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Posted 15th March 2024

Clearwater Cod

Clearwater Cod
Clearwater Cod

By Darren Weda

One species and location everyone needs to put on their fishing bucket list is Murray cod in the clearwater rivers of Northern Victoria. The Nth East has a large variety of rivers in which to chase Murray Cod. It’s quite the “choose your own adventure” depending on which river you do chose. Larger relatively open rivers like the Upper Murray and Mitta Mitta, or small overgrown and willow lined rivers like the Ovens or Buffalo all offer their own adventures.

Generally, the higher you go in the Murray River system and its tributaries, the clearer the water, but there is a point at which the Cod population tapers off and the trout populations take over. For those who have done some river trout fishing, chasing Cod inn these habitats is remarkably similar, just with Larger green fish who will demolish your

lures in those pools and current breaks. Most of the water apart from a few of the larger rivers like the Murray and Mitta Mitte are all kayak options. In my eyes the best thing to try and do if you do decide to fish from a kayak is to source some basic camping gear, a mate, and plan a good downstream drift.

This opens up the options, and you can make your one-way trips as long as you want to, by putting a vehicle at the start and the end of your drift. This technique allows you to fish right until dark and not worry about getting back to camp, and to get into some sections of rivers that are not accessed as much.

Peddling upstream is certainly doable on some of the rivers and can even be the best option for day trips and for fishing efficiency. But downstream is the way to go if you want to cover ground and have multiple people fishing.

Trip Planning Basics

* Step 1. Do some research, Google and Google Maps etc and work out your location options.

* Step 2. Decide if you want to day trip or do an overnighter.

* Step 3. Pick a river and then work out entry point and potential exit point, vehicles etc.

* Step 4. Organise your gear. Camping, food, clothes, and of course fishing gear.


While most of the Clearwater fish you will come across are sub 70cm, there is certainly, the chance to get fish up to a meter, especially in the bigger water ways. So, keep that in mind! I tend to use lighter setups for my clearwater cod trips. I prefer rods in the 4-9kg range, paired with a 100-150 size bait cast reel, Daiwa Tatula reels are my go-to cod reels. Two of my favourite rods are the TD Zero 702MHFB 5-9kg and the Tatula 702MLFB 3-6kg.

All my cod reels whether it be impoundment or river fishing are spooled with 50lb J-Braid Grand, or J-Braid Expedition. Leaders in the clear stuff will range from 20lb to 40lb J-Thread Fluorocarbon depending on the river and clarity of the water. As a rule I will run two rods on most trips. If I am only fishing for a few hours on a tight section of river I will opt for 1 rod. Two rods do give a bit more flexibility on lure choice, being able to fish likely structure with two techniques quickly, and also a bit of insurance if you happen to break a rod.


Cod can be caught on huge range of lures, and generally if you get a good cast into the zone and they are hungry, then they will eat it. Lure choice can also be very dependent on the type of structure and water flow you are fishing. Spinnerbaits, hardbody diving lures, surface lures and swimbaits all have their place.

My biggest tip is to ensure you are getting your lure as close to where you think the fish will be sitting. Personally, I enjoy and have confidence in spinnerbaits. They are super versatile. They can be sunk into the depths of an undercut bank, fished fast through tiny little back eddies in some fast water, or slowly bumped through some sunken timber. 

I have a range of spinnerbaits ready to go when fishing the clearwater, 1/2 oz through to 1 oz, willow and Colorado blades, colours from white, chartreuse, blacks, purples, natural greens and browns. Willow blades I use in the faster water or if I want to fish a bit deeper,

Colorado’s for the slower water and when dropping it into undercut banks and pockets. One thing they all have in common though is a 4” Bait Junkie minnow plastic trailer. It adds that extra bit of vibration from the tail and a bit more of a realistic profile.


Likewise with lures, techniques can be numerous and very waterway dependent. Personally, I don’t mind fishing either upstream or downstream. Upstream can give you a bit more time casting into likely spots, especially if you stuff up your first cast. Upstream you are generally fishing the back eddy behind structure, although sometimes you can cast past structure and bring the lure past the fish (in a downstream direction) which is a more natural presentation.

High flow rivers can make fishing upstream just too hard thought and can be very energy demanding. I am fishing in a pedal kayak if you haven’t already worked that out, so can hold into current and still cast. Upstream fishing is pretty much impossible in a paddle kayak. 

Downstream drifting is certainly a relaxing way to fish, being able to cover lots of river without expending much energy. We can cover 10-20km of river easily in a day fishing this way. Major downsides fishing this way is that you tend to have to fish more to the front of structure, or across and down the river, and unless you turn around and peddle back into the current to have another cast at your target you will only have one or two decent casts into your zone.

Turning around into the current and really hitting good looking structure from a different angle is certainly a viable option and one we do a lot too. One thing that really helped me when fishing downstream is having the 180 drive in my Hobie kayak, So I can essentially “slow” my drift down by slowly pedalling with the fins in reverse.

Overall, though, Murray cod are ambush predators who like cover and in the clear fast water, they love current breaks. So, keep that in mind. Cover can be in the way of hard cover like logs, rocks and undercut banks, or simply in the way of deep water and shade.

We had numerous fish on our last trip just sitting middle of the river deep in a run. Almost like a big brown or rainbow trout would do. Using the rocks on the bottom of the fast water sections as a current break, depth and an effective ambush point.

Get your lures into those zones and you are very likely to bump into a few fish. Kayak adventuring into these beautiful clear rivers of Nth East Vic truly is an amazing experience. Put it on your bucket list, plan a little adventure with some mates, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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