Cod action reaches boiling point
  |  First Published: December 2016

January in the Wangaratta area is usually all about Murray cod fishing for most anglers. Many anglers will travel to target redfin, trout and yellowbelly, but here in town it is the Murray cod that lure anglers to the water’s edge.

Murray cod

January is the second best month of the year to target Murray cod in the Wangaratta area, following December, which is the best.

With the water at its warmest for the year, the cods’ metabolism is usually working hardest, causing the cod to feed more often.

January seems to be quite a predictable month for cod fishing locally. On the stinking hot 40°C days, the cod can become lethargic and hard to catch. If we get a strong southerly change that drops temperatures and the barometer, the cod can and usually do switch off. But if we can get a period of stable weather with average hot days of around the low to mid 30°C mark with a stable barometer, the Murray cod can just go nuts! Some of my best Murray cod fishing has been in January under such conditions.

On the stinking hot days, the water often gets a really dark appearance, as the oxygen content tends to drop away and hot northerly winds often blow leaves out of the trees and into the water, releasing tannins which stain the water. In these conditions, when the cod become lethargic, try and focus your efforts on the early mornings around sunrise after the river has had all night just to cool off a little bit. Also, focus your casts on areas of broken water. Small drop offs where water flows over a log, a shallow rapid, of just anywhere the water is swirling against any structure.

That moving, broken or cascading water is likely to add oxygen to the water and make that small section a little bit more fish friendly.

I compare a Murray cod in the river in these conditions to myself being trapped in a shipping container. I would look for a hole to deliver me oxygen, and stay close to that hole. A Murray cod will do the same, seek out an area of the river that is delivering a small amount of oxygen in the water, and hang out there until the water temperature drops a bit.

Another place to find Murray cod in these hot and harsh conditions is at the bottom of the really deep holes where the water is always much cooler. Even in the hottest of summer days, I have swam down deep in the Ovens River and found quite cold water only 7-8ft down.

Try using brightly-coloured large lures like the No. 1 StumpJumper or Wilson Slickbacks in the Ovens River during January. If you are planning on bait fishing, try using a bardi grub, large yabby or freshwater shrimp.


If you are hoping to hit up one of the many trout streams in the region in January, make sure you head high into the headwaters.

January can be a very tough time of year to catch trout in the Ovens River catchment due to the fact that it is the hottest time of the year and trout are a coldwater species.

As far as actual waterways are concerned, the Ovens River itself is probably the best pick of the lot. It tends to have a better flow of colder water than most other rivers in the region due to the fact that it flows steeply out of the Victorian Alps, draining the second highest mountain in the state, Mt Feathertop.

With the other streams, try and head to the headwaters. Getting further upstream will take you to where the water is cooler and the trout may be more active.

Focus your efforts on the morning twilight period, as the streams will have had all night to cool down, which may assist the trout in becoming more active.

Look for deep holes in the river that are being fed by rapids and cascades where the water has broken up a little and had a chance to pick up oxygen. Bubble lines on the surface are great places to fish.

The best tip I have for trout fishing in January is to fish straight after decent rain. If we get a decent thunderstorm, or rain event that puts a bit of a fresh flush into the streams, that can really fire the trout right up, even if it is just for a short period of a day or two.

If you are a catch and release trout angler like I am, make sure that you release the trout as quickly as possible. In the summer months you literally only have seconds to get a photo of your catch before releasing it as the warm air will kill the trout in no time.


Lake William Hovell is the place to head in January for redfin as it is usually starting to fire. The lake can begin to drop in water level in January, depending on how much rainfall we get. If the lake starts dropping, the redfin usually start to fire.

Lake Buffalo near Myrtleford and Lakes Sambell and Kerford in Beechworth are all worth fishing for redfin in January, with Lake Sambell having a healthy number of yellowbelly willing to take your lure as a great by-catch.

January is a very hot month in North East Victoria. The Murray cod fishing can be red-hot, the redfin fishing is great and the trout fishing can be rewarding, but a little tough.

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