Like many other anglers I look forward to cod reappearing on the target list come 1 December. There is just something about Murray cod that is hard to define. They’re not the prettiest fish, they certainly don’t fight the hardest, but they are an awe-inspiring fish that takes up a lot of my dream time.
Catching cod can be as easy as flicking a shrimp, yabby or bardi grub out near a clump of snags and hanging on, but my style of cod fishing is far more active. I love chasing them in relatively shallow water with cast and retrieve lures. This means I don’t come across as many overgrown behemoths as some do, but it does mean that I come across a lot more middle-sized fish, and a lot more golden perch too!
The following is a brief run-down on what I look for in the waters around Lake Mulwala (upstream, downstream and in the lake) when I get the chance to be on the water chasing my favourite fish in Australia.
There is no substitute for a bit of flow when chasing cod and goldens on cast lures. The current dictates where the fish will be and means the fish can lie in ambush waiting for the next silly carp, redfin, yabby or shrimp to swim by.
When I talk about the currents, I don’t mean a rip roaring current that tears past the snags at warp speed. I look for snags that have little current swirls behind them which indicates that water is moving past and through the snag, not belting into it.
You’ll find plenty of this type of flow upstream from Majors Creek boat ramp in Mulwala and up through the Ovens River, but the Murray flows a bit hard when irrigation is at its peak. It doesn’t mean you can’t catch cod in the Murray snags, just that it’s a bit harder.
In Mulwala, you’ll find these small currents in and around the main river channel until you get about half way down the lake where the current peters out into the expansive shallows. When the irrigation water stops flowing, this slight current peters out a lot higher up in the lake.
Below Mulwala it’s hard yakka to find really good water in the first kilometre or two at peak flow. However there are some snags and holes behind sand banks that are perfect. There are also some great offshoot creeks from about 2km below the wall that are well worth sneaking in to for a fish. The main river below Mulwala is worth fishing, but the fast current makes it hard to properly work your lures, and if you do hook a fish in this fast water – be prepared for some of the hardest fighting native fish you’ll find as they really use the current well.
I love finding weed because it means food and food means fish. I remember the first time I fished above Mulwala at Bundalong and how blown away I was by the amount of healthy weed growth. I was far more used to the Murray around Nyah West near Swan Hill where I could never find any weed. I am sure it was there somewhere though!
The long strap weed found in Mulwala, the Ovens and Murray is a great indicator that fish will be nearby. It’s also a great indicator of current as the long strands wave around and provide a great visual reference for keen-eyed anglers.
There is also plenty of bushy weed around. This is a little harder to see in the water as it is often covered with silt, but it’s also a great indicator of food and fish. The two weeds are often found close to one another as well, which makes for a great fishing locations. One point worth remembering is that the strap weed grows better in slighter faster current than bushy weed.
Snags near any of these weedy areas that have some horizontal cover are awesome to fish, but don’t discount old tree trunks. Fish can hide in the weed behind the trunks and blast out into the clear water to smash a lure.
I reckon Murray cod love a roof over their head so I look for horizontal snags first. Goldens, on the other hand, are quite often found on vertical snags.
Horizontal structure can take the form of fallen limbs, broken trunks that are laying in the water, thick weed, fallen trees and even exposed root masses. Quite often you won’t even know the horizontal structure is there until you throw a lure in or go for a dive to check it out.
There is one snag we fish above Parolas Bridge on the Ovens that we always catch at least one fish from and all it looks like is an old tree. But when the water was low and clear one year, we jumped in and checked it out underwater – what an eye opener that was. This snag had a massive root ball that was off the bottom about three feet and the hard structure we hit just before the lure was smacked by a cod or golden was actually the top of the root ball. I could clearly imagine a fish just sitting under the root ball, hearing a lure come crashing up and over the root ball, then slamming the lure hard.
And don’t think the horizontal snag needs to be big either. One snag we fish near Majors Creek is in about 5’ of water. It’s surrounded by weed – the thick bushy stuff, and has some hard timber near the bottom. If you can manage to miss the weed at the top end you get about 2m of effective retrieve. Cod love sitting under the hard structure and the rewards are there for a good cast. This piece of timber is only about 1m long by 50cm wide and is the curved section of an old tree trunk. It makes a perfect tunnel snag and cod can sit under it with their noses out the front end, snapping up easy food. I’ve caught cod to 7kg from this little snag. I also know we are not the only ones fishing this snag as we have never caught the same fish there twice, so it’s either a staging snag for migrating cod or others are fishing it and keeping the cod. Either way, it’s a pretty reliable snag.
So there’s a short list of three prime things to look for if you plan to hit Mulwala this cod season. The water doesn’t need to be deep, in fact 3m is almost too deep, so it’s easy fishing. You won’t lose lures because most of the time you can poke a tackle retriever down onto the lure and all you need is a drag anchor (lead weight on a rope) to hold the boat in the current.
There’s nothing much better than hooking into a good cod after a few months waiting and this season looks set to be a ripper.
MY LURE BOX
Oar-Gee Plow 80
Oar-Gee Pee Wee
Custom Crafted Extractor
Custom Crafted Hammerhead
AC Invader 60