Report: The Condamine cod trail

WE pulled up at the station just on dark. It had been a while since we had seen Garry and his wife Deb and that had been when they worked on a property in the south-western corner of Queensland, but now they were managers of a large cattle producing property which had the Condamine River flowing through its centre.

The Condamine rises on Mount Superbus, South East Queensland’s highest peak, on the inland side of the Great Dividing Range and although only about 100 km from the Queensland coast, the Condamine flows north west across the Darling Downs, then on to eventually join the Murray/Darling.

Our accommodation for the next few days resembled a first class resort as the cottage had been built specifically for the overseas based owners and employees when they were checking on their interests in Australia.

We had river frontage and the noise of falling water was amplified in the still night air.

After some local T-bone steaks and a few drinks the boys were keen to go chasing hogs but my first priority was to check out the sound of the water drumming through the night air.

I asked Garry and Deb about the fishing and they had told me that although they didn’t fish a fellow from town had been coming out and getting two or three cod in an hour using some kind of bait that they had never heard of … “spinner bait” … had I heard of it?

I grinned for two reasons: the first was the statement of two or three cod an hour and secondly I had quite a few spinnerbaits with me!

The super bright light of the Led Lenser torch illuminated the source of crashing water; a weir was constructed across the river, only about 1.5 m high but enough to back up the river for around 11 kms.

The weir had no fish ladder so was a barrier to travelling fish until the weir flooded in times of high water.

A flash of the torch beam on the first back eddy below the weir and the light lit up the flanks of fish deep down in the clear water, my guess was they were carp stopped from their upstream migration by the weir wall.

The moon was now climbing in the sky so I tied on a surface lure and went back to the weir and fished for an hour or so before going down into the river for a few hundred metres until I came to a rock fall with a good log, water that was guaranteed to hold cod.

After flogging the water to foam I gave up and headed back with the intention of hitting this likely bit of water at sunrise with a spinner bait, or hard body lure.

Light was just starting to flood across the plains and I stood on the rocks at the river where I had been last night, I knew there had to be cod here, the spinner bait I was using had a bright yellow head and willow blades, I love yellow for slightly discoloured water and with so many people now making Spinner Baits it’s easy to get them made to your own requirements. My mate Simon at Edgecrusher Lures has been my go to for custom made spinnerbaits and with these I have been having great success.

The SB was dropped in the slack water behind a rock and I let it drop to the bottom and clang on the rocks, a bit like ringing a dinner bell ensuring that any fish in the vicinity knew there was a trespasser in their midst.

A gentle lift and sink again to the rocky bottom, and on the third lift the spinnerbait took a hard belt and I was hooked solid to a fish. It desperately tried to bury itself back deep in the rocks but side pressure prevented it from doing so, then it made a mad dash downstream towards the log and sunken timber.

Finally tired and beaten my first Condamine cod lay at my feet, not big by any means but very gratifying, I slid it up onto the cool damp ground for a quick picture before releasing it back into the river.

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I worked the log the cod had desperately tried to get into with the spinner bait and was rewarded with a solid hit but didn’t connect.

The aroma of bacon and eggs floating downstream in the early morning air berleyed me back to the cottage.

Over breakfast I told the boys that I reckoned there were heaps of carp in the river, so armed with peas, corn and carrots we got down to it. The first back eddy produced 15 carp in no time at all; these went straight into the pig pens where the hogs were very grateful for the fresh feed of fish.

Next eddy down and it was quite a surprise to get around 70 more carp but also two cod and three catfish on the peas and corn and carrot!

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This catfish apparently likes its veggies!

A shrimp trap provided some good baits and we moved further down to the rocky cod hole with the nice timber snag, my son Jeremy climbed out on the log and dropped a live shrimp to the bottom and was hooked up immediately to a cod, a quick release and another drop and another fish, this procession went on for quite a while as we pulled in golden perch, murray cod and catfish.

James climbed out onto the log and dropped lipless crank bait to the bottom and gave it several jigs and was rewarded with a nice golden.

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Kurt got belted by a few fish on lures but didn’t connect. By the end of the day well over 100 carp had been removed from the river and converted to pig feed and a dozen or more nice natives were all released.

I launched the 10ft tinny in the weir that evening for another surface session but before it got dark the sky got heavy with dark storm clouds and torrential rain began to fall.

Next morning the sky had cleared and I waded through the sticky black soil mud to the tinny which had filled with rain water.

I bailed it out and headed upstream on the weir.

As the 5hp ticked over I dragged a large Stump Jumper Lure in Fire Tiger colours along behind, the rain had caused the river to begin to muddy.

Three hundred metres along and the butt of a sunken tree was too much for me to bypass and I stopped the tinny and began to cast.

Second cast and a tell-tale bump and then the rod loaded up with what was obviously a good fish.

The tinny was being dragged towards the logs so I had to fight the fish, start the motor and manoeuvre the fish into clear water, all while standing in a boat covered in thick greasy black mud.

After several minute I finally got to see my cod, a nice fish of around 80cm, I drove the tinny to the steep bank but before I could grab the log the fish again dragged the boat back out into the river and towards the log.

Again I drove the boat to the bank and then grabbed a bush and one handed tied up the boat, the cod now lay beside the bank and I decided I would take a quick measure where it lay, a few pictures and then it was released, I noticed the fish had hit the lure with such force it had broken the bib.

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I ratted around in my lure box and took a bib from another Stumpy and travelled further upstream.

It just screamed fish, the slow water, timber running in a steep angle, cover everywhere, I stopped the motor a long way out and cast towards where the logs met the water and the boat was pulled closer with each retrieve.

Third cast and the big Stumpy was stopped in its tracks again; the fish fought to gain the cover of the timber but as it wasn’t as big as the last fish and took no time at all to bring it to the boat.

Unbelievably, this fish also had broken the bib on the lure.

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As I moved further up the river the water became muddier, the backed up waters of the weir had held back the flow of muddy inflows off the plains from the previous night’s rain but now it was making its way downriver.

In a couple of hours the river had become too muddy for lures and I hunted up some fresh water shrimp and went bobbing the logs.

It was unbelievable how many golden perch, freshwater catfish and small Murray cod were caught using this technique and a surprise not to “bob “one carp in the weir!

Several good fish were lost deep in the snags but this is expected when fishing deep in amongst the timber.

Condamine River in Queensland is now firmly on my yearly itinerary!


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