Chasing Murray Cod at Copeton Dam

September 20, 2017

The native Murray Cod scene has gone gangbusters over the past 12 months, with this species being by far the ‘in’ fish to go and target. It ranks very highly on many anglers bucket lists. For my first taste of Murray Cod fishing, I thought it was only fitting to try and loose my cod virginity on Lake Copeton, the dam that everybody is talking about. As with many other anglers travelling thousands of kilometres across the country in hope of connecting to a trophy sized green fish, I joined the que of hopefuls.

First Impressions of Copeton Dam

As I drove over the wall for the very first time, the sheer size of this incredibly picturesque body of water seemed somewhat daunting. The primary structures that grabbed my eye were the massive boulders that this place is famous for and with the rocky cliffs, spindly timber lined banks and countless bays, it had me contemplating whether we had allowed enough time to work this fishery. Where do we start searching?

We took to the water on our first morning before daybreak and it was pitch black! Never having seen the geographic layout of the dam we were relying on our insight genesis maps and a small spotlight to try and navigate our way to our first location. After idling for what felt like hours in frosty cold conditions and dodging a few obscurely placed structures we reached our destination. We both opted to start with top water lures and began casting giant jointed snake and lizard imitations. Having very little background knowledge and previous experience in cod fishing, we just blind cast our lures and directed our efforts around the edges of the structure.

As the sun rose over the back of the hills the bait began to flicker and swirl all over the glassed out surface and it was evident that something was going to happen and this was the potential bite period. It didn’t take long before both Josh and I had two solid boofs from relatively good-sized fish. Unfortunately neither fish finding the hooks and then it was as if somebody flicked a switch, the bait went quiet and so did the fishing. We decided to head back to camp and reassess.

Using Electronics to Locate Cod

Anyone who knows or who has fished with me will tell you that a minute does not go by without me glancing down at my Simrad unit for any key piece of information to assist in locating and improving our chance of catching fish. Prior to the trip I had heard/read very little about cod anglers using their electronics to locate and target them, which I found rather odd and it had me stumped as to why anglers were not using the ability of side scan to locate fish. Being such a large bodied fish like the barra they would show up quite distinctively, so I was adamant that the next session I was going to locate fish rather then fishing blind.

That afternoon we went back out with a new game plan in mind and chose a totally different location, moving away from the deeper rocky and spindly timber lined banks to a shallower bay scattered with spindly timber and numerous slow descending points, with a light breeze blowing directly into it. Almost the exact scenario I would be looking for when targeting barramundi at home. I began to scan the perimeter of the bank and within minutes I was locating fish on the side scan, after marking half a dozen fish I was now confident that there were fish in the area so I deployed the electric and we began casting. I marked a fish sitting 40 feet from the boat and indicated for Josh to cast in that direction and just as I turned around to see what he was doing, I saw his rod load up as he set the hooks whilst letting out a ‘woohooo’!

After a brief tussle I netted the fish that went on to measure 87cm, Josh was stoked. This was only the beginning to what we had clued onto. Some time had passed and we had continued to mark fish all afternoon on the side scan to no avail, it was last light when we decided to switch over to surface and chase that explosive top water strike. I scanned a fish up relatively wide off the bank and had Josh cast in its direction and within a couple of cranks an explosion erupted on his lure and he was on again, this time boating a feisty 75cm model. Night fell and it seemed as though the bite had shut down so we called it for the session.

For the next few sessions we applied the principals we had learnt during the course of the first days fishing and it proved dividends, confirming we had really clued onto a productive pattern. During these next sessions we went on to hook and land multiple fish, all of which were first located with the side scan feature and then cast to. The highlight of the trip and a session that will be very hard to forget was the last morning where I hooked 4 fish and landed 3, one of which was quite a special fish. We were sitting in 15ft of water targeting the edge of a spindly lined point as I quietly moved with the electric motor towards a slow descending grassy bank, which turned into a bit of a bay. I located a fish sitting to the right of the boat in 25-30ft of water and made a cast in its direction and within 5 cranks of the handle a solid fish cartwheeled out of the water smashing my lure. After a short tussle I boated my best fish for the trip measuring 99cm, just shy of that magic meter mark. From a novice cod fisherman’s point of view, both Josh and I were quite astonished as to the extent these fish would go to when committing to a lure and how effective it was using your electronics to aid in locating the fish rather than just fishing blind.

Reflections on the Trip

After reflecting back on my first experience chasing this iconic Australian native, I now understand exactly why so many anglers put endless hours and effort into trying to work them out, enduring the frosty pre-dawn starts and pulling all nighters in freezing cold conditions. The anticipation that comes with every cast you make, hoping you put your lure in the right location. That your retrieve is at the ideal pace, you pause the retrieve for the right amount of time and just trusting that your lure gets intercepted by a big slab of green. The strike is truly what I believe you are fishing for, as this species exerts so much energy to hit that lure it feels as if you have lodged your lure in a stump before you feel the vicious head shakes and the initial powerful lunge jolting the rod from your hands. You truly are fishing with the anticipation of that initial strike.

By far the best way to experience cod fishing for me was fishing a top water lure. As when these fish commit to eating off the top it is nothing for them to explode out of the water cartwheeling on the lure, and for a split second as you watch in awe you subconsciously remember to set the hooks. I am yet to experience a big fish over 1 metre, however when looking at peoples photos and seeing the sheer size of a fish measuring 120cm plus it has me very excited to return and hopefully catch that trophy fish. Until next trip, I cannot wait to get back to Copeton.

Dane Radosevic

Australia