True Tales of the Trout Cod:
A Tale of Two Cod

The first European account describing the existence of fish ultimately to be known as ‘cod’ comes from the journal of George Evans who was sent on a journey of exploration to the interior by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Departing from Emu Plains in November 1813, Evans crossed the Great Dividing Range, and on the 30th of November encountered the upper reaches of a stream at the Evans Crown Reserve near Tarana. On that date he recorded in his journal ‘leading into a fine valley at the end I met a large Riverlett arising from the Southern Hills. We shot ducks and caught several trout weighing at least 5 or 6 pounds each’ (Mackaness, 1965).

Two Cod? Trout Cod and Murray Cod

Argus, 17 March 1911 (article excerpt)

Referring to a note upon this subject, Major Semmens, Chief inspector of fisheries, writes:- “Re ‘Murray trout’ in ‘Nature Notes and Queries’ of the 3rd inst., the fish described by Mr. Harvie is identical with what D.H.Stead calls a ‘trout cod’. I prefer the term ‘Murray trout’. The fish has been brought under Mr. Stead’s notice in recent years, but has been known to many northern Victorian anglers as a Murray trout for a great number of years. It is a much smaller fish than the Murray cod, and, instead of being mottled like the latter, is spotted, although many of the spots are confluent. I have been looking out for a specimen for some time to get it scientifically examined as to whether it is really a distinct species from the Murray cod. It is, of course, also a member of the perch family.

– Donald MacDonald.

Trout Cod or Murray Cod?

Original lithograph of a male cod, possibly a Trout cod, prepared by artist Ludwig Becker in 1858 who perished shortly afterwards on the Bourke and Wills expedition. The fish was reported to have been three feet four and a half inches in length. This illustration was subsequently used in the preparation of Plate 85 in Frederick McCoy’s Prodromus of the Natural History of Victoria, 1884. Certain identification of the fish as a Trout cod is not possible with the mouth open though McCoy recorded that it was of the form of cod with a narrow pointed snout.

Reproduced with the permission of Museum Victoria

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Learn more about the history of the Two Cods from the True Tales of the Trout Cod book chapter.