Copeton dam, is a large body of water on the western slopes of the northern tablelands of New South Wales, a “Brett Lee stones throw” away from the town of Inverell. Due to it geographical position, Copeton is subject to some bloody cold temps through the winter months, (clearing ice from your fishing rod guides between casts and freezing your butane stove type of cold.) Surprisingly, this is one of the hottest times to head there to tangle with one of the oversize Murray cod that call the granite lined perimeters of the dam home. I set myself a goal this year, the goal was to pack up the truck, throw the Crashpad in, hitch the tinny on and head to Copeton once a month through Autumn and winter to try and work the joint out. As I pen this, I haven’t missed a monthly trip, being it with mates or with my partner Shannon and our bull Arab pup Winston. To cut a long story short, I’ve just bloody fallen in love with the place. It’s simply like no other place I’ve visited, the appeal for me is knowing I can roll my swag out, have a fire and pull the boat up on the bank and just relax, chase an iconic Aussie fish and escape the normality of the everyday grind.
Camping on the banks of Copeton is a pleasure with plenty of flat ground to set up a temporary home. Shannon and I have been sleeping together in our Crashpad with Winston sleeping at our feet and acting like a 20kg hot water bottle. We haven’t felt the cold at all, with our crashmat and sleepsystem keeping us toasty during the below zero nights. The campfire burns through the whole trip and acts as our camp hub, boiling the Billy for a cuppa frequently.
Oh yeah the Cod!!! Almost forgot ………….Copeton has become synonymous amongst the Murray cod scene. It’s the place you go to throw surface lures and have a very real chance of success. While not unique, Copeton’s surface bite through the winter months has become famous Australia wide, with a few international anglers making the trip downunder to try their luck. Seeing one of these giant, motley, green and gold creatures take a surface lure is something that has to witnessed to be believed. The hit often comes out of nowhere when you are alone with your thoughts and scares the proverbial crap out of you. Every sense is left tingling and the sound is like nothing else.
Ive had great success this year throwing timber lures that I hand carve at home in my shed, these lures imitate a water rat. They swim seductively, just breaking the surface of the water and induce heart stopping surface strikes. The success I’ve had has been all the more sweeter using my own creations. Each trip to this stunning fishery has offered up a different set of conditions that has resulted in a different game plan but there’s a backbone to my tactics that remains the same. Here is a very quick “how, why and when” on targeting your PB Murray cod on TOPWATER.
During the winter months the baitfish that the cod harass (Redfin, carp and Bobby cod) move to the shallower and therefore warmer perimeters of the lake, searching for a comfortable temperature, in turn the cod follow. This is why surface luring these shallow edges is so productive. The cod position themselves in the weed and choose wisely what they expel their energy for. A slowly worked, large profile surface lure is a meal worth moving for. Both land based and boat based angling can be effective. Early starts and late finishes are the order of the day, be prepared to cast until you can’t cast anymore and then cast again, these fish require hard bloody yakka.
You’ll need a heavy outfit to cast heavy bloody lures and subdue this large adversary. Another very important thing you’ll need to be is prepared!!! With a very good chance of coming in contact with an xos Murray cod you need to be “big fish” prepared. The care and preservation of these fish is paramount, have your massive knot less landing net, glove, pliers, bragmat and camera all set out ready to go. The time these beautiful fish are out of water needs to be kept to a minimum, keeping the fish in the net during set up time is a great idea, their weight needs to be supported at all times. Being ” big fish ” prepared helps increase the survival rate of these true Aussie icons.
One of the hardest parts of winter Murray cod fishing is dragging your carcass out of the warm swag to maximise the cold bite times, it sometimes borderlines on impossible, but trust me it’s worth it!
I’ve had a ball learning more about these remarkable fish this year. I’ve had hard times to go with the high times of landing quite a few metre plus cod. The hardest time, getting bogged and pulled out by a jeep. I’ve made friendships that I’m sure will last a lifetime. I’ve really enjoyed camping at Copeton, it’s a beautiful place to stay whether you like fishing or not. It’s simply a magical destination to tick off.
The call of the swag and those cod is hard to ignore, but who really wants to ignore it?
Check out out @jjs_plague on Instagram for more information on these magic lures.