Big cod are on the prowl
  |  First Published: June 2015

What a beautiful time of the year; the icy cold air sharpening the senses of the keenest of anglers, the early morning fog cloaking the banks as we meander down to the water’s edge, leafless willows revealing their hidden pockets that had been blocked in the summer months, ice covered boulders lining the centres of the river, creating eddies that shelter our unseen adversaries.

For me though, winter signifies 1 thing — big fish. In summer, you often get a mixed bag of small to medium sized cod, with the odd big fella mixed in, but winter is time to rug up, bring out the heavy artillery, and try find that magical fish that gets the adrenalin pumping time and time again.

Lures like large spinnerbaits from LureStrike, Full Moon Spinnerbaits and Bassmans are all popular, time-proven options that attract plenty of attention. Large shallow runners will be a fantastic option, as most fish are holding in the margins soaking up what little warmth they can gather from the moderate winter temperature.

The Peel River is looking good right now. The precipitation we have had over the last month was not enough to give the dams a rise, but it did manage to get some flow back into the river.

Good reports of Murray cod and golden perch are fairly common. Worms and yabbies are doing the majority of the damage, as well as cheese. Yes, you read correctly, a block of Colby or Bega cheese cut into manageable sized cubes and threaded onto a 4/0 or 6/0 hook is dynamite on cod, and a great alternative if your favourite baits are unavailable.

The Namoi is shaping up to be a great fishery this winter. Big lures in the 90-120mm range are the only way to go when chasing the big fish. They don't come easy, so long mornings and nights on the water might be cold and less than favourable, but those who put in the effort in the right areas will be rewarded with some real lunkers.

Lake Keepit has been a little slow. A few reports of golden perch and eel tailed catfish have filtered through, but not in the numbers associated with the summer months. Worms and frozen shrimp have been successful, and it’s around this time every year that the golden perch school up on the rocky points around the dam. Finding them is easy, but getting them to unclench their mouths for a feed can be a little more difficult. Lures like silent lipless crankbaits and soft plastics will be critical in tempting these schooled-up fish.

Lake Keepit is also known to hold some cracking Murray cod, and if you have seen any of Dean McFarlane’s DVDs (Luring For Murray Cod or For Cod’s Sake), you will see the boys fishing the weed beds after dark in winter for some very large fish. Make sure you grab a copy and you may learn a few tips on how to catch these beautiful, iconic fish

Sheba Dam, north of Nundle, is starting to fish well. There is plenty of small trout around the 30cm mark keeping anglers happy, but there are a few large brood stock in there as well. These crafty fish are in excess of 3kg and can be hard to fool, but well worth the time and effort. Baits of fresh local worms and grubs are hard to beat, but the artificial baits like Berkley's PowerBait are always in the mix and often get results.

Small spinners and minnows also work well on these dams, but it pays to stay mobile. Keep moving until you find some active fish, and cover the area thoroughly before moving locations. 
Just be mindful that trout can be very clever, so a little stealth goes a long way when chasing these hard-fighting aerial imports.

So this winter, wear the appropriate clothing, stay warm, stay safe along the river, and fish hard. The timing couldn't be better for your chance at finding that dream fish.

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