A vast black wave
  |  First Published: March 2011

There is an old Aboriginal proverb that goes along the lines of ‘Long time dry, long time wet’.

To heed the knowledge of those that have trod barefoot along the banks of the Murray River for countless generations is to understand that Nature is in control and is far more adept than those that think they are in control of Nature.

During last Winter, water allocated for environmental flows was pumped into the bush to give the trees a drink along many sections of the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.

There it sat for several months, leaching the tannin from a decade of undergrowth and countless tonnes of leaf and bark material, turning the water a dark inky colour and void of oxygen and most forms of life.

In the blink of an eye we went from long time dry to big time wet and the river purged its banks and collected an environmental payload of blackwater from the forest floor.

As I write this, it has now travelled some 1400km, killing all manner of native fish the entire length of its journey.

It seems to have lost none of its toxicity, only growing in strength as it continues to recruit fresh payloads of environmental blackwater from the forests as it makes its way downstream.

The extent of fish deaths is unknown but it is easily in the hundreds at the destinations I visited. So over the entire distance it would be a fair to assume that it would have killed thousands of native fish including crays, shrimps and yabbies.


It has just crossed the border into South Australia and reports of numerous dead cod and yabbies only add to the speculation that this kill probably will travel the remaining length of the South Australian lock system to the mouth of the Murray at Goolwa.

As for localised catch reports, there are plenty of giant carp enjoying a romp in the shallows and freshly inundated backwaters.

They’re great on the fly and if they are in breeding mode, we’d best get rid of as many as we can now because if they’re successful their numbers will explode.

What the river will hold over the coming month remains to be seen.

For me, it’s off to the ocean and some of the impoundments until the river drops and the damages are assessed.

Mulwala would be a good option and Fishing Monthly scribe Tony Bennett is up to speed on where the fish are. He was on the money for our last visit, putting us onto a few nice cod.

A few redfin have been on the chew in Lake Charm between Swan Hill and Kerang and the yellas have been running at the Kangaroo Lake regulator.

Other than that, we will just have to wait and see what becomes of our once mighty river.

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