Copeton Dam's reputation for big Murray Cod, especially on top water casting lures certainly has gotten around, all the way to the Isle of Wight in England. I have fished with Stewart Newnham - or 'uncle' as we call him several times in Southern Oman and Komodo Indonesia chasing the mighty giant trevally. Stu contacted me some months ago with a desire to catch a Murray Cod - could we make that happen? Organising the right time was tricky, but we managed to find a small window of opportunity before Stu was due to step on a live-aboard charter out of Bundaberg Queensland, it just meant he would need to leave England a week or so early. The timing was not idea for this trip, the Murray Cod closed season meant that there were only two options; Lake Eildon and Copeton Dam, but Copeton has not let us down yet, Eildon on the other hand can be temperamental so the drive north was in order.
Setting off with a crew of 4 anglers (Stu, Shaun Bowdler - Mudeye Lures, Andy Smith - Ebb Tide Tackle, and myself, the drive through the night was brutal but we were keen to get there and get a look at the lake in daylight. Dropping the boats in by late afternoon a couple of immediate observations became apparent; the lake had risen a lot since our last visit in May, but was currently dropping fast (in demand to cotton irrigation needs downstream of the dam). This had created the exposure of a nasty green slime / sludge along most banks and hanging off every snag and drifting into any backwater area. This bloom was worse the further up the river arm you went to the point there was a minor fish kill right up in the gorge. Some of the banks we planned on hitting (and had been very productive in May) were now off the cards as you could not fish them without badly fouling most casts. No matter how good any waterways reputation is, you must adapt each and every time you return, especially when there is a significant time gap between opportunities. Last year when I visited these exact same dates the Gwydir river was in flood (as was most of NSW), every time is different. Using our time wisely to conduct a thorough reconnaissance, we managed to find some clearer water especially in the main basin and applying our usual thought of find the bait, find the fish we were now in with a chance. We set to work over the next few days concentrating on change of light and just sleeping when we could.
The fishing was far from easy. The bite windows were very short for us and opportunities pretty scarce however we worked hard and raised fish most days and converted a bit better than half of our chances which is not bad going as we fished almost exclusively top water, what was pleasing is that when we raised a fish they appeared to be intent to actually eat. One thing I have learnt with cod casting is that while you are still casting you are in the game and while you might have fishless sessions or days keep presenting and the bite will surely come. That is not always a snap to do when you are still on the water at midnight freezing and hungry, but it's true.
Prior to the trip I had one goal - to get Stu a cod, top water would be a bonus, a metery the icing on the cake. Personally, I also had a number in mind for myself, a meter 20. My chance came first on the evening of day 2. Some annoying breeze was really affecting our drift and putting chop on the water so I went with the noisiest lure in my bag - a Mudeye Triple Paddler. This paid off with an explosive take in some snaggy territory with white water going everywhere. With fish in the net the brag mat stretched out to almost 116cm's - a new PB and a great way to get my first fish on my new heavy outfit; a Megabass Black Jungle F11 rod and Monoblock reel, a delight to use with the biggest of lures. The following morning was full of action for all the guys except me. Shaun and Andy enjoyed a hot little session in the river arm with multiple hits and misses on some trophy fish before boating one each, a healthy fat scrapper for Shaun and a very nice 90 for Andy - both falling to Mudeye Snake and Mudeye Rattlesnake respectively. At about the same time up in the main basin it came together for Stu, a cast deep into the wattle (right where a big mob of ducks had been disturbed from) was met with a loud boof on his Mudeye Rattlesnake and he came up tight. Leaving nothing to chance the fish was in the net pronto and 95cm's of Copeton green back was his! Mission accomplished. No further fish were raised that morning but it's interesting to note that the barometer really spiked, probably explaining the bite.
The remaining day and a half did not raise anymore fish for us, the slime was getting a bit worse and one or two sluggish bites failed to hook up, one fish each would have to do, but as usual for Copeton the average size was very high, can't wait to go back, wait for the YouTube clip - subscribe here for when it drops.
Take home lessons:
Always have a good look around - check the surroundings and conditions when you return to a location after an absence.
Persistence should get you an opportunity even in a tough bite,
Fish the prime times,
Being on a full moon phase, concentrate on the dark corners and shadows
Adapt to the conditions!
Top water can still work when the bite is tough!
Lures getting bites:
Mudeye Triple Paddler
Megabass Black Jungle F11-710XBJ rod
Murasame Wake Bait 751h and 7101h rods
Lews Tournament Pro TPG1H reels
Lews Inshore Speed Spool LFS SSI1H reels
Megabass Monoblock ITO Gambler reel
Megabass Lauda 72 reels
|A very cold Mr Mudeye Shaun with a copeton metery wannabe - Mudeye Snake|
|Great fish for Andy - Mudeye Rattlesnake getting boofed|
|Chicken or the egg - What's better, the capture or the release?|
|Copeton Waters locals|
|Smiles all round - PB for JC at 115cm's, zero match for the Megabass Black Jungle|
|Mudeye Triple Paddler a great choice with a lot of chop on the water|
|Pretty views up in the gorge end of the river arm|
|The fish Stu flew from England for - 95cm's of cherry popping Copeton Cod - Stu loves the rattlesnake now!|
|So many good edges at Copeton Dam|
|That's a Rattlesnake all the way in there!|
|The paparazzi and lure builder in action|