For Cods Sake – David Hodge April 16

When living down south in the New England area for over thirty years, apart from hunting pigs, foxes, rabbits and cats,  I spent every spare minute I could get chasing the mighty Murray Cod, and to this day are my favourite species to target.

In freshwater environments the decision was quite easy, as they are the biggest and most hard hitting species available, and life holds fewer more exciting experiences than a meter plus Cod smashing a surface lure at the rod tip when your bums at water level in a kayak. They’re also right up there on the list of most wanted sporting species in Australia and understandably, are spoken of with almost reverence by fanatics. As far as in

And native species go, they’re the largest and most aggressive we have in Aus, and unless you want to chase Yellow Belly, are the only real Native luring option. Of course there are the feral species and imports like, European Carp, Redfin, Trout and so on, but I’m a bit of a native fish fanatic and don’t believe in stocking an imported species in places that hold populations of native species. Both Rainbow and Brown Trout are super aggressive, and prey on the young of natives and in the scheme of things should never take priority over a natives proliferation. Anyway, enough politics.

How do we as anglers evaluate a fish’s worth on a grand scale and what quantifies a prestigious fish in comparison to a S#*t fish in the pecking order of things. Salt water species are a little different than the fresh water environs, and apart from Tilapia, the estuaries are inhabited by fish that are ‘supposed’ to be here.  I suppose that I’ve been as guilty of it myself as well as anyone else, and have cursed a Salty Cod that has just intercepted a lure meant for a target species like Jacks or Barra.

I must be getting old and less high strung or something, because I have come to the conclusion that anything that hits and pulls that hard deserves some respect. Many years ago I used to kill the odd Gold Spot Cod for the table but I just can’t kill ‘Em nowadays, and the Black spots never even came into the table fair equation.

Even though a variety of Cod species regularly hit the lures that we are using and in a wide variety of locations, I don’t think they are the sort of thing that we really want to target, as they show up regularly enough anyway. I guess the reason I’m writing this is because I really get pissed off when I see the Cod species blatantly killed for no reason at all, and have seen people stab them bash them on the floor of the boat and throw them up the bank in disgust and cut their throat and use them for crab bait, just because they weren’t the desired species. I mean really, that’s just ridiculous. It’s often the anglers chasing more glamourise species like Barra, Jacks, Trout, Grunter and so on that are disappointed when one eats a bait or lure, seeing them as a waste of their time or bait.

Even though my choice isn’t to eat them, the choice isn’t made so much based on their eating quality, but dare I say it, I have a bit of a soft spot for them and would rather see them swim off, happy to have been dragged about the snags in the usual tough tussle that is part of a Cod encounter. I’ve been completely wrecked in the snags by these things, and they have as much hitting and pulling power as the next fish, and anyone who hits one over 40 centimetres usually mistakes it for a Jack until, they see the colours. You won’t hear anyone taking the Micky out of a Jack though, and this is exactly my point. Even if you don’t want to eat one, you can’t be disappointed by the experience of hooking a reasonable Cod surely, and if your predominantly a catch and release angler and fishing for the food as much as the experience and hunt, then a decent sized Cod is hard to beat for a challenge in the snags. OK, so a relatively small Cod will hit a big lure, and can be wound in without any problems at all, and these ones are a bit of a false alarm when you consider the effort they put into an attack, but the way I see it is all those little Cod encounters in between my target species add to the amount of action and bites over a day on the water, and fill in those quiet times between the fish that we are after to start with.

And what would we do without Cod when your teaching your kids how to lure fish, as many a Queenslanders first fish was a Cod. Even though most are small, and can be landed without to much of a tussle, they’re plentiful, and many of these smaller sub 40cm Cod are responsible for honing the skills of youngsters preparing their ability for more desirable fish. This is why when I was teaching my young fella how to lure fish in the north, I’d get him all excited when he landed one, and they’re a tough fish that give you the opportunity to teach kids the best fish handling practices for release techniques and increasing the chances of survival for softer species once they go back.

Same as the Flowery and Camouflage Cod that regularly smoke you in the reefs and snags when chasing Trout etc, they pull like a Mack truck always give you an intense fight amongst reef and rock. The variation in coloration is astounding and their mouth full of fangs and needle teeth are amazing. Cod of all species are just bruisers, and will test you to the maximum of your ability every now and then and I don’t think I could ever be disappointed with catching a bigger specimen. The Cod and Groupers of the northern waters are one of those fish that make North Queensland, North Queensland, and when you sit and talk to people about the experiences they have had relating to the Cods and Groupers, they’re more of a blessing than a curse. Many anglers, myself included have had fish monstered by big estuary Cod or Grouper, and if they can make a meal of your catch they will. Unlike the dreaded sharks, when you get a fish taken by a Cod or Grouper it’s a very memorable and more of an exciting experience than a cursing affair with the bities.

I had a Jack of approximately 40cm I’d just hooked on a plastic, eaten by a big Gold Spot at Morrasies a couple years ago not too far from the ramp, and I can’t tell now the last thing I was, was disappointed. Eyes wide open and hands left shaking, I must have laughed and shook my head for ten minutes after it happened right next to the boat, and it was just nature on display.

Offshore there are several resident big Grouper that live on the specific marks, and they will take their ‘Reef Tax’, on a regular basis, often within sight of the boat, and these events are something special to behold. Most bigger deeper structures and Jetties have resident minders of the depths, and these monsters are true natural wonders and an aw inspiring sight when they show themselves. I hand fed one in Broom many years ago, and he was a well known ‘pet’ by the locals, and quite the tourist attraction till some wanker killed it, and nearly suffered the same fate at the hands of the locals.

Along with many other mounts of species like Big Reef Jacks, Barra, Sailfish, Coral Trout etc, we have a Grouper mount in the shop at Akwa Pro Tackle, and it’s of a fish that must be up around the 250kg to 300kg mark, and while I’m not sure of the history of how it became a mount, it is a massive fish and the closer you get to it, the bigger it looks. Once your standing up close to it, you get a much better idea of why we have this soft spot for these monsters. As juveniles, I don’t think there is a more strikingly marked fish than the Queensland Grouper, and the legend that surrounds the species goes back centuries to before the first European settlers.

I’m not sure if my increasing appreciation  and respect for the Cods and Groupers is an age thing, or if it’s based more on some extremely memorable tussles and sights, all I can really say is I’m glad their here.