Wangaratta’s Christmas codlings
  |  First Published: December 2014

December is the most highly anticipated time of the year on the fishing calendar in the Wangaratta area. The reason for this is because the Wangaratta area is the Murray cod heartlands of Victoria, with an abundance of this species in both the Ovens and King rivers.

As with most places, an abundance of fish usually tends to lead to a smaller average size of fish, which is why we catch a lot of smaller Murray cod in this area. Some days you can catch 10-15 cod in a single day, with every single one of them being undersize.

There are legal sized Murray cod in both the Ovens and King rivers but they are not a common catch, and catches of trophy sized Murray cod are as rare as rocking horse poo in this area!

Each season I say the same thing, and I probably sound like a broken record, that is that if you are a sporting angler looking to catch Murray cod in smaller waterways lure casting from the bank and not fussed by the size of the fish you catch, then the Ovens River system is a great place to head.

If you are after a larger cod for whatever reason, be it bragging rights, a trophy photograph or even a few fillets, then I highly suggest you head elsewhere, most likely the Murray River where larger cod are more common in an effort to prevent disappointment.

Last season I managed a 72cm Murray cod 2 days before the season closed late in August, and a 60cm back in the heat of summer last year, and everything else was under 60cm, most of which were well under. Given that I fish this area probably 4 nights of the week on average over summer, and catch a cod or two on most sessions, that's a lot of casts and tiddlers between the larger fish.

December is the best month of the year to target Murray cod in the Ovens and King rivers as there is still a reasonable flow of well oxygenated water and the cod seem to be quite active.

By January, when the long hot 40°C+ days have set in, the water becomes very low, quite dark and considerably warm. At this point the cod usually slow right down in both rivers.

Pretty much all Murray cod techniques will work during December. Bait fishers should pick up cod, particularly in the lower reaches of the Ovens River where it is a bit cloudier and deeper.

Lure casters using spinnerbaits and hardbodied lures will all be in with a good chance also. My personal favourite technique in this area is surface fishing. It is probably not as productive as casting a sub-surface lure, but it can be very exciting, rewarding and being that it is a technique best utilised at sunset, it fits in well with my work commitments!

The trout fishing should be OK in December in the Ovens River catchment. I say OK because that is what I am expecting, just OK. Nothing to get too excited about, but not dead either.

Recently, 1500 mature brown trout were stocked into the Ovens River between Porpunkah and Harrietville. This is excellent news as this stretch of river has really been struggling after a series of natural disasters.

They’ve stocked mature trout for a reason – so that they will spawn next autumn and kick-start a new natural recruiting population of wild trout. It is for this reason that it is quite critical that anglers practice catch and release. Although I encourage catch and release, I never really ram it down people throats, however this is very important in the upper Ovens River at the moment if we are to see the river bounce back to the great fishing that it produced only a few years back. The water in the Ovens River is the best trout water in the area as it exits the mountains quite quickly and steeply and is overgrown and shaded. Therefore, the water is the coolest and most suitable in the region for decent trout fishing. The Ovens River is definitely in need of protection at this vulnerable time.

Away from the Ovens River, there should still be some good trout fishing to be had, but the trick is to find the fish! Most of the trout I have caught this spring have been high up in the headwaters of the creeks where the water is likely to be a little bit cooler.

Good luck in December everyone, stay safe on the roads and I hope everybody has a fantastic Christmas and New Year.

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