Murray Cod are an iconic and loved freshwater fish in south-eastern Australia. They are active and more commonly caught in the warmer months from December through till April. During winter they become dormant and much tougher to catch. In saying that, trophy sized Murray Cod become a prime target during the cooler months. If you want to set out in search of a giant Murray Cod, winter is without a doubt your best option. Chasing these big cod isn’t easy and spending a lot of time on the water is key. Equipping yourself with the right lures, gear, and knowledge will help go a long way to achieving success. Each winter we gear ourselves up with warm clothes and cast away for hours on many of our large dams and rivers in New South Wales and Victoria. The fish we are chasing are amazing, some reaching more than 120cm and over 40kg!
If landing a BIG cod has always been a dream for you, follow along because I’m going to cover what you’ll need to get started.
The Gear You'll Need
Rods and Reels for Murray Cod
Starting off you want to get yourself a decent rod that we like to call a ‘swimbait setup’. If you use these words when you next walk in to your local BCF store, the team will be able to point you in the right direction. It’s a larger class of rod and reel that are designed to handle casting heavy lures.
A low-profile, baitcaster reel is highly recommended. Match this up with a rod length of 7ft to 8ft in a weight range of over 8kg. All rods are rated differently but look for something in the 8-15kg bracket.
These aren’t the cheapest setups as they are designed for big fish and heavy lures, however they’ll make your fishing experience far better.
Line and Leader
Keep this simple. Buy yourself a spool of 50lb braid for your mainline and pick up some 50lb fluorocarbon for your leader. Use a rod length of leader and practice tying good leader knots. The FG knot is a great knot to connect braid mainlines to fluorocarbon leaders.
If you’re fishing from a boat for cod in winter, here are a few essentials you’ll need:
- Electric motor: An electric motor is critical for fishing from a boat. Stealth is so important when casting and trolling for winter cod.
- Sounder: Following your electric motor, this is your next most important piece of equipment for the boat. Even an entry level sounder that shows you depth, water temperature, and fish activity below your boat is key.
- Large Landing Net: Big landing nets are very important for proper handling of big Murray Cod. When landing a big fish, keep them in the water and allow them to sit upright in a big knotless net. This also helps for safely lifting them into the boat.
- Heavy Duty Pliers and Split Ring Pliers: Heavy pliers for retrieving hooks from a big cod, and split rings pliers for chasing trebles when they get blunt on your lures.
- Gloves: These are for holding/handling fish. I recommend using gloves over lip grips for Murray Cod as lip grips (the steel ones) can damage their lips.
- Ugg Boots: These are a must-have for winter cod fishing in a boat as they keep your feet warm and are also soft. By soft I mean they aren’t loud, and being quiet is key.
Land Based Gear
If you find yourself land based all you need is a backpack with your essential gear and lures, some food, and water. Ensure that you have strong and sturdy footwear and get yourself a 5L dry bag to ensure your valuables stay dry.
Staying warm is an important part of fishing for Murray Cod in winter. Put some money into quality warm clothes as there is nothing worse than being cold while chasing cod.
Casting the Shallow Edges (Dams)
This is the most popular style of fishing in winter when chasing big Murray Cod - casting big lures up onto the shallow edges. In winter the big Murray Cod move into the shallow edges to feed. The smaller bait fish they feed on like Carp, Redfin, Roach, Spangled Perch and Yellowbelly move into the shallows to hide.
In low-light periods the cod will move into these zones to feed. The key depth to fish is from 1-4m of water, with first and last light being the two prime times. We catch a number of fish in the dark, especially on our clear water dams like Blowering, Burrinjuck, Copeton, and Eildon.
Casting your lures right up into the shallows and winding them back out with a slow roll is the best approach. Long casts and lots of time on the water.
Using Big Surface Lures (Dams & Rivers)
This technique works great in both rivers and dams and is one of the best ways to get started in cod fishing. Catching big cod on surface isn’t easy and they do take a lot of casts but it’s a great way to get started as you can easily practice your casting and boat control without having to worry about getting too many snags. Best of all the hit from a surface Murray Cod is insane!
Both paddlers and wakebait style surface lures work well. Use large presentations ideally over 150mm and keep casting them along the edge or close to structure.
Trolling (Dams & Rivers)
If you can’t stand up and cast don’t worry because you can still catch them trolling! It involves using either hardbody lures swimbaits, plastics, or you can even troll surface. Pick a bank with some form of structure and start trolling along nice and slow.
In winter you want to focus on the 4m depth and it’s key to get your lures back a long way behind the boat. This gives time for the fish to swim back in behind your boat path, just like trolling for trout.
Best Lures to Use
Here’s a rundown of the lures I recommend using if you’re starting out in winter cod fishing:
- Soft Plastics (160-220mm): These are an unbelievable lure and by far the most lifelike. I’ve caught so many big winter cod on soft plastics, they work so well. The realistic designs work best, and they swim best when rigged correctly. Rigging them on a 1/2- or 5/8-ounce jighead works best for 3 - 6m water depths. We rig them with a specific hook configuration to make the most of our hits (this is very important). The best rigging option for winter is to rig your plastics line thru with as little weight as possible. Not ideal for a river scenario, but great in a dam.
- Swimbaits (150-200mm): Swimbaits are usually made from hard plastic. They can be jointed and come in a high profile (narrow and deep). Available in a range of sizes swimbaits are another type of lure that can be incredibly realistic. Designed to mimic a bait fish, these lures are perfectly suited to winter conditions.
- Surface Lures (150-250mm): It’s always worth having a few big paddlers or wakebaits in your kit. They don’t produce as many fish, but a surface hit from a Murray Cod is amazing. They are an ideal option when fishing on a river system.
- Hardbody Lures (100-150mm): This is a good option for casting heavy timber, especially in a river. They’re great for trolling too!
Key Tips for Starting Out
Spending time on the water and being observant of what’s going on around you will go a long way to success. Food source is very important, so learning how to locate food and bait will help you pick the best spots to find active Murray Cod.
Understanding how cod behave and the areas they will be holding is the biggest factor to success. Spend time learning as much as you can about where cod are likely to feed. They will concentrate in certain areas of a dam and on certain sections of a river.
Your low light periods are very important as these are prime feeding times, first and last light. Make sure you spend most of your time fishing around these times. It’s worth learning about the barometer, weather patterns, and the moon phase, these are all important environmental factors that affect Murray Cod.
Ensure you have razor sharp hooks. Buy quality hooks and upgrade the treble hooks on your lures as majority of lures don’t come with good enough hooks for Murray Cod, and with big cod you have to strike hard! Practice striking as nothing hurts more than when you spend hours casting for that trophy winter cod, but the hooks don’t connect.
If you loved this piece and would like to hear more from Rhys, head to the social fishing website for videos, tips, and tricks to take your freshwater fishing to the next level.