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Giant cod in Canberra's drinking water supply
  |  First Published: June 2016



There has been a remarkable run recently of oversized Murray cod in Googong Reservoir, which is the backup supply of drinking water for Canberra and Queanbeyan. Normally anglers are prevented from fishing in terminal water storages for supposed health reasons but Googong is a special experiment, which has been running since 1976. Anglers are allowed access to limited areas of the reservoir during daylight hours only and limited to electric motors if they are boating.

At the moment the reservoir is full and the water is extremely clear, which means it is in prime condition for lure fishing for the resident redfin, golden perch and Murray cod.

The cod are the big attraction, especially since in recent weeks several fish in the 125-128cm range have been landed and a number of others hooked and lost. Most have been taken on spinnerbaits or big deep divers but on a recent trip I pulled out one of my treasured possessions, an ancient Heddon Magnum Tadpolly in fluorescent yellow colour. This lure has caught some magnificent fish over the years and I use it only when I am looking for that one-off cod of the season. Sure enough, ten-minutes after we started to troll I hooked what could well have been the cod of a lifetime. I recognised it as a massive fish – 4ft of Murray cod – from the outset and settled down to what I knew was going to be a long fight. The fish was in magnificent condition and easily towed my 10ft tinnie around. I let him do it because I thought it might tire him out. But no such luck. He just kept pulling, showing relentless power and strength and I tried to respond in kind. Unfortunately, despite all my best efforts to control the fish it eventually tangled in a complex snag, deep down. I tried for ages to budge it and I could feel the line seesawing around the branches and the fish surging and kicking. Eventually the awful truth dawned on me and I had no choice but to snap the line and give the fish its freedom. I asked my son to do the honours and he did so immediately. He knew as well as I did that the fight was at a standstill.

Not only did I lose the fish but with it went my treasured lure – the last one in my collection. It nearly broke my heart. In fact, for some inane reason the line borrowed from Banjo Patterson popped into my mind “the cod from Old Regret that got away.” But the fish won, and jolly good luck to it. That’s fishing, I guess. But if anyone out there has a yellow Magnum Tadpolly they want to sell, I would be very grateful if they would contact me.

Local Lakes

The Indian summer we experienced this year meant a useful extension of the Murray cod and golden perch season in Canberra’s urban lakes where some nice fish have been caught. The best baits have been scrub worms and yabbies. The best lures have been spinnerbaits and deep divers for cod, and Burrinjuck Specials, Jackalls and Yakamito bibless minnows for the goldens.

The Gulp 13cm black grub soft plastics from Berkley, ZMan and StrikePro have been outstanding for goldens and smaller cod and are the new Holy Grail for lure throwers. Redfin have been everywhere, and have taken virtually anything that moves as long as it is noisy, shiny or both. Burley Griffin and Ginninderra have been the most productive locations. Anglers who fish the weedy lakes, Gungahlin and Yerrabi with surface lures have reported plenty of boofs during the day and at night they’ve had few hook-ups.

We will have to do something with the existing hook arrangements to improve the performance of these otherwise excellent lures.

Wildlife Thieves

On the shores of Burley Griffin at night, a friendly fox came sniffing around an angler’s gear on the lake edge, just a stone’s throw from Parliament House. Intrigued, the anglers tossed it a couple of small redfin, which it ate. It then picked up a rod and reel and tried to take off with it. It only dropped the gear when the angler gave chase, but it is something worth remembering next time you are night fishing in Canberra.

Pre-spawners Moving

Intermittent rainstorms in the mountain catchments have triggered a substantial movement of brown trout from Eucumbene and Jindabyne into the spawning streams. Fly and lure anglers, mostly armed with the traditional Glo Bug and trailing nymph rig, have descended in droves on the Eucumbene and Thredbo rivers. The unseemly mad scramble to catch a trophy fish will be terminated by the season closure on the June long weekend and the fish can then continue their annual journey and spawn in peace. Let’s’ hope it is a successful breeding event with a good recruitment to follow.

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