As you work your way down the Murray, you’ll find locks near most of the major towns. The locks create deep, holding water, which is especially good news for anglers chasing Murray cod. There’s one at Wentworth, just across the river from Mildura. The town of Wentworth marks the junction of the Murray and Darling rivers. On my visit the Murray was clear and green, the Darling, however, was its usual murky self.
My introduction to Wentworth was unusual. At sea you often see birds working in conjunction with pelagic predators. Small fish are rounded up and pushed to the surface, where birds and fish alike feast together. But I didn’t expect to see a similar event on the Murray River. Shags were rounding up small bream, pushing them into balls towards the surface where pelicans, terns and even a kite were able to feast on the bounty.
There are two boat ramps at Wentworth: one is in the Darling River near the Highway Bridge and another on the Murray, on the left just before the bridge as you are entering town. We had two boats and we launched at Wentworth at about 8am. I was fishing with Gus Storer, and Rod Mackenzie was fishing with my son Michael. Gus and I only had an electric motor so Rod towed us a few kilometres upstream and then we cast off the rope and started trolling.
This was winter, a time few regard as prime for cod, but according to Rod, the cod have to eat sometime. ‘One thing I can guarantee,’ he said, ‘is that if you hook a cod it will be a good fish.’
Three hours and a couple of fat yellowbelly later and Rod hooked up a cod. The fish was a beauty that weighed 26 kg and was subsequently released to fight another day. (There are not enough big Murray cod left to be killing them.) We missed another cod and that was it for the day. Eight hours trolling for one fish.
For all that, I suspect winter is as good a time as any to fish here. After all, I returned the following year, in the depths of winter, and a group of eight anglers caught more than 15 Murray cod of 15–30 kg in a four- day session.