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Fish after dark if you want cod
  |  First Published: March 2014



ACT and district anglers have taken to the relatively new sport of surface luring for Murray cod at night in spectacular fashion. There have been numerous good catches in the urban and regional lakes and rivers in recent weeks.

The technique involves casting and retrieving surface lures in the normal manner, but interspersed with pauses and twitches to give the fish time to size up and strike at the lure.

The results have been quite spectacular. The strikes usually are huge, with air and water exploding in a massive upheaval that really gets the adrenalin going. Mostly the strikes are heavy and noisy but sometimes they go off like a pistol shot. Either way it has commonly reduced even experienced anglers to a trembling state of apprehension. Just recently an angler heard a cod strike-and-smash so huge he thought his brother had fallen in the water. He actually ran up in the dark to check that he really was okay, but found him just shaking after the strike.

Another angler fishing in the same area got a massive strike from a 90cm fish just 1m from his rod tip. He said it was so close, so noisy and so immense that “I nearly **** myself!”

So if you thought surface lure fishing for mangrove jacks, barramundi or bass was heart pumping, wait until you hit a big Murray cod on a dark night.

The technique works on moonlit nights, pitch dark nights and even on overcast days. It sometimes works also during the brighter parts of the day if the area has not been unduly disturbed by boats or anglers tossing out lures such as spinnerbaits or deep divers. Experience to date suggests the best fishing is from about 11pm onwards, but fish have been taken at other times.

The beauty of this technique is that you can fish bodies of water that are too weed-infested to fish in the standard manner with lures such as spinnerbaits and deep divers during the day. The idea is that the fish are often there during the day but you just cannot get to them.

The technique has proven to be perfect in Canberra’s five urban lakes because they are shallow and nutrient-rich and thus full of weeds. It’s also perfect for anglers who can’t get away for a fish during the day because of work or family commitments.

Another advantage is where you fish a waterway that is infested with redfin. During the day lure fishing is difficult because you constantly have an unwanted tiny redfin hanging onto the lure, spoiling its effectiveness. At night redfin won’t touch the lure and it’s left clean and ready for a cod to take it.

You can fish from a boat or walk the bank and both techniques have their place. Just recently a boat angler had nine strikes for three hook-ups while an angler walking the bank in the same waterway had seven fish up and two landed. The bank angler had one big fish boof the lure in just 50cm of water, indicating that the fish can be foraging and feeding just about anywhere at night.

Numerous tackle companies make surface lures suitable for cod. The best of them to date have been from Australian companies such as Halco, Taylor Made, Koolabung, Kingfisher, Honey Hole and Boomerang. They are built to be tough, with big splashy bibs and strong hooks, and have to date landed night fish to 92cm.

Anglers are also experimenting with smaller lures aimed at golden perch. The results at night to date look encouraging but we have a lot more testing to do to declare it a success. We’ll report on that in due course.

Other Options

For those not spending all their time night fishing for cod there have been plenty of other options.

The urban lakes are full of small redfin which take hard bodied lures and soft plastics with gusto. Worm baits are also quickly scoffed down. Redfin provide a lot of easy, fun fishing, especially for kids, and the larger ones are superb to eat.

Golden perch also have been active in the urban lakes and especially Burrinjuck Reservoir. Some have been taken on the troll but the best of them have come from around the flooded trees where anglers can bob with bibless minnows, shrimps, yabbies, scrubworms or green saltwater prawns. The best locations in the reservoir have been well upstream in the Yass and Murrumbidgee Arms but the fish move around a lot. One angler recently had a good day, scoring 19 fish bobbing in some trees. He tried again the next day but never scored a fish. That’s fishing.

Plenty of cod also have been taken, including a surprising number over the magic metre mark. Mick Maher is still smiling about his 115cm fish that won the Yamaha Tournament at Mulwala, and Canberra tackle shop worker Sam landed a 108cm fish at Wyangala. Other outsize specimens have come from the Main Basin at Burrinjuck.

So all is well with the natives at the moment, but if you really want the thrill of a lifetime, slip out one night and chuck a big surface lure in your local waterway. You might be surprised!

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