I drafted this post in late winter but for some reason didn’t get around to posting it. Anyway, thanks for reading 🙂
It’s always good when a plan comes together.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been lucky to tangle with three sizeable Murray Cod (and a few slightly smaller, but very satisfying ones). Big cod are undoubtedly the king of our southern-Australian freshwater fisheries, with an allure that keeps anglers coming back again and again. Despite this glowing reputation, cod can be incredibly difficult to catch, particularly in certain areas that see a fair bit of angling pressure. There’s also the never-ending speculating about environmental variables and their effect on cod catchability, as we’ve discussed here. It’s these attributes that make them even more of an obsession for many keen fishers.
My problem until last weekend was that two of my three big cod that I have caught had come during closed season while targeting redfin and yellowbelly. The first came when I was fishing for redfin using a 60mm soft plastic on bream gear. I wrote about that here.
The second was in similar circumstances – I was casting a small spinnerbait over a weedbed during closed season and it was crunched.
Leading up to the last weekend of open season I had been noticing a lot of activity on social media about people catching cod in the rivers, so I knew that they were on the chew in some areas. I tied on my biggest, sexiest spinnerbait, loaded the Calcutta on the T-curve with 30lb braid and 40lb leader into the car, and headed to my local dam. I wasn’t overly confident to begin with. The water was cold and the only potential cod food I could see was tiny gambusia, miniature redfin in the shallows and the ever-present coots (for our international and/or non-ornithologically inclined readers, these are a small black waterbird that cod sometimes inhale off the surface). One thing I noticed was t1he wattles out in flower: a sure sign that nature is responding to the changing seasons. Surely the cod would be too?
I made my way around the bank, casting over weedbeds and shallows, hoping for a hit or a follow. I knew I wasn’t really fishing the right spot – at 12.30pm with bright sun, the cod were more likely to be hanging a bit deeper. I eventually came to a steep rock wall dropping off into 2-3 metres of water, flanked by submerged trees and weedbeds. It was the perfect ambush place for a cod. On the first cast I noticed a sharp, lateral twitch of the line through the water. I continued the retrieve and, through the murky water, saw the unmistakable, but often unbelievable, greenish/yellow flank of a good cod. I didn’t hook up that cast, but something deep down told me I would catch that fish. I would cast at it 50 times if I had to, but I knew it was there and that it had my name on it. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait that long. On the second cast, the spinnerbait was crunched about halfway through the retrieve and I had my fish on. I didn’t realise the size until it decided to come to the surface for a look at me, and we stared at each other for a few seconds, eye to eye, before it decided it didn’t like the look of me and took off for another run to the depths.
Armed with my cod gear, it didn’t take too long to subdue the fish and I slowly maneuvered it towards the shallows so that I could remove the hook and hopefully get a few photos. The hook came out easily, which is always nice. I marvelled at the fish for a few seconds, tried to take a few shots and decided to video the release. I wanted to move the fish so that its head was facing the direction of its escape, so stuck my thumb in its mouth. I obviously didn’t learn this from the last two cod, as almost instantly I had a lacerated and bloody thumb as my cod flicked her tail and swum slowly back towards her snag. It might sound silly to non-fishers, but one of the best things about catching fish like this is letting them go. I don’t mind the cod-thumb either – it’s a strangely delightful, yet initially painful reminder that you’ve had a good weekend.
I reckoned she was about the same size as my first one – around a metre and somewhere between 15-20kg.
I continued fishing for a few more hours, just soaking in the sun and the scenery and even found some new water that I hadn’t realised was easily accessible if you’re a blackberry-tolerant mountain goat. I hoped for another fish but was content as I knew I’d be going home knowing that the mission was accomplished – I’d caught my legitimate winter cod while actually targeting one.
It’s made me even keener for the coming summer season. In the meantime, I’m off to Tasmania for a week and the over the Europe for a month, so til then, stay safe and have fun on the water.