A changing game
  |  First Published: March 2010

Having watched the throes of our local waters for well over a decade, it seems the fishing this year has had a change of course.

Big cod are few and far between and the usual steady file of boat-laden vehicles travelling the well-worn paths like ants is far sparser than in previous seasons.

Perhaps anglers have been well educated in the feeding patterns of these iconic fish and it now becomes a game of patience as we sit watch and listen for the hot reports and the cooling of both weather and water.

On a different level, perhaps many cod anglers have simply lost the drive or possibly been driven from the pastime they love.

I have had a ball over the past month with much discovered and many great fishing moments played out on the waters I’ve visited.

Timing, as always, has been the key. In the hottest of weather dusk and dawn are short windows of opportunity but windows nonetheless.

Making the most of your time has been the key. Fresh bait and well-tuned gear make the difference between hit and miss.

Shrimp have been great bait over the past month and even though their numbers are at exploding point, cod and golden perch are more than willing to continue to scoff them down.

A big ball of shrimp pinned on the hook are a lot less flighty than those free-swimming speedsters and a much easier target for a hungry cod or perch.

On those days when cloud cover has taken the sting from the sun, longer sessions provide the time to induce more strikes.

But with the water temps still fairly high, many of these attempts are at best half-hearted takes or mere inquiries. Coming up solid on some of these fish is the difference between preparation and the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude.

Sharp trebles, sensitive rods, stinger hooks and good feel will often turn small opportunities into memorable captures.

Different techniques are sometimes those that produce the best results.

Surface lures are not restricted solely to around dusk and dawn and large deep divers are not the be-all and end-all of big cod fishing in the pool water.

The divers have come a poor second to many techniques over the past few seasons, with fish wising up to the drone of trollers dredging the river.

Spinnerbaits in the shallows have proven that those snags most often overlooked often hold some very nice fish. This is true of the pool water around Robinvale and the Nine Mile, where the shallows are often ignored for the deeper water.

There is a whole other world on the shallow bank that will continue to produce some honking cod on spinnerbaits and hardbodies worked around the snags and weed beds.

Water clarity in most areas is slowly on the improve but with the sporadic storms this season it’s been common for reasonable conditions to turn bad overnight.

The smaller rivers have been hardest hit but the bouts of dirty water have provided some excellent bait fishing for Murray cod and golden perch.

It’s a hard call as to what might happen next because this season has been so different from recent ones.

But it’s a fair guess that it won’t be long now before the water temperature begins to fall, slowly at first, and as it does anglers will encounter more large fish.

Don’t be afraid to try different things. Fish the shallows with lures and bait, especially when the river is quiet.

And don’t forget the surface, particularly as we are due for the bardi hatch.

Troll the deeper sections and when the water clears, try running your lures a few metres above the bottom. It’s a little like turning your sounder upside down, where fishes’ cone of vision is extended because the lure sits higher in the water.

In the comfort of deep water, big cod will break cover and chase down a lure several metres overhead.

I look forward to even more good fishing over the next few months and perhaps a few new techniques and, above all, the chance to land a few more giant cod.

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