Its the murray cod closed season at the moment. It also happens to be prime golden perch season. These two can often conflict given that unlike the trout season where rivers are totally closed to fishing, cod rivers are still open to other forms of fishing. While most people try to do the right thing, various aspects of murray cod biology, including paternal guarding of nests, mean that they can be all too easy to catch at this time of year, even on small lures intended for Golden perch. This means that some level of incidental bycatch is probably inevitable in places that hold populations of both Golden perch and Murray cod during the closed season, even if you are doing everything in your power to avoid catching a cod.
While some level of incidental capture is inevitable if you are going to chase Goldens, on social media, all to often you see reports of people catching many many closed season cod while chasing “Goldens”. One bycatch cod every once in a while is fine, but its not really OK to be catching 3, 6, 10 or 15 cod in a session and at least on social media, these high levels of bycatch appear to happen far too regularly.
This incidental bycatch is problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly, it has been shown that female Murray cod caught in Winter or during the closed season will often reabsorb their eggs, failing to spawn during the following breeding season. This means, that even if you are carefully catching and releasing cod during the closed season, this could potentially be having an effect on the number of cod that spawn successfully and in the long term cod populations as a whole. Especially if you are catching cricket scores of them. The breeding season is also a time that cod are under stress, spending large amounts of resources finding mates, spawning and protecting their eggs. This may make them more susceptible to stresses caused by catch and release, making them more likely to pick up infections and the like.
Its for these reasons that a closed season exists in the first place.
Given that rivers remain open to fishing for other species, its up to us to treat the closed season and our valuable Murray cod populations with respect. That means doing our absolute best to let Murray cod spawn in peace and produce the next generation on these amazing fish.
So if you are heading out to chase Goldens, here are a few simple rules to follow to limit your impact on Murray cod.
1: If you can, fish impoundments not rivers. Recent research has shown that cod populations in many of our impoundments are almost entirely made up of stocked fish. Given that in many dams and reservoirs, cod spawning doesn’t appear to be a major driver of those populations, incidental bycatch is far less of an issue. Catch your goldens and if you happen to catch a cod carefully release it without taking it out of the water and without feeling too guilty about it. Problem solved!
2: If you must fish rivers, use small lures, fish in areas you are less likely to encounter cod and if you do catch a cod move on or change tactics. If you catch another one, head home. As I said earlier, some level of bycatch is inevitable, but its up to us as anglers to limit that. Its simply not OK to catch 3, 6, 10 or 15 cod while targeting “Goldens” during the closed season. No matter how good your intentions are. It means that whatever you are doing to limit your bycatch isn’t working. Heck, this can even extend to soaking corn for carp (many years ago, Lee and Graz had to cut a carp session short after catching three little Murray cod in 10 minutes during the closed season). If the cod keep on hitting your offerings, do the right thing and leave that stretch of river. Leave the cod to spawn in peace.
Thats it. Enjoy spring and may the fishing gods be with you.