Australia’s first trout cod fisheries
  |  First Published: October 2015

Friday 14 August marked a very special day in Australia’s fishing history, as it was the day that Victoria opened the first official trout cod fishery.

I was lucky enough to be invited to this very special day and could not wait to lay my eyes on these new fisheries. It was a short but sweet opening ceremony with all sorts of dignitaries present including the Victorian Premier, Fisheries minister, heads of fisheries and VRfish as well as plenty of media. Although the fish were already stocked, this day marked the official opening of the two new trout cod fisheries.

Victorian fisheries as well as VRfish have worked extremely hard to set up these put and take trout cod fisheries and after years of hard work have now established a catchable population of the elusive trout cod in both Lakes Sambell and Lake Kerford.

I believe the hard work started way back in 2008 with the first batch of trout cod being released and regular stockings have occurred since. More the 45000 trout cod have been stocked into the two lakes and the bigger fish are now nudging 50cm in length. Extensive studies were done on a host of things before the decision was made to open this fishery. There will be more regular trout cod stockings and work will eventually start on improving the lakes habitats even more to accommodate for this species.

In the wild, trout cod are a highly prized fish but are highly protected and must be released to the water as quickly as possible with the least amount of harm to the fish. It is because of this protected status in the wild that some anglers questioned this new fishery but the wild fish will remain protected and the only place in the country, or the world for that matter, that you can legally target this fish species is these two lakes in and near Beechworth.

Rules and regulations

A lot of consultation was done with fishos to try and work out the best bag and size limits and I believe they have come up with a good set of regulations.

For starters anglers can only keep one trout cod per day and only ever have one in possession and there is a slot size limit of 40-50cm, which makes great sense. Fish any smaller are not worth eating and fish any bigger will be too highly sort after for sports angling and potential breeding so it is a good compromise.

These fish were put there for the purpose of anglers being able to keep one for the table, so if you like the taste of fish or are interested in seeing what a trout cod tastes like, then go for it and certainly don’t feel bad for doing so.

Those of you that have never caught a trout cod are probably wondering what all the fuss is about but when you finally catch one and have that rod nearly ripped out of your hands, you will understand why so many people are salivating at the potential of these two fisheries.

What else is in there?

On top of the stocked trout cod in the two lakes, both lakes have a population of redfin in them that will keep anglers occupied between trout cod bites. Both lakes also have a population of golden perch in them, some of which are quite large.

Lake Sambell also gets stocked twice yearly and soon to be three times yearly with catchable trout, so in this particular fishery you just never know what is going to attack your lure, fly or bait next.

Lake Kerford is the water supply dam for Beechworth, so there is no boating on this lake and anglers are restricted to bank fishing at this lake. The wall area is the deepest part of the lake and is probably your best area to fish if you want to really target the trout cod.

Lake Sambell allows boats but has restrictions on speed and possibly horsepower, so check rules and regulations before launching. If you are bank bound there is really good bank access to this dam anyway, so a boat will not give you that much of an advantage.

How to catch them

I’ve never specifically targeted trout cod before but I have caught hundreds over the years while targeting Murray cod from places such as the Ovens River, the Upper Murray River and the Murrumbidgee River, so I can certainly offer a few tips to increase your chances of catching one when you visit.

Trout cod are often super aggressive, so you can’t really go too big when it comes to lure, fly or bait choices. As for baitos, just like Murray cod, trout cod can’t resist a juicy bardi grub but if you can’t get these then wood grubs are worth a shot or the increasingly popular cheese bait.

Fly anglers will pick them up on large woolly buggers intended for trout, golden perch or redfin but to specifically target them, I would be throwing cod specific flies. There is a countless array that will work and for your best selection of cod specific flies, get onto Kaos Cod Flies, their range is second to none.

Lure anglers will find it very hard to beat spinnerbaits and although double Colorado spinner baits will work great in the dirty water, it is hard to beat single willow bladed spinner baits when targeting trout cod. We have also caught dozens recently on the Angel Baits from Insanity Tackle. Lipless crank baits like Jackalls, Mazzy Vibes and Insanity Tackle Slap Walkers are another great option and they appeal to all species so you will cover all bases by throwing this style of lure around.

Both of these fisheries lend themselves to some potentially great surface fishing as well so chuck your favourite surface lure in when visiting.

At this stage these lakes only have trout cod up to 50cm in them but once they get above that size they will be protected and there to continue to grow bigger and bigger. Trout cod in general are highly sort after but being able to go and have a chance at trophy sized trout cod will have anglers lining up for miles.

So as you can see, both of these lakes are already great fisheries but throw in legal trout cod fishing as well and you have two fisheries that anglers will soon be travelling from near and far to get there first trout cod fix.

I know I will be back again this summer, so I might see you there!

Until next article, good luck, good fishing and tight lines!

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