HUNT FOR THE MURRAY COD

Could the boys beat their long, frustrating Murray cod curse?
Nick Duigan and Andrew Hart take a shot at redemption.

Words: Nick Duigan

When making a fishing show for TV, it’s important you actually catch a fish. But sometimes, for one reason or another, that’s not the way it goes.

We’ve been hampered many times over the years by weather, technical failure or plain bad luck; it just goes with the territory. Usually we still manage to cobble a show together and drag something scaly from the depths to show for our efforts. Usually but not always, particularly when it comes to the one species that always seemed to have the wood on us—one of Australia’s iconic fish, the legendary Murray cod.

The big Australian native has a territory that stretches from Queensland to South Australia and has slipped our clutches on the show on more than one occasion. The final straw was last year, when we spent three full days (it felt like a week!) on the Murray River in an Outback town in SA without attracting a single nibble. After that, we made a pledge to give up trying to film a Murray cod forever.

Life is too short.

But thanks to one place—Copeton Dam, about 90km east of Moree in the New England region of NSW—that all changed. We kept seeing photos of huge cod coming out of the waterway. Then when a mate, Boothy from Wilson Tackle (our tackle sponsor) sent us shots of him pulling his cod-of-a-lifetime—a 125cm beast—from Copeton’s waters, we figured we might give the cod one more chance.

With Boothy’s help, ably assisted by a local cod guru by the name of Josh Usher, we planned to hit Copeton for two-and-half-days at the start of winter. We even plotted dates around a new moon, whichapparently would increase our chances of at least getting a bite.

Copeton cod weren’t the only drawcard. The mission was also our first opportunity to do a long-range trip in the new D-MAX—in which two things became immediately apparent. Rolling down the motorway south of Brisbane, the tacho showed that the 110km/h speed limit was being achieved with the engine barely turning over at 1700RPM. That’s thanks to the new six-speed auto, which gives the D-MAX outstanding cruising ability. The second improvement is a little less subtle, and comes when you put your foot down. With that extra ratio in the gearbox and the three-litre turbo diesel now delivering 430Nm of torque, the new D-MAX is very willing.

The drive to Copeton Dam takes you up and over the Great Dividing Range and, even with a reasonably sized boat in tow, mountains come and go without much fuss. It’s not just uphill where the new ute is more capable, however; going the other way—in tricky, rutted, muddy offroad sections—the hill descent control function made getting into even the slipperiest cod holes a breeze.

Our first session on Copeton Dam was an evening attempt. We launched the boat at about 5pm and spent the last remaining hour of light casting and retrieving big, funny looking cod lures. After about 45 minutes, we remarked that it was all going much as expected—and as our sorry experience suggested: very slowly. Then, all of a sudden, Andrew started swearing and carrying on. Turns out he actually had a bite and missed the fish. Even though we didn’t catch a cod that night, that one glimmer of hope would see us back the next morning with our enthusiasm renewed.

And so, at 4:30 the next morning, we were on the lake again in the pitch black. We were told the best time to fish Copeton is in the 45 minutes of dawn. Just as it gets light, you throw huge surface lures about in the hope that a hungry cod mistakes one for a duck, a rat or a big, injured fish. As usual, we caught nothing. And it was freezing cold. There was frost.

And our spirits were even grimmer. Again, cod fishing was living up to everything we’d come to hate about it. Murray cod was the impossible fish.

We kept fishing, shifting a few times, and feeling despondent when—all of a sudden—the unimaginable happened. Andrew caught a cod—a fat and fit 80cm beauty. Our cod curse was broken!

We managed to haul in five more Murray cod over the next day and a bit. The highlight was a 92cm fish caught in a secret river location, almost matched by another 80cm catch taken off the surface the next morning in low light.

For us, Copeton Dam had lived up to its reputation as an angler’s arena. We even managed to catch a cod on film, as well as on the line. Now we just need to get one over the magical metre in length.

We’ll be back next year.

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