On the banks of the Balonne
  |  First Published: May 2004

AT THE time of writing the days are still quite hot but the nights and early mornings are definitely starting to become cool. During early May the first few frosts should be making their presence felt and the fishing in this area should improve markedly.

Fishing at the time of writing is a little slow. Last weekend my wife went crayfishing with local lady Tania Thompson. They went to Tania’s secret hole and caught heaps of crayfish in no time using the traditional technique of meat tied to cotton. Then we went fishing with the smaller bait-sized crays and freshly dug earthworms. We fished for a few hours and caught yellowbelly up to about 15cm in length, a few dirty carp to a couple of kilos and more crayfish! There were obviously heaps of crays in the river as we pulled plenty of big ones in that had a firm grip on our baits. We figured all the crays and shrimp in the river meant the fish had to be well fed, which explained their lack of cooperation.

Surat and the Balonne River are well known for the big Murray cod that frequent the area. Locals tell me that the first winter frosts are an excellent time to fish for the mighty cod. Since arriving in Surat I’ve met plenty of locals who target these fish and there’s plenty of friendly rivalry about the size and weight of the cod caught. Locals also tell me that after eating the flesh of the great Murray cod I’ll no longer want to eat saltwater fish!

Out here the list of species you’re likely to catch is a lot smaller than in the ocean and the Murray cod is at the top of the piscatorial food chain. At the coast I’ve caught plenty of large cod, many well over 20kg, and have never been excited about the catch; I’ve always just released them as carefully as possible. However, now that I’m living in Surat the ocean is a long way away, and when I actually catch a big cod – and I will – I’m going to be very happy about it.

Currently there are quite a few people camped right next to the bridge as you enter Surat on the Roma Road. Camping here is free and there are toilets and BBQ areas provided in a large, well-grassed area. Many of these campers have come equipped with very well outfitted tinnies to target the cod and yellowbelly in the river. I’m told that every Easter there is standing room only as people flock to the Balonne to wet a line. Throughout winter plenty of people use the recreational area for overnighters, weekends or even longer stays. This is a great tribute to the local council and to the local fishing club, which works hard to maintain the recreation area and replenish fish stocks.

I’ll be doing plenty of freshwater fishing over the coming months, and hopefully I’ll be able to put one of these freshwater cod to the taste test.

1) The author’s family having lunch in the recreation area next to the bridge over the Balonne River as you head into town on the Roma road.

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