more significant structure but will be found roaming the steep rocky walls and points. If there are well established weed beds, they are also worth casting to. Arm yourself with a few strong actioned, deep diving hard bodies and some bigger spinnerbaits and you’ll be ready to tackle the cod in these dams.
Rivers and Creeks
The rivers and creeks in the same areas are all home to the cod. This is the headwaters of the cod’s habitat as the all flow from west of the range in Qld and Northern NSW into the mighty Murray River. Access can be via reserves which surprisingly fish quite well despite the pressure. It seems lure fishing anglers catch a much bigger percentage of the cod and are more inclined to release them than bait fishos. Other alternatives to reach less fished areas are to try and establish connections with farmers who own land on the river or travel via boat or kayak leaving from public access spots.
The rivers and creeks in this area can vary a lot in the way they present as cod holding features. In some smaller systems it could be an overhanging bottlebrush, fallen trees are a great place to probe in the bigger rivers and rocky formations are prime in the granite country. Just remember structure or shade is the key during the warmer months.
You don’t need a hundred lures to go and catch a cod. You can simply arm yourself with a few of the proven ones and carry a spare of each because there are plenty of snags and a good chance of losing a few. A lot of cod fishermen chase the fish on foot so all their gear can easily fit inside a backpack.
Here’s a few things I’d be packing for a cod session.
– Strong actioned, deep diving hard bodies in medium and large sizes (6)
– 5/8 ounce cod sized spinnerbaits with soft plastic trailers (6)
– Surface paddlers (2)
– Pliers, scissors, lip grips, spare leader (20-50lb)
– Water, sunscreen, hat
Like all fish species there are a swag of lures which will catch these fish. There has been a growing trend to throw big swimbaits and stickbaits. Some anglers long for the surface strike and throw nothing but topwater lures. Once you catch the cod bug, you’ll soon have far more lures than you can carry on foot – luckily we have boats which solve that problem. One can never have too much tackle.
To battle a cod you can use either casting or spinning tackle. I prefer to use a baitcast reel for tossing the bigger lures as I find it a more accurate way to deliver these presentations. Gear needs to be up to scratch if you want to handle these fish. We have managed to boat quite a few big fish over 30lb on only 6lb line while fishing for golden perch. To stand a better chance however, you’ll want to be running around 20lb braided line on the reel fitted with a 40lb leader. With this you can put the brakes on if a cod is heading for home.
Stories of big cod and their ability to straighten hooks, snap branches and bust strong lines are often told around the campfires. These fish are certainly capable of doing this as they can be strong and violent when they want to. A quality drag on the reel and patience will soon tire these fish out. Let them run when they want to and only place the hurt on them and push gear to the limit if they look like finding their way back home into structure.
As you can see, you don’t need a lot of gear to stand a good chance of boating a Murray cod. These fish are hard hitters but don’t always pull that hard considering their size. It is there size however and the power experienced after one beat of their massive tail which has earned them such respect. To see such a beast on the end of your line is an indescribable thrill. No wonder they have earned a legendary status amongst fishermen.
Cod numbers seem to be faring better these days than they were a decade or two ago. Restocking and a trend favouring catch and release practices has seen numbers grow. I encourage everyone to abide by the closed season when it is in place and help boost the population even more by releasing the bigger, older fish. They are far too valuable to catch only once.
One more tip; when releasing these fish in the hot summer months, don’t swim them boat-side trying to revive them for long. As we all know the surface layers of water are much hotter than the cool stuff below. This hot water quickly rolls fish as it carries way less oxygen. While we think we are doing the right thing we are often doing more damage than good. Say goodbye to the fish after a quick picture and let them return to the cooler water.
Catch ya later!