Don’t ignore the shallows
  |  First Published: August 2016

It is common to find big fish sitting high in the water column during the winter months. Cold frosty mornings and big high-pressure systems are consistent during a Mildura winter, and this weather triggers big cod to feed up on the massive schools of bait in the area.

Having a good high definition sounder is a must at this time of year to help locate the bait schools and target these areas. With the aid of down scan you can search easily for bait balls, which often sit in the top 15ft of the water column. The size of the bait varies between 50-100mm, and trolling and casting hardbody lures to a similar size is a successful method to entice a strike from a Murray cod. It is important to try a variety of sizes, colours and diving depths in your lures, as it is not only the bait schools that cod target, but the golden and silver perch feed on the bait schools as well.

For anglers who target golden perch feeding on these bait schools, smaller lures such as Jackall Genes, TT blades and small hardbody lures around 50mm in length have been successful. Casting these lures on light gear in the shallows has seen perch up to 56cm caught. The most effective times of the day have been early mornings and late evenings when these predatory fish feel more comfortable in the shallower water. Yellowbelly in this size range provide great sport and are a sought-after table fish. Quality redfin up to 1kg have also been caught at Lake Cullulleraine casting and slow trolling Celta lures. Although these fish aren’t the best fighting fish they are excellent eating.

The low light times of the day have also been the best time to target the big Murray cod who hunt high in the water column at this time of year. Casting big profile surface lures, spinnerbaits and shallow diving hardbodies has been very effective, and numbers of cod in excess of 120cm have been caught. A shallow water strike from a fish this size can be violent so you need to have good quality line, leader, knots, split rings, hooks and also confidence in your gear that it will withstand that initial impact.

Many anglers have kitted up with a beanie and a headlamp and fished the surface well into the dark in search of big cod. Lures such as Koolabung Cod Crackers, Wake Snakes and Jackall Pompadours have been very popular. Hooking and landing a fish of this size can be a once in a lifetime opportunity for many anglers and extra care must always be taken when handling a fish of this size. These big fish are the future of the sport, so take a quick photo then return them safely to the water.

With the cod season nearly finished it’s time to brave the cold and go catch a big one.

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