Options other than Mr Big
  |  First Published: October 2007

We were casting spinnerbaits on the Murray River in a section of water aptly dubbed the Green Mile. The name derives from its amazing ability to consistently produce thumping Murray cod and this day would be no exception.

It was early morning and the frost had just started to melt on the floor of the boat. Cold fingers reluctantly worked the reels as the flashing blades searched the depths.

I was first to feel the hammer blow as an unseen giant slammed the rotating metal meal but failed to hook up. Several casts to the same location would not tempt another strike; this fish would not be fooled twice.

Our drift was slow, providing ample time to cast between the maze of old logs that lay along the river’s course. The whir and plop of the lures was the only outside noise in the morning calm.

Gus sent a long cast along the edge of the bank. Just below the water’s surface lay the buttress of a large submerged river gum, an obvious haunt for a hungry green fish and one he spied and cast with seasoned accuracy.

The retrieve, slow and deliberate, was mid-way between the snag and the boat when the spinnerbait was slammed. The rod buckled over and line was torn from the reel as the fish made its second mistake – instead of heading back towards its home among the snags, it made a bee-line for the middle of the river.

The heavy drag setting had done its job. Now in open water, it was only a matter of time before the fish tired and would be led to the boat. It was obvious from the onset that this was a very large cod but it wasn’t until it first appeared on the surface that we realised we had hooked into an absolute monster.

The fish was led to the bank, where it took two anglers to lift it for a photograph. Even then it was a struggle, its giant frame a remarkable sight. It had to weigh at least 60kg. Never had any of us seen such a fish in either the flesh or a photograph.

The giant cod was returned to the river, where it swam back among the snags. An old fish, it showed the rigors of time with one eye looking as though it had limited vision.

Having fished the Green Mile many times and not seen this giant before begs the question of how many and just how big are some of the cod that still inhabit the Murray River. I guess we will never truly know the answer to this question.

With cod season finished, anglers will turn their attentions in many directions. Some will fish the Murray as the golden perch become active with the rising water temperatures. The Wakool, Murrumbidgee and Edward rivers will also start to produce these fish in good numbers.

If it’s your intention to chase these fish with lures, scale down their size to avoid incidental cod captures.

Bait fishos need to be aware that as the goldens come on the chew, so too do the smaller cod. Cod often outnumber all fish caught over any given session and often swallow the hook. If this is the case, cut the line and release the fish in good condition.

It’s for this reason I leave all local waters alone and fish for other species farther afield.

As we head into spring, redfin begin to show interest in bait and lures. These feisty fish are a delight on the plate and great fun to catch.

They’re schooling fish so if you find them on the chew they are easily caught in good numbers. Lake Charm, between Swan Hill and Kerang, is a great destination that provides some absolute thumping redfin every season.

It’s also around this time the southern surf beaches show good numbers of salmon that are closely followed by large mulloway. Salt Creek, along the Coorong, is a favourite destination accessible only by 4WD.

These highly-sought fish are a test of angling skill and patience but worth the time to taste success. As the weather continues to become even warmer, the snapper run will also begin, followed closely by all manner of sharks that can be landed from shore and boats.

Squid will begin to show in numbers along the coast and bream and whiting will become regular catches around the bays and inlets. So there you have it: There’s plenty on offer to help scratch that angling itch over the closed cod season.

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