The calm before the storm
  |  First Published: August 2013

There is no mistaking winter as you roll back the flap of the swag and it crackles under the thick layer of frost that has settled during the night. As you climb free of the warmth, the sun cuts a beam of light through the cloaking fog that hides much of the river. You can see baitfish breaking the surface, their silver flecks seemingly endless.

Winter cod fishing along the Murray is a time of calm where, other than the skittish bait and the dancing lick of flames surrounding the riverside campfire, nothing seems in a hurry. This is especially true of the cod themselves as they seem to take a bit of convincing. Cold days with limited on-water time means that every strike counts, and at day’s end chances are often few.

On the upside, winter cod fishing is about size. While the action might be slow, the takers are most often large.

There is nothing new about targeting winter cod on lures; it’s been written a squillion times already. However, many anglers still miss the one important factor that catches more big cod than any during the winter months: using larger lures. In the chilly waters these giant fish need prompting, and the sight of an oversized baitfish waddling by without a care in the world is reason enough to belt it. My last five metre-plus cod last month were all caught on one lure in one colour trolling at a similar depth. I also dropped another six good fish that loaded the rod and stripped copious amounts of line off the small Curado reel before pulling the hooks free. No rocket science here, just one large lure trolled a metre or two off the bottom over several trips.

“What about colour change?” I hear some of you say. Yes, given the chance I would have changed lure colours just to mix it up a bit. However, I had only one lure that size so that was the one that got a swim.

Now, when it comes to ‘How big is too big’ for winter cod I can honestly say I have yet to see a lure that surpasses the mark. After having a cod of about 10kg belted by another cod down deep, it makes you wonder if we might in fact be fishing way too small to tempt the really big specimens that all cod fishos wonder about. Who knows, but there are some very new and exciting lures starting to filter through that might help tempt not only these giant fish but the tackle rat in us all.

In our local waters the good clarity has seen some sizable cod caught on the troll with large hardbodied lures. Just as importantly, there have also been a couple of larger fish caught on the cast using spinnerbaits. The Bassman DT has been a great option as some of the big fish are slowly starting to show a preference for the shallows.

Fishing below Robinvale has slowed a little, with few perch being caught on either bait or lures. Cod, however, continue to bite on lures, with several fish over a metre caught this past month. The pool water at Robinvale itself remains cod-free, as it has most of the season, with just a few perch caught on baits of shrimp and small yabbies.

A few more frosts should send a good many winter cod into the shallows, and over the coming month casting will be the most effective way to target the biggest of winter cod. As we sit on the transition between troll and cast I can’t help but feel this changeover period is a little like the calm before the storm. I hope to get continually shocked and blown away as the storm rolls in on the cast.

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