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The natural order no more
  |  First Published: July 2011



Where do I start this Robinvale report for July? I could say that with the first few frosts already on the ground, the big cod should start to feed up for the Winter months ahead, and normally this would be true.

Or I could say that now the river has settled and returned to a reasonable level, the big cod again will begin to feed in a stable system, and that would make sense.

I could even say that once the water clarity improves, big cod captures will become more prevalent in our local waters, which is generally the case.

Yep, I could say all of that but I won’t, because I don’t believe any of the above is true any longer.

As a fisherman who has spent the better part of the past two decades catching big cod around the Robinvale area, it’s becoming clearer that these fish are all but gone.

Cod season opened in December and we are now six months on, without the capture of a single large cod that can be verified.

Thousands of fish died in the earlier blackwater event that swept through Robinvale, in a giant cock-up that hinges on the word ‘natural’ and the tight lipped order of those responsible for it.

Understandably, so many local businesses along much of the Murray River have also adopted the same tight-lipped attitude as they are starting to feel the pinch financially.

As a writer, angler and business operator, I am feeling the pressure all round.

To report that the fishing is poor and the cod are dead gives me something to write about but does me few favours community-wise or business-wise.

As an angler, it sickens me to think that it could be many seasons before I feel the caning strike of a giant cod in my own local waters.

FATAL DECISION

But, most importantly, to sit back and pretend all is good does nothing more than play into the hands of those who stole the life from our river, and the all-important dollars, in the first place.

For more than two decades I have watched the changing face of the native fishery.

The growth of catch and release, the banning of set lines, the number of big fish captures grew with every passing season.

With a single decision this all finished.

You might think that as a fishing community we would be angry and demanding answers.

Not so, it seems, as the almighty dollar takes precedence over most things, including the future wellbeing of our fishery.

Sooner or later, the truth will come out and with it the deceptive nature of all involved.

Ask yourself this one question and then see if you can get anyone to answer it: Why were numerous low-lying lagoons and wetlands pumped full of environmental water below Barmah through to Wemen and Hattah, and along the banks of most other adjoining rivers?

Unbeknown to most, this was done several months before the river even looked like flooding.

We are talking a small inland ocean of water that was left for several months to leach the tannin from the low-lying bushland. And in the infinite wisdom of the decision-makers, all this was done to give the trees a drink.

These jet-black lakes of poison lay in the bush, void of life, until the river, much to the dismay of the greens, popped over the banks and drew the deadly cocktail back into the main system. Bet they did not see that coming!

Then, when you can’t get any answers to those questions, ask yourself the most important question of all: Why remain tight-lipped at the hands of those that decimated our fishery and did untold damage to the local economy?

At the end of the day, these are the same people we pay to make environmental decisions that affect the future wellbeing of our fisheries.

So in answer to what I really have to report this month – the fishing is quiet, to say the least.

Money is more important than the truth and the greens will probably get away with what is looking like the biggest case of environmental vandalism seen along the Murray-Darling Basin in living memory.

But don’t tell anyone because it could cost us a few dollars.

With few cod left to predate on them, carp numbers have exploded.

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