So, cod opening has been and gone, and you’re looking for somewhere to chase a greenfish or two. Here are my top nine destinations, a mixture of lakes and rivers, to tangle with a goodoo this summer.
There is good cod fishing from below Mulwala through Cobram, Echuca, Swan Hill, Robinvale and all the way to Mildura. Don’t be put off by the thousands of campers through the peak of summer - there are still plenty of cod to be caught.
There are good caravan parks in the main towns and many are right next to the river. For the classic Murray River experience, however, you can’t beat camping by the water on one of the hundreds of sandy bends. Just pull your boat up at night and you’re ready to go again the next morning.
A boat is great along the Murray but you don’t need one to catch beaut cod. Just walk along the bank and look for big river red gums that have fallen in the water. You’ll be able to walk out on some of them and drop your bait into the eddies and backwaters. These big snags are also good for lure-casters, but take your Tackle-Back because without a boat you won’t be able to get over the top of your lures when you get snagged.
The Ovens River, downstream from Wangaratta is worth a look for a cod, particularly if you have a small tinny that can bounce over a few snags during the journey. A canoe is another good option.
Baitfishing from the bank or tossing lures is the go. Trolling can be hard work because it can get very snaggy indeed and you won’t get clear water for long enough to work the area effectively. If you do troll, keep your lures on short lines for better control.
Casting lures either side of your boat or canoe is a good strategy. Ropes forward and aft are worth taking along so you can tie up to timber along the way. A lead anchor is also useful - you can drop it gently to the bottom to hold your boat or canoe in place against the flow. This will allow you to cast repeatedly to the best snags, which can be important if the action is a bit slow and the fish need to be provoked into striking.
Keep an eye out for trout cod, which are fully protected and must be released. The Victorian Recreational Fishing Guide contains illustrations that will help you distinguish them from Murray cod.
In the Loddon River, the area around Bridgewater is the most obvious choice. It has good boat launching facilities, is close to supplies, is stocked annually by Fisheries Victoria with Murray cod and golden perch, and has waterfront accommodation to top it off.
A boat is needed to get to the best spots although there is a fishing platform of sorts near the bridge.
Head upstream in your boat either trolling or casting to the edge timber. Keep an eye on the sounder too because there’s some good submerged timber and rock that can be effectively fished slowly with sinking lures.
Take your time, too. The river narrows upstream and progress can be slow, so fish the snags hard and don’t be in a rush to keep moving. Expect to hook-up on your first cast at each snag pile or stump.
The lower Goulburn below the weir is a cod fishery on the up and up. There were some cod deaths years ago from poor water quality but the fishing has improved since then. This is partly as a result of stocking, and partly from breeding by the healthy population of wild fish that survived.
Access can be challenging but there are several boat launching spots between Murchison, Toolamba and Shepparton. The Goulburn Valley Highway largely follows the Goulburn north, so just take the side roads to get to the river. A 4WD will increase your launching options depending on the size of your vessel.
The lower Goulburn is a great river for anglers without a boat. You can pull up a chair and baitfish, or walk along the banks casting to the snags.
The river can be very shallow in parts, particularly during low drought-affected flows, so take care if you’re in a tinny. I’ve canoed the river several times for mixed results: small Murray cod, trout cod and golden perch on lures. On many occasions I’ve jumped out of the canoe and just walked along the riverbank in the more remote sections.
The surface fishing action can be good too and is helped by the shallowness of the river. The cod don’t have to come up far to get your offering. Start casting surface lures before dark, just as the sun hits the horizon.
Eildon is close to Melbourne and a mixed fishery with plenty of others species on offer. The lake has been heavily stocked with Murray cod over the last decade and even at low water produces some terrific fish every summer. Trolling is the best method and most anglers target the rocky shorelines with fallen timber. Number 2 StumpJumpers trolled 3m from these steep banks is effective. Don’t troll too far from the bank or you’ll be in 12m of water.
You’ll also pick up redfin and golden perch to 4kg with a mid-sized lure. The Delatite Arm of Eildon is most famous for its cod fishing, but I’ve encountered cod in the Big River Arm and out the front of the Eildon Boat Harbour.
The Campaspe River below Eppalock is a good mixed fishery and includes cod further down through Elmore and Rochester. It’s been stocked with native fish for several years, which complements the wild fish that breed naturally in the river.
Launch small tinnies at Elmore, 6km from town, or further north at Rochester where they’ve recently upgraded the facilities.
It can be slow going through stretches of the Campaspe because there are lots of submerged snags that’ll damage your propeller if you hit them at speed. I like to pack my day’s gear and slowly make my way up the river, fishing as I go. Don’t rush it and fish even the smallest of snags – you’ll be surprised at what comes off them.
Despite Eppalock’s low water level there were many good cod caught last summer on top of the golden perch for which this water is better known.
Eppalock was stocked with good numbers of cod before the water level fell substantially several years ago and many of these fish will have survived and grown despite the unfavourable conditions. They are native fish after all, and have evolved to cope with low and warm water over thousands of years.
My best Eppalock cod measured 69cm and came from a big standing tree in 4.5m. I’d seen some surface disturbance and thought a golden was probably harassing some redfin. Wrong! It was a cod, which had several finger-long redfin in its belly.
I’d recommend tossing larger lures for cod at Eppalock. It will get you past all of the redfin and most of the goldens. Focus on the timber near the rocky shores.
Baitfishing can be excellent but for goldens and redfin more than cod. Yabbies and scrubworms are best.
Taylors Lake has retained some water despite surrounding lakes suffering badly from the drought. It is stocked with Murray cod and golden perch by Fisheries and produces good numbers of small cod and a few very large ones at times.
Baitfishing with yabbies from the shore is a good strategy for cod. They’ll get you goldens too, plus the odd redfin. If you’ve got a boat you can troll, but most cod are taken on bait.
Canoe water for sure. The lower reaches around Dederang and Kergunyah support a small but productive cod fishery. Stocked but with wild cod in there too, the river is mostly fished by canoeists prepared to put in some hard yards.
The water is extremely clear which makes for some hook-ups you’ll actually see by the canoe. Focus on the deep holes and pull up on the shore to really drill those slower pools. Take two cars or a bicycle because you’ll need to do a shuffle at some point to get back to your car.
So there you have it – nine of the best, ranging from waters you will have heard lots about, to those you didn’t even know held cod.
Bridgewater on Loddon Tourist Park (03 5437 3143)
Bridgewater Public Caravan Park (03 5437 3086)
Self contained units at Riverside Motel (03 5437 3200)
Peppin Point Holiday Park (03 5778 7338)
Bonnie Doon Caravan Park (03 5778 7254)
Parks Victoria - there are lakeside campsites managed by Parks Victoria – jump on-line and print off an information sheet from their website – www.parkweb.vic.gov.au.
Lakeshore Caravan Park (03 5439 2510)