Swan Hill

Murray cod caught at Swan Hill, Steve Cooper

From Mulwala to Swan Hill there are excellent fishing opportunities. Some of the top spots along this stretch include Barmah, Echuca and the famous Torrumbarry Weir.

The huge Murray cod mounted near the park in Swan Hill says it all – this is cod country. Local angling stories in this part of the world revolve around cod. One fish was evidently so big it had gravel rash on its belly and a sunburned back. Nobody knows how much the cod weighed, but three of its scales were used to roof a backyard dunny … so the story goes.

If you are into catching cod, yellowbelly and redfin, then Swan Hill is a great place to start. As well as the Murray, the Neimur, Wakool, Edwards, Little Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers are all within about 40 min drive. For those who prefer lakes, close options include Lakes Boga, Charm and Kangaroo, all of which fish well during the warmer months.

The Murray River is no longer a river in the purest sense of the word. It is controlled water divided into a series of pools by weirs and dams. The best fishing is upstream of the main bridge. Water on the downstream side is shallow and needs to be navigated carefully.

About half a kilometre downstream of the bridge, on the Victorian side, is an all-weather ramp. Access is from Milloo St.

Popular spots include the willows near Murray Downs and, several kilometres further upstream, Pental Island. The latter has a solid reputation for producing big cod. Pental Island has a caravan park and boats can be launched from the bank. An all-weather ramp is also available there.

Three nearby lakes provide excellent angling, providing they are holding water. Drive out of Swan Hill towards Kerang, and you’ll come across Lake Boga, about 10 km out of town, then Lake Kangaroo (20 km) and finally Lake Charm, about 30 km away. All three are better known as part of the Kerang wetlands system and hold plentiful stocks of redfin to 2 kg, bigger carp and, since 2004, Fisheries Victoria have stocked them with Murray cod and yellowbelly. The stocking commenced following the buy-back of inland commercial fishing licences.

The presence of Murray cod might be good news for native fish aficionados, but most anglers who fish here do so for redfin. It is the same right across the Wimmera and Mallee regions. Wherever you find large, relatively shallow lakes you also seem to find solid populations of redfin, even in some town-water supply dams.

Redfin is a European import, not quite as high on Victorian Fisheries pest scale as carp, but it’s one of rural Victoria’s most popular freshwater sport fish. It’s something of a biological enigma among European imports – not only does it fight well and make excellent table fare, but it often bites better when the water warms up. When brown and rainbow trout are gasping for oxygen, the redfin is highly active and feeding.

Jim Credlin, the owner of the Swan Hill tackle store, is a big fan of these lakes. Lake Boga has 906 ha of water, with a boat ramp, picnic area, caravan park and all facilities. Jim told me he was amazed that the redfin were still in this lake as it has been allowed to run dry, and yet when it refilled ‘the redfin just reappeared’.

Lake Kangaroo is about 980 ha and has boat ramps and caravan parks on the northern and western shores. This lake is not as popular with waterskiers. Good bank fishing is available and one of the best areas is close to the regulator at the Swan Hill end of the lake.

Lake Charm is about half the area of the other two lakes and features a caravan park and good boat ramp that can handle larger craft. It contains a big population of redfin as well as Murray cod, yellowbelly and carp.

For the land-based angler there are plenty of areas to wet a line. One of the best is on the foreshore of the Hiawatha Caravan Park. Jim said another popular area is the bank near the regulator that controls water flow between little Lake Charm and big Lake Charm.

Just keep your fingers crossed that the lakes hold water.

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