Report: Cod season opener

I’D left it to the body clock to wake me at around 4.30 am … I must have set it on snooze rather than sleep as for about the sixth time since I hit the swag I again scanned the sky to the east looking for the slightest glow that would herald the beginning of a new dawn – the first day of the cod season.

Rising quickly I put on the thongs and headed over to wake my old mate up; he had imbibed rather heavily up until about 11.30pm.

On approaching his swag I could not help notice the peaceful, innocent look upon his face, his lips pursed almost inviting a kiss. Not wanting to disappoint I rubbed two fingers briskly against the leg of my jeans to make them hot then a swipe along the outside of Harro’s canvas water bag and I gave the best impression of a big wet sloppy kiss that my two fingers could create.

The reaction was instantaneous – two big eyes looking up with that WTF look … I then said I was cold and could I get in to the swag with him for 10 minutes to warm up.

I got a two word answer, last word “off“, so I said “hey mate it’s time to go cod fishing”. He gave me the same two word answer again.

I chuckled to myself. I’d had my first bite for the day and I hadn’t even hit the water.
I strolled over to where Harro was swagging it; his body clock was set to slumber as it sounded like he was working on filing down a block of hardened steel with a mill bastard cut file. First call and the filing continued, second call and the filing eased, third call and Harro grunted that he was awake.

Thinking of the joke I had just played on my other mate I visualised how it would go over with Harro, then thought the old bugger would turn the joke around by answering in the affirmative … never play with wise minds.

“Hey mate are you keen to catch a green fish?” I asked.

“Sure am buddy, absolutely.”

Ten minutes later we ambled the couple of hundred metres from camp to where Harro’s 3.7 m fibreglass Ezy Topper with 40lb electric lay tied to the bank.

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Targeting cod around snags and rocky structure with lures produced good results.

We’d arrived mid-afternoon Saturday and met up with Matt Hansen, Wayne Gilbert, Jason Walters and David Harris. Boats and canoes were launched and readied, fishing gear was prepared and placed in the vessels, a fantastic meal was prepared by Dave Harris and Jason Walters kept us entertained with some good covers of Rodney Carrington.

There we were predawn on Cod Opening Day 2013. It was possibly an hour later than I would have liked to hit the water as the stars were beginning to disappear from the sky. I’d seen the quality of fishing go off on the river over the past decade or so as fishing pressure had increased year by year, but our expectations were still high.

The boat glided easily and silently down towards the head of the hole, pulling up a ways back from shallow run that separated the two holes I poled the boat through. The log at the head of the hole always held a fish, although fork sticks bankside showed that fishing pressure had been recent and quite intense.

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Working surface lures for cod is a very exciting way to fish!

Second cast in and the Jitterbug was smashed from underneath but failed to hook up on the cod that had tried to suck it in to its cavernous mouth.

My brain knows that on occasions like that you leave the Jitterbug in position and a fish may boof it two or three times before hooking up or wising up. Unfortunately my arm was not connected to my brain and I pulled the Jitterbug a good 3-4m away from the strike zone.

Harro covered the fish with a big handmade Australian cedar surface lure but the fish had wised up already.

“At least they’re on the chew,“ he said.

I always find a first fish on the first couple of casts can mean a slow day. I hoped I was wrong!

We worked the slate slides and deep drop offs – areas notorious in the past for holding good cod – all for nought.

The sun was still an hour or so from striking the water deep in the gorge. Still plenty of time for surface action but we were covering the surface with one rod and then working the water column with another.

A couple of hundred metres down and Harro pointed to the ridge above from where a beautiful red deer watched our every move but after a while it decided we were no threat to it and it went about its business.

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Rod Harrison with a nice “green fish” taken on a TFO Glimmer Minnow spinnerbait.

Harro had not long got back from a trip to the US and had brought back a new style of spinnerbait from Temple Fork Outfitters. The body was made from sparkling fly tying materials and it was aptly named a Glimmer Minnow. He tossed me one in Fire tiger colours and told me to try it.

First cast to the log pile and I clicked over the threadline and was keeping a tight connection to the sinking spinnerbait when the rod buckled violently and loaded up to the max. It was a nice fish for sure.

A five minute fight and a good cod marked my first fish of the season and also was the first cod brought to the side of the new Ezy Topper.

The boys back at camp had risen and came past us in canoes, working the water thoroughly with lures.

We watched them take five beautifully marked cod on lures in front of us; all with a quick picture and a speedy release. The fish measured between 66cm and 80cm.

The sun was starting to strike the water in a few places and we pushed on keen to work some known “hang out“ spots. Although the fishing was slow the trip was enjoyable just casting to the logs and rocks, watching eastern water dragons drop from the trees to attack our lures. Eastern water skinks lay in the increasing sunlight absorbing the warmth.

Harro’s keen hunting eyes again picked movement high up above where goats were looking down at us, obviously not perceiving that we were any danger to them.

We were getting a few solid bumps but no follow up action on the Glimmer Minnows; I had another smashed on the drop but failed to connect.

We now were getting near the bottom of the run and the hole where we know is home to one of the biggest fish in the hole. Maybe a 1.2m fish or better. We worked this solidly for no result and started for the end of the hole.

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Native fish fancier Matt Hansen with a quality opening day cod.

A white breasted sea eagle soared overhead while a platypus worked the bank no more than three metres from us, It was a relaxing way to spend a morning.

With the early morning session over we decided breakfast was calling, six fish was the tally, all Murray cod, with no golden perch sighted.

A slow troll back to the camp and Harro and I got more hits with this method than we’d had all morning casting lures.

Next session and the boys were keen to drag the canoes up into the next hole upstream while we went back down to the deep holes and tried every lure known to man to entice the big cod we knew lived there.

After several hours the boys came paddling back down into the hole we were fishing with news they had caught another four fish and then took another fish near us from where I had earlier been smashed on the drop“ on the TFO Glimmer Minnow.

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Dave Harris with a Murray cod suffering from a severe infestation of Lernaea.

Eventually we called an end to opening day. Our tally was 11 Murray cod and two European carp (these were both taken on Gulp water melon grubs while trying to lure a yellow belly from some log piles.)

Heading back to camp to pack up we passed another two canoes heading downstream to be picked up at a pre-arranged pickup point. Yep, the fishing pressure is definitely increasing!

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