Fort Courage

Massive cod caught at Fort Courage, Steve Cooper

One of my favourite destinations is Fort Courage. Little more than a caravan park with a boat ramp, Fort Courage is about 20 km drive out of Wentworth on the road to Renmark. It has great fishing for families or angling groups, and it is a fine example of what a committed group of anglers can achieve.

As you drive along the Renmark road, the only vegetation is saltbush and lignum. This is sunburnt country; dry and flat, with a few red sandhills. I remember coming along this road after a shower of rain and having to avoid running over lizards that were drinking from puddles on the bitumen. There are tracks leading off on both sides, but no homesteads to be seen. And although the road roughly follows the Murray River, the only water you come across is the Darling River Anabranch, renowned for its capacity to produce bucket loads of big yabbies after floods.

The sign to Fort Courage is clearly marked and you turn left and drive for about 1 km over unsealed road. Fort Courage is like a green oasis amidst the sunburnt landscape. It’s owned by Wentworth Services Angling Club, which purchased the land when the previous owners ran into financial difficulty. The park is a credit to the club members who volunteer their time to keep improving what is already an excellent venue. It consists of about 40 ha of river frontage, with shade trees and green lawns, powered van sites, heaps of unpowered sites and air-conditioned cabins as well as a toilet and shower block.

The first time I stayed at Fort Courage, we caught Murray cod to about 17 kg and heaps of smaller yellowbelly. What I remember most about that first trip was the day it was too hot to be on the water. The temperature topped 40°C so along with a few other campers we spent the afternoon in the shade of the communal cooking area. On return trips, I’ve often spent evenings around the large fireplace to keep warm.

The emphasis in the park is on communal gatherings. The cooking area is under cover and there are several sets of tables and chairs. The barbecue consists of a large hot plate, or there are two Weber barbecues for those who prefer a roast. Even the log fire is used for cooking, as campers bring over their camp ovens to sit them on hot coals.

The old boat ramp, with its narrow concrete strips lined on either side by gutters, was replaced and there are several mooring poles along the riverbank for anglers who prefer to leave their boats on the river at night. It also has what the members believe is the only registered fish-cleaning bench along the Murray in NSW.

The fishing here can be excellent. Upstream you can go as far as the lock at Wentworth, and downstream about 40 km to Lock 9, below Moorna Station. It is an ideal base camp to fish Frenchmans and Deadmans creeks, the Rufus River and the anabranch. Cod and yellowbelly are the most sought after species, but anglers also catch redfin and plenty of them target yabbies at the right time of year.

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