Year of the Murray cod
  |  First Published: March 2016

This certainly looks to be the year of the Murray cod in the Canberra-Monaro District. Reports have come in of great fish from all over the local region, in lakes and streams and even larger farm dams.

Numerous fish have come from Canberra’s urban lakes, especially Burley Griffin, Ginninderra and Yerrabi. Others have come from the Molonglo and the Murrumbidgee rivers and there have been some outstanding specimens from Googong, Wyangala, Blowering, Burrendong and especially Burrinjuck. The largest fish from Burley Griffin recently was 1.45m in length and from Burrinjuck a specimen of 1.5m was taken; excellent fish indeed.

Stocking Success

There are several possible reasons for the current run of good cod. Firstly, we are seeing the results of concentrated stocking programs by NSW Fisheries and ACT Fish Management staff in recent years. Fingerlings obtained from government and private hatcheries have been produced in large numbers at minimal cost, and then stocked in waterways at the right time of the year when water temperatures are satisfactory and when there is plenty of food available.

Survival rates have been good and the fish have grown rapidly. A key factor in the growth rate has been the abundance of redfin and carp in the stocked waterways. We may be concerned at the pest status of these fish, but they are a valuable food source for developing cod. It will be interesting to see what happens if the koi herpes virus, lethal to carp and currently being considered for release in Australian waterways, wipes out this valuable component of the cod’s diet.

Catch And Release

Another factor has been the phenomenal public acceptance of catch-and-release. Years ago the majority of Murray cod caught were killed, even though there was some acceptance of bag and size limits. Public attitudes have now changed dramatically and the majority of cod now caught, irrespective of size or bag limits, are released to grow and provide sport another day.

Additionally, a far greater proportion of cod are now caught on lures instead of bait and thus can be released with less harm and a greater survival rate. Overall, this has meant more cod in the system and larger fish available for capture. Just a few years ago a cod over the magic 1m mark was a rare event. Today, it is surprisingly commonplace and in Burrinjuck in particular, metre plus fish are caught almost every week.

New Tackle And Techniques

Tackle has also improved. Lures come in a wider range of colours, shapes and sound patterns There are more deep divers, hardbodied patters and soft plastics than ever before to titillate a cod’s appetite. Night fishing, slow trolling large hardbodied lures, and spinnerbaits are proving to be popular new techniques. There has been great increase in the use of surface lures, for both day and night fishing, which has proven to be eminently successful on cod of all sizes.

Golden Success

It’s been a good start with golden perch. Often they are a by-catch when fishing for Murray cod, but for those who concentrate on them, Burrinjuck has been the standout location. Trollers have used a variety of lures, including lipless crankbaits and hardbodies. Black plastic grubs jigged around flooded trees, especially in the lower reaches of the Murrumbidgee Arm, have been hugely successful.

Redfin Schooling

Redfin have followed their traditional summer pattern of schooling in large numbers and have provided great sport in the urban lakes as well as the major dams like Googong and Burrinjuck. Using flashy, shiny, noisy jigs and other lures it has been easy to catch cricket scores of the fish in many locations, much to the delight of anglers who appreciate these fine food fish.

Trout Delight

The trout season is in full swing with plenty of action for fly fishers using small parachute dries and grasshopper patterns in the streams and big wets at night in the lakes. Rainbows in both Eucumbene and Jindabyne average about 1.5kg and the browns around 2kg, and respond well to flatline and lead core line trolling, bait fishing with PowerBait, scrub worms and wood grubs. Night fishing is also successful with Craigs Nightime, Woolly Bugger and red and black matuka flies doing the damage.

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