Dumaresq River Murray Cod, December 2011 (Cameo from Andy O’Brien)
I’d been planning this trip since booking in my holidays with the boss a few months ago. The plan – to head west (not that far west) and chase our magnificent natives of the Murray-Darling Basin. A bit of local knowledge and a few phone calls to family friends found us fishing the Dumaresq River, about 4 hours’ drive south-west of Brisbane. The Dumaresq forms part of the border of Queensland and NSW before joining the Macintyre River further west. Having grown up in the catchment I still consider this region home despite moving away about 6 years ago. It was a real family affair with dad, my brother, two uncles, a cousin and his son all coming along.
The plan was relatively simple. Live bait (yabbies, worms and shrimp) fished off the bank and lures trolled or thrown to structure from the boat. The floods of January 2011 dramatically changed our stretch of river, and our plans. Areas that were previously up to 2m deep had been filled in with river gravel and sand with some now less than 50cm deep. Bank fishing was pretty limited. Fortunately, our small 3m tinny is perfect for these small stretches of water and we were able to walk the boat over the small sets of rapids into each hole.
Our first afternoon session proved to be reasonably positive. Trolling a variety of lures, as close to the structure lining the banks as possible, it wasn’t long before the first Murray Cod engulfed my Jackal style lure. And by engulfed, I mean completely engulfed. Thankfully, despite leaving the pliers behind, barbless hooks allowed a lovely 50cm specimen to swim free. This little fella hit just after my uncle had made the comment that we were fishing in 1 foot 6 inches of water.
A few more laps saw two more similar sized cod landed and released with each one taking a different lure. As the sun increased our thirsts, we decided it was time to call it a day and have a few (or a lot) well deserved beers and get ready to do it all again the next day.
After my early morning attempt to walk the bank and throw lures was thwarted by mountains of flood debris and a lack of water, the plan reverted back to trolling near the structure (I did catch a turtle on a lure though – there’s a first for everything I guess). The second run back up the river saw the first undersized cod take the lure. Within the next half an hour or so, three more cod of the same size were landed and released with the largest stretching to about 59cm.
The late afternoon session saw me sitting on the bank having a few tinnies while the others tried their luck trolling again. The results were the same with two more cod in the 50-60cm range caught and released. A change of tactics and crew in the boat saw us tie up to an overhanging oak tree in about 2-3m of water. It wasn’t long before the baits were being taken one after another. The next half an hour or so saw about 20 catfish caught, with a few kept to keep the oldies happy (I don’t know how they do it but apparently they “taste good out of the river”).
Unfortunately we didn’t get any legal sized cod but with about 15 cod caught and released I can’t complain about the numbers. Research has shown that the abundance of undersized fish may be a result of restocking activities over the last 25 or so years. Since 1986 about 10 000 fingerlings per year have been released into this stretch of the Dumaresq. Overstocking can impact on the natural population and can also reduce the number of legal sized fish present. Hopefully a project being undertaken by the QLD DPI, QLD Murray Darling Committee and others to determine natural recruitment levels and optimum stocking rates for the river will improve things in the future.