Successful catch and release of the mighty Murray cod

Angling tips for ensuring fish survival and longevity

The Murray cod has been respected and cared for by Aboriginal Nations for thousands of years. We pay our respects to Traditional Owner Elders past, present and future, and welcome their knowledge and involvement in native fish recovery.

By Andy McGovern, Pro-Angler

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With each passing Murray cod season, and the growing number of anglers, both new and old, looking to chase this iconic species, the catch rates and pressure on these fish continues to increase. Commendably, most anglers now release their Murray cod to live, breed, and prosper. Through the flood of social media posts, with anglers holding beautiful big cod for a photo, as well as short release video clips, it is obvious that however well-intentioned these fishers are, many folks could brush-up on handling techniques to ensure that not only does the cod swim away, but that it has the best chance at a long and healthy life. The correct handling methods will reduce stress on the fish, avoid damage or harm to vital organs, and most importantly facilitate a healthy release.

As part of the Murray-Darling Basin Native Fish Recovery Strategy, I have been working with the Upper Murrumbidgee Recovery Reach and the Australian River Restoration Centre to create a suite of short, online educational videos to demonstrate and explain the best handling techniques for Murray cod. These clips run through some key steps an angler can take to reduce stress on the fish, minimise unintentional damage, and release them with minimal harm. You can watch the full video below, or scroll down the page to watch the tips individually.

Whether you are looking to land your first fish, or you’ve been fishing for decades, please forward this page and share these tips with your fishing friends, so that we can ensure the longevity and future of our magnificent Murray cod.

Why is this important?

Murray cod were once a plentiful species throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, however, they are now threatened by overfishing, mishandling, and environmental changes. The species are endemic to Australia and are currently listed as a vulnerable species under the EPBC Act, highlighting their national significance. Their rarity, status, and beauty make them a popular angling fish for many recreational fishers. It is crucial that proper catch and release practices be implemented during the upcoming fishing season in order to protect our gorgeous Murray cod for many more seasons to come.

Close up of a Murray cod. Photo credit: Andy McGovern

Andy’s top tips to successfully catch and release Murray cod

Illustrations by Nina Rupena

#1 – Always wet your hands when handling Murray cod

This helps prevent remove the protective slime on the Murray cod that acts as the first line defence against parasitic infections, bacteria, and other diseases.

Watch Tip

#2 – Keep the fish in the water as much as possible

Minimising the time Murray cod spend out of water is really important during catch and release. Hold them in the water while you get your camera ready or your ‘brag’ mat out to measure them.

Watch Tip

#3 – Always support the fish’s body weight

Fish cannot sustain their own weight outside the water. Placing a hand under the belly of the fish and avoiding placing it on its side will reduce harm to the animal.

Watch Tip

#4 – Use a lip grip as a tool for securing fish

Using a lip grip reduces the risk of the fish escaping with hooks still attached. If possible, opt for a plastic lip grip with smooth edges, rather than a sharp metal one.

Watch Tip

#5 – Use an Enviro net

Enviro nets have soft meshing that doesn’t harm the scales or fins of the fish. They also minimise the handling of the fish, making for an easy catch and release.

Watch Tip

#6 – Use measuring mat on the water’s edge

Using your brag mat on the water’s edge not only reduces the time the fish is out of the water, but also the chances of them getting sand and debris sticking to their body.

Watch Tip

Avoid holding the fish vertically

Hanging or holding a fish by the jaw results in the tearing of  cartilage around the throat and gills – much like having a permanent broken jaw. This impacts their ability to feed adequately and their long term survival.  In some cases it can also rip the stomach cavity, condemning the fish to a slow, painful death.  When holding a fish for a photo, always support the body weight and minimise their time spent out of the water.

You can read Andy’s article ‘Releasing our precious Murray Cod‘ in the latest edition of Freshwater Fishing Australia Magazine Issue 175.

Treat all fish with respect.

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The content on this web page has been developed through a partnership between the Upper Murrumbidgee Recovery Reach project, Andy McGovern and the Australian River Restoration Centre as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Native Fish Recovery Strategy.