Cod season opens with great anticipation
  |  First Published: December 2012

The good news is that December sees the opening of the Murray cod season, and this season is looking like being a very good one in the Wangaratta area.

Last season saw reasonably limited fishing for Murray cod along the Ovens and King rivers due to above average rainfall and high, dirty water. December and January were fine, but February, March and a lot of April were washed out in this area. The year before saw almost the entire cod season washed out due to record-breaking summer rainfall. What does all this amount to? The fact that over the last two seasons fishing pressure along the Ovens and King rivers has been substantially lower than most years and as a result there should be some very good cod fishing on offer.

One thing that did jump out at me last summer was that although there were plenty of cod in both rivers, the average size was quite small and legal sized Murray cod were few and far between.

The bigger cod that do turn up each year seem to be more frequent in the lower reaches of the Ovens River than anywhere else, usually around the Bundalong area where the river is much deeper, and a large section is backed up by the waters of Lake Mulwala.

Anglers targeting cod with bait in December cannot go past bardi grubs. Either fresh or frozen, a large bardi grub fished close to a large logjam or snag pile will see you sitting in the hot seat to catch one of these iconic fish.

Lure anglers should try a large hardbodied lure such as a number 1 Stumpjumper, or even a Koolabung Codzilla. Don’t be afraid to use very large lures as they can intimidate the cod into an aggressive shoulder dislocating strike. Spinnerbaits are a dynamite cod lure in the snag infested Ovens and King rivers as they can be fished vertically, and allowed to sink into the tight corners of log jams where other lures and bait cannot get in.

Don’t forget, here in Victoria there is a two cod per day bag limit, which is also a possession limit meaning that no matter how long you are camping for, you must not be in possession of more than two Murray cod at any given time. There is a minimum size limit of 60cm and a maximum size limit of 100cm, meaning that the big breeding fish must be released unharmed. Personally, I choose to practice catch and release with these majestic fish. There is a certain feeling of self-pride watching a Murray cod swim back into the depths after you have caught it.

Trout and redfin

The spring trout season has been outstanding to say the least in the Ovens River catchment. This great fishing should continue into December, especially in the Ovens River itself, which will maintain a strong flow of cold water right through December. The Ovens River upstream of Bright holds a lot of trout that will provide great fishing right up until, and just after Christmas. Try using metallic bladed spinners such as Celtas and Super Vibrax. If there are a lot of insects around, try using a Rooster Tail spinner which has the tuft of feathers on the treble hooks. Small minnows and soft plastics will also work well in the Ovens River, so too will drifting live bait such as grasshoppers and mudeyes.

The King River upstream of Lake William Hovell should still fish very well in December as well. There are some massive trout hiding in the bottoms of some of those deep dark pools up there that are not easy to catch. The same techniques as mentioned for the Ovens River should work well up there. This area of the King River will get very busy around Christmas time, so if you are planning on heading up that way make sure you get there as early as you can to claim your camping spot.

Also, camping is NOT permitted on the bank of Lake William Hovell. Many people camp on the point where the King River arm enters the main body of water. This practice is illegal and if you choose to camp there you do so at your own risk of being caught, fined and asked to move on.

The redfin should be starting to really fire just about everywhere by December. Lake William Hovell and Lake Buffalo are the areas two main redfin fisheries and they should both be fishing well for redfin in December. The regions many small lowland streams that contain redfin should also be fishing well in December as the water warms right up and the fish become more active.

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