Go easy on pre-spawn cod
  |  First Published: July 2004

MOST aware, up-to-date fishos know by now that Murray Cod are doing it pretty tough. The reasons are many but solutions are not simple.

I’m not gonna harp on about the good, the bad and the ugly of fishing, just let you know about a new finding from Narrandera native fish researcher Steve Thurston.

Catch and release has a dark side at certain times of year and even the most carefully released cod apparently suffer a devastating side-effect which inhibits their ability to spawn during the closed season.

The three months leading up to closed season (September to November) is when Murray cod are beginning to develop roe (eggs) and the stress of being caught and released can actually make them reabsorb the eggs and not spawn that season. There is a fair bit of publicity about this in the hope that anglers restrict their wild river fishing for Murray cod at these times of year.

No doubt there will be heaps of people who don’t care what has been proven or how badly cod stocks have depleted in the past 50 years. And while ever the law states that you can target cod at this fragile stage of natural recruitment, no one can say a bad word about the killing or catching of wild river fish in the lead-up to closed season.

From last month onwards we leave the wild fish alone and start to target the impoundments for the big fellas while nature takes its course in the rivers.


Keepit and Split Rock are the impoundments we mainly focus on in this area from June to August. The numbers of fish are there and it takes only a bit of lateral thinking to connect to some of the thumping big cod resident in these impoundments.

The numbers of fish usually drop off but the size goes up and this is the reward for a well-placed lure, whether trolled or cast.

Don’t ignore the shallows on early mornings, either, water less than three metres deep can harbour some massive prowling cod making the best of the early morning soft light to top up on tucker during this energy-sapping season.

Even though the fish in impoundments don’t spawn as readily as the wild fish, they still have the urge to pack on body weight to get them through the cold months and the reproduction routine – sorta like the false pregnancies my old neutered bitch used to get.

No matter how much you write and speak to people, there are still some arseholes around intent on killing the most fish possible. With Fisheries striking a fairly solid blow to some inland and coastal areas of late, these people may get what’s coming to them.

Most lure anglers will be trolling impoundments from now until closed season. From noon to late arvo, usually a bit more depth is needed to connect to a good fish. Four to five metres of water is the norm.

Casting lures with greater sinking depth ability, such as spinnerbaits and bibless rattlers, around deep rocky points and creek beds is still a great technique if the water has reasonable clarity.

Halco Tremblers in the smallest size are great lures for searching out deeper fish in hard-to-troll places that may be tree- or boulder-cluttered. A lure with the ability to punch out heaps of noise in minimum distance and still maintain deep travel is a great asset when trying to piss fish off enough to eat your offering.

Another great technique for this searching style of fishing is to slowly retrieve 5/8oz spinnerbaits. The Tandem 5/8oz Bassman brass-bladed model with a split-tail plastic shad on the stinger drew more strikes than most on deeper presentations for me last year. On some days they were even more effective than the double Colorado blades.

Many of the larger fish are hooked on the outside of the mouth and, again, I can’t stress the importance of needle-sharp hooks to convert more strikes into hook-ups.

That big double-thump strike of a solid fish is quite often a head-butt style aggressive attack. Possibly the fish get over-excited at grabbing a lure, sacrificing accuracy for enthusiasm.

Most of my cod reels are loaded with 20lb Platypus Bionic Braid or Super Braid and this keeps fish manageable but still allows for those tense moments when control seems unachievable and adrenalin overload happens on a rampaging beastie.


Barbless hooks have a few benefits for the angler and the fish, with hook penetration becoming easier in bone and also much easier to remove for release.

Angler safety is also improved from barbless hooks, as we always lip-grab our cod with the thumb to make sure no damage is done to the fish. Bogas and lip-grippers are for those scared of a scratch!

Having the hand so close to hooks and a shaking head can, indeed, be painful, with thick 3X or 4X trebles on most decent cod lures.

I hate having to push hooks right through and cut off the barb and slip them back out again. I would rather use a piece of bike tube over my thumb and risk a scratch than hurt a big fish.

Barbless hooks mean easy removal if this does happen and there’s less damage to the fish. I love a clean, quick release, it’s so much easier and safer.

Barbs are really no benefit on our native fish, which rarely throw a hook if the angler keeps even minimal pressure on the line. Most fish are lost from erratic rod work.

Another benefit of the barbless aspect is the ability of a fish to rid itself of the lure if a bust-off happens. And the lure usually floats to the surface within a couple of minutes and the angler gets his old favourite back.

It’s totally your call where you fish over the next couple of months but remember, your decision may mean the difference between a good cod spawn and an ordinary one.

Hodgie’s mate Birdy with a decent Keepit cod caught on a 5/8oz Bassman spinnerbait. Bigger impoundment cod are quite possible this month and you won’t be hurting pre-spawn stream fish.

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