Counting down for cod
  |  First Published: December 2015

What a wonderful spring we have had here in North East Victoria with possibly the best trout fishing we’ve had since the spring of 2010 when drought-breaking rains sent the trout on a feeding frenzy!

The yellowbelly have been going nuts in the waterways that are stocked with them, and in the Ovens River catchment the main waterway for yellowbelly is Lake Sambell in Beechworth. Further afield at Lake Hume the fishing has been insane all spring. It’s certainly been a spring to remember, but now all eyes will be focussed on other, greener fish as we head into December!

This year cod opening is on a Tuesday. Tuesday 1 December heralds the start of the new cod season and keen anglers will be up early ready to head out. Many anglers will be using annual leave like myself, some will be using sick leave, and some will have to go to work and just wait until the weekend!

It is almost a given that the Ovens and King rivers will fish well for cod all season. Unlike trout fishing, which seems to fluctuate with the seasons, Murray cod fishing tends to remain quite constant with every season being a good season.

Obviously there are variables that can affect the fishing throughout the season, such as cool changes, sudden dips in the barometer, heavy rain and thunderstorms and so on, but on the whole the cod fishing will be good.

The Ovens River is a fantastic river to fish for Murray cod. Downstream of Wangaratta it is deeper, and the water is murkier and there seems to be more big cod to throw into the mix. In saying that, there are not a lot of large Murray cod in the Ovens River system. There are a few, and each year a couple of 100cm+ Murray cod get caught, but it is not a common occurrence.

For the best chance of catching a trophy sized Murray cod in the Ovens River, head far downstream to the Bundalong area. Down there the river is backed up by Lake Mulwala so it is deeper and wider, is accessible by boat and larger cod get caught far more frequently.

Between Wangaratta and Bundalong there are several public access points where anglers can access the Ovens River and launch a kayak, or even a small boat in some places. Large sections of these lower reaches are now bound by the Warby Ovens National Park, so no guns or pets are allowed, but you can still camp.

Upstream of Wangaratta the Ovens River flows over a gravel bed and is much faster flowing and clearer. This is what many anglers call an upland waterway. There is a very healthy population of trout cod, which are now spawning naturally in the system, as well as a whole heap of Murray cod. Finding a large specimen of either species is a real challenge. Between Wangaratta and Myrtleford there are several access points and cod at each one of them.

The river is teaming with smaller, undersized Murray cod. There are a lot of mouths to feed in that river. Due to its popularity the Ovens River is patrolled regularly by fisheries compliance officers, usually based in Wodonga, so don’t be tempted to keep a protected trout cod, or an undersized Murray cod, or you may land yourself in hot water.

The King River is a different river than the Ovens River. It has much more limited access and is much smaller. It’s not a good kayak water as there are many trees fallen across the entire narrow river bed, and as for boating… don’t even consider it! There are not many trout cod in the King River, but there are plenty of Murray cod.

The best access is upstream of Moyhu at a very large and very popular camping ground known as the Edi cutting. The water there is very clear, wading is easy and there are stacks of cod in that area.

Downstream in its lower reaches around Wangaratta the King River is not a popular fishing area due to its limited access, overgrown banks and very healthy tiger snake population. The cod are there, but you need a high level of dedication to get to them!

Hopefully the trout will be on the chew again this month. It’s very hard to say what will happen in the trout streams at this time of the year as we wait for rain. If we get decent rainfall in November (and there is some forecast) we may get an awesome December for trout fishing. If we get poor rainfall, December trout fishing will be very tough.

Lets run with the worst case scenario: we get little rain. Make sure you head up into the headwaters of whatever trout stream you are fishing in search of the best flow of cooler, well-oxygenated water. This is where the trout will be the most active, particularly during the heat. Mornings and evening will be the best. Avoid the hottest times of the day as the trout will often sit down deep and sulk.

Lakes Buffalo and William Hovell will both be worth hitting up for a feed of redfin during December, with yellowbelly being a possibility as a by-catch in Lake Buffalo. There may be a trout or two lingering in Lake William Hovell, but with the warmth in the air, I would imagine they will be down deeper than most of your lures will dive!

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