Murray Cod are the largest totally freshwater species in Australia. The biggest recorded fish was 1.8m and 113 kgs. A fish of over a metre is considered to be an exceptional catch these days. They range through the Murray /Darling system, which includes mountain streams, rivers, creeks and impoundments. They become sexually mature at age 5-6 years and about 50cms long. Breeding occurs during the closed season (Sept 1st to Nov 30th). It is illegal to target them during this period.
Murray Cod are renowned for being opportunistic feeders. They can go for long periods without actively feeding, but have a large variety of food sources available to them. Fish, frogs, lizards, birds, worms, shrimps, yabbies, grubs and rodents all form part of their regular diet.
The regularity of their feeding is unpredictable and many opinions are voiced as to when and how often they feed. Considerations such as barometric pressure, water levels, water temperature, flooding are all tossed in to the equation. Experience has shown me that there is no regular pattern and any day spent fishing for them is a good opportunity to catch them...or not. If they are feeding, it is remarkably easy to catch them but if they are shut down, the task can appear impossible.
FISHING FOR MURRAY COD
Cod are caught using bait or artificial fishing methods. Baits include cheese, worms, Bardi Grubs, shrimps, yabbies.
Artificial methods include soft plastics, spinnerbaits, hard body lures and surface lures. All of these replicate a live food source, which the Cod feed on.
BAIT FISHING: TACKLE.
A rod of about 4-8kg coupled with a 4000 (minimum) reel and 30 lb line (mono) is ideal for most bait fishing circumstances.
4-8kg rod with 6,000 reel and 30lb line
3/0 or 4/0 hook size is adequate and a sinker (heavy enough to hold the bottom) running directly down to the hook, is the best rig. This basic rig is preferred because it will get caught up in the snags less than other rigs. Any bait can be used with this rig without having to change hooks.
3/0 hook and running sinker
It's often a good idea to find out what the fish are feeding on. A paternoster rig will allow you to use 2 different baits at the same time. You are allowed 2 rods so you can present 4 different baits and fairly quickly ascertain any preference the fish may have. I often rig combinations of cheese, shrimps, yabbies' or worms and a pattern often develops as to what the fish want to eat, at that particular time. Often I will change back to the standard rig once I know what the Cod are feeding on, because it doesn't get snagged up as much as the paternoster rig. Cod are generally fairly lazy fish and will expend as little energy as possible, even when feeding. They are an ambush predator and will usually sit out of any fast flowing current, waiting for something to come past. When it does, the Cod will often hit the bait and head for the cover of the nearest snag. Knowing this allows us to determine the best places to present our baits. Casting into the current and allowing our bait to drift round to the edge of the current, before settling on the bottom is a great way to be "in the zone".
Dropping the bait down among the snags is another good way to catch these fish. Often you will see a snag on your sounder with a fish hard up against it.
Whether fishing in a river /creek or an impoundment the method used for bait fishing is (pretty much) the same. Locate the fish, find out what they are feeding on, then set about trying to catch them. Always bear in mind though...if the fish are not feeding, for whatever reason, you're in for a tough time of it. Of course locating the fish is much easier when you're in a boat and have a sounder, but what if you're land based? The previous observations should still be applied, though you can only assume that there should be fish there.
Bait presentation: Shrimps and yabbies should be hooked through the tail. This allows them to move and flick around... attracting the attention of the Cod in the area.
ARTIFICIAL METHODS: TACKLE.
Without being too specific I'll describe the basic tackle required for Cod fishing, using lures. There are numerous options available to suit the different artificial methods being applied. For instance a rod for casting lures all day long will (probably) be different from a rod used to troll lures. Baitcasting set ups are becoming popular as the go to gear for both casting and trolling. A graphite or composite rod is better for the angler who may make hundreds of casts in a session, whereas a sturdy rod and reel will suffice for trolling behind a boat or yak. It's really about what does the job and is comfortable to use. Nobody wants to have a sprained wrist as a result of going fishing! 30 -50 lb braid with a 40 lb leader should suffice whether trolling or casting. I prefer the FG knot for joining the lines as it is reported to be the strongest and smallest knot...a definite plus when casting (continually) is required.
Baitcaster reel with 30lb braid and 40lb leader
Spinnerbaits are incredibly effective lures used to catch Cod. These are cast hard into the snag, allowed to sink and retrieved slowly. Cod find them irresistible even though they actually look nothing like a fish. The Cod may strike them because it is hungry or simply protecting its territory. Cod don't like anything invading their space and will often attack it, even if they are not hungry. Spinnerbaits come in numerous sizes and colours and a range of different blade types...to suit the conditions in which they are used. It's important to be able to cast accurately into the snags, if one hopes to get the fish to strike.
1oz spinner bait
Hard body lures come in many different sizes and colours. The most important detail is that the lure will actually work at the depth intended. A general rule of thumb is the bigger the bib, the deeper the lure will operate. As with spinnerbaits it is necessary to be "in the zone". This applies to both casting into snags and also trolling behind a boat. If the lure isn't hitting the submerged timber you probably won't catch any fish. When trolling behind a boat ascertain the depth which the fish are at (in impoundments) or the average depth of the river being fished. Let line out until you are working the lure at the appropriate depth. When trolling lures hold the rod pointing slightly forward (the direction you are travelling). Doing this will enable you to let the rod tip point towards the stern when your lure hits a submerged stump...the lure should then rise slightly in the water column and not snag up. Equally important is to travel at a speed where the lure is "working". The rod tip should quiver when the lure is working properly. When casting lures it helps if the lure sits on the surface for a few seconds...they often get smashed before you start to retrieve them. When you start to retrieve the lure whip the rod tip down towards the water to get the lure to dive quickly. Sometimes a fish will strike and not connect with the hooks. Often speeding up or slowing down the retrieve will result in a hook up on the next cast. Always be prepared to have that extra cast into a likely snag as the fish can sometimes be annoyed into striking at your lure or spinnerbait.
15cm deep-diving lure
Soft plastics are a recent innovation in Cod fishing. The principle is the same as soft plastics fishing for flathead or bream, except that the soft plastics are quite large with heavy jig heads. Once again cast into the snags and allow the soft plastic to sink to the bottom. Retrieve using a variety of different methods until you find what is working. Always be ready for the lure being taken on the drop as this is a very common event when Cod fishing.
Surface lure fishing has to be one of the most exciting methods of catching these iconic fish. It is best used during periods of low light because the fish will feel safer coming up to the surface then. The "BOOF" of a big Cod smashing the lure as it flip flops across the surface, is an unforgettable experience. I would encourage any angler using surface lures to experiment with the retrieve of the surface lure and not to be scared to leave the lure sitting on the surface for a minute or more. An occasional twitch imparted on the lure makes them irresistible to a hungry Cod. Leave the lure sitting on the water, at the end of the retrieve, as Cod will often follow a lure for some time before smashing it.
13cm surface lures
When Cod strike a bait or lure they usually hit with some force and immediately turn and head for the safety of the snags. Whatever gear you end up using has to be able to control the fish and prevent it from getting back into the snags. Once the fish gets back into the safety of its submerged timber, you will have a very difficult job landing it. Murray Cod hit hard and go hard during the initial part of the fight but they are not Marlin and can usually be landed fairly quickly, provided they are kept out of the underwater snags.
Written by big Neil (Feb 2017)