As is usually the case in autumn, the Murray cod fishing has been very hit and miss in the Ovens and King River catchments so far this autumn. Over a 2 week period during March I headed out 4 times after work for a couple of hours on sunset each time. The first 3 times yielded absolutely nothing while the fourth session saw me land 3 Murray cod in under half an hour.
During May this hot and cold Murray cod fishing will continue in both the Ovens and King rivers. I was recently told by a mate that his cod season really only starts at this time of year, which is often the case for diehard Murray cod anglers fishing the Murray River system. The system is regulated heavily by dams and weirs and irrigation demands, but in this area, because of cold water and the effects of autumn rainfall, May is quite often the end of the cod fishing around the Wangaratta area.
May fishing in the Wangaratta area is completely dependent upon how much autumn rain falls in the catchments. Provided we have not had too much rain, the Ovens and King rivers will be fishable. The best time to target cod in this area is after several days of nice stable weather with sunny days and a high barometer. May can bring us just about anything with regards to weather from frosty mornings, torrential down pours, snow in the headwaters to lovely mild sunny days. Try and make time for your cod fishing after a run of those mild sunny days, especially as the stable weather is about to come to an end and there is a change in the air.
At this time of year when the water is very cold, the Murray cod's metabolism is much slower than in warm water, this means they are much less active and take longer to digest their food. In other words, don't expect to find a red hot bite at any time of the month.
Make sure you slow your lure right down as slow as you can possibly work it during May. If using a spinnerbait, retrieve it so that the blade is only just rotating, and if using a hardbody lure give the reel a few quick cranks to get the lure to dive and then retrieve it just slow enough to keep it down deep in the fish's face. The longer the lure hangs in the cod's face during this cold time of the year the more inclined the cod will be to strike it.
Another great option, and one that is often overlooked in this modern era of fishing that is dominated by lures, tackle companies and fancy clothing is to revert to using bait. I often fish with bait and absolutely love it. It is the most relaxing form of fishing there is, and the most effective.
Small bait such as worms will catch anything from tiny freshwater blackfish, to yellowbelly, carp, redfin and cod. I must admit though that I have caught very few large cod on worms. Bardi grubs and large yabbies are the best bait for bigger Murray cod.
If you're lure fishing during May in the Ovens and King River catchments and not having any luck, rig up a hook and sinker and lower a bardi grub as close as possible to some submerged big old logs, and you just never know your luck.
The trout fishing in the upland sections of the Ovens and King river catchments may be okay in May. Just like the cod fishing it can be very hit and miss, and based on the trout fishing over the last 12-18 months it could be very tough.
There are a few trout in the system if you are prepared to look around and find them. Try using brightly coloured bladed spinners or small trout pattern minnows.
I have had some great sessions fly fishing during May. I use a large dry fly, usually a Royal Stimulator as an indicator and suspend a small black bead headed nymph underneath it. Most of the time the trout will hit the nymph.
There are a couple of lakes that will be worth trying during May. Lake William Hovell always fishes well for trout during May when the water surface temperature is very cold. Trolling winged lures, such as Tassie Devils is usually the most productive, especially during the low light periods of the day. Lake Catani on top of the Mt Buffalo Plateau also fishes well this month, although it is very cold up there with day temperatures rarely passing 5ºC and the occasional snowfall making things uncomfortable. As mentioned, it is worth a visit though, just make sure you are prepared for all kinds of weather as it is a high altitude lake.
There are still a few trout in the catchment, but you need to look hard for them. Try the upper King River above Lake William Hovell, the Buckland and Buffalo rivers.
A lovely plump 58cm Murray cod that fell to a Bassman spinnerbait in the Lower Ovens River downstream of Wangaratta recently.
Brett Corker with a magnificent 66cm Murray cod that nailed his sweet water surface lure on sunset recently sending a splash of water over 1m into the air.
A typically undersized Murray cod that fell to a Koolabung Codwalker surface lure in the Ovens River in Wangaratta recently.Reads: 970