Location Guide: Fishing Lake Mulwala for the Mighty Murray Cod
The author with a metre plus Murray cod from lake Mulwala
Lake Mulwala has long been regarded as the cod capital of Australia, and for good reason. The lake is a man-made impoundment on the mighty Murray River. The Murray River is the home of the mighty Murray cod, and lake Mulwala situated on the Murray is no different as it's loaded with cod both big and small. Thousands of people fish the lake every year and the numbers of cod caught in Lake Mulwala each year is phenomenal. I have personally spent many a day on the water at Lake Mulwala and it's produced some of the best Murray cod fishing I've experienced. Access to the lake is great, with a heap of boat ramps, plenty of places to stay next to the water and even a camping reserve.
The lake is a very shallow impoundment and most of the lake is about 15 to 5ft deep - these are often referred to as the flats on Lake Mulwala. The only deeper areas in the lake are the main river channel. The main river channel is where the Murray river used to flow pre-dam. The old river channel drops off to around 30 or 40ft. Most of the lake's shallow flats are covered in old dead trees. This timber is either still standing or has fallen over in the lake creating perfect cod habitat. These flats also grow extensive weed beds and more great fish habitats. Shallow, snaggy and weedy flats mean driving your boat at speed in the lake can be dangerous. Due to this, I will mostly just use the electric motor to travel around in the timber and use the outboard motor out in the river channel and open water.
Fishing the lake for cod can be done via a variety of methods such as bait fishing or trolling lures, but the most common technique used on the lake is casting lures for Murray cod. All of my fishing at the lake for cod is done this way and it's a really effective way to catch fish. Here's my best tips on tangling with a few Mulwala cod on the cast.
The most common technique to catch cod in the lake is to cast at the underwater timber in the lake with spinner baits and hardbody lures. Some of my personal favourites are the JJ's Stumpjumper hardbody and Bassman Codman Spinnerbait. These lures are extremely snag-proof and will run over the snags well. This lure running all over the cod's snag is often enough to spark a bite. This technique works best when the sun is up during the day. You can catch fish of any size with this technique. This is probably one of the best ways to catch numbers of cod in the lake. Look for bait rich areas that have a lot of boney bream or carp swimming around on the surface or on the sounder.
Earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, fish right up on the lake flats in 12 to 6ft of water. As the sun rises, you can move to the deeper areas in 12ft or deeper. The edges of the river channel are great spots to target during the middle of the day as the cod like to sit close to the protection of deeper water. Cast the lures at the big laydown logs and snag piles as these are prime cod territory. However, they will also sit on the upright trees, particularly in the shade of the tree.
When To Head Down
First light and last light are the best times to chase big cod in the lake as they feed heavily around the transition of light. This requires a different approach to casting at timber structure. This is best done by the techniques of swim baiting or surface luring. These lures work best on the pelagic cod that are out and about hunting down their prey.
You're targeting a completely different actively feeding fish compared to the fish that are sitting on their snags, so you want to be fishing in a completely different area. The best area to cast swimbaits and surface lures in Mulwala is around the edges of the weed beds, as the baitfish seek refuge in these weed beds. The cod love to sneak their way through the weed hunting. Early morning and late afternoon, you will spot the baitfish and carp splashing and jumping out of the water. Where you see patches of this is a great way to start fishing.
If you're not seeing any patches of bait in the area of the lake you are fishing, it's best to go for a drive around during low light and check some different areas of the lake. It's hard to pinpoint where exactly the baitfish are going to be in the lake as they are constantly moving. The general rule I've found is that they won't be far away from the weed beds in the lake that have Deepwater or open water nearby. This area can have timber or may be totally clear of timber - the baitfish don't mind.
How To Pick The Best Spot
Once you've found an area with lots of bait, you want to concentrate your efforts in this area. Look for any weed beds close by this area and work out where the edges of the weed bed are. You may be able to see the weed bed from the surface or you may just pick it up on the sounder. The weed will grow in 12ft or shallower and looks like weed or grass growing up off the bottom of the lake. Come primetime around the periods of dawn and dusk, you'll want to cast your surface lure or swimbait down these edges of the weed beds and work your way along fairly quickly. If there is an actively feeding cod in the area, it will often find your lure fairly quickly. Surface paddling lures such as the Atomic Hardz Slappa or Barambah Bidjiwong Surface lure work best at Mulwala for Cod.
As far as swimbaits go, it's hard to go past the Jackall Gigantarel or Jackall Gantia. These are fairly big lures as the size of the cod caught fishing this way are generally much bigger fish. If you can get a bite off the baitfish or the weed beds, it will generally be a nice big cod with many fish over the 1m mark commonly caught with this approach. Once the sun is high in the sky, this approach becomes much less effective and it's best to go back to fishing the timber where the cod will shelter during the day. This is a great technique to use at night if you want to fish at night, but it can often be hard to spot baitfish and the weeds at night. So, find the area you are going to fish while it's light and return in the dark.
By using these two approaches, you will be able to find a few Mulwala cod on your next trip, remember swimbaits and surface lures early and then mix it up with some spinnerbaits and hardbodies during the day. Lake Mulwala is an enjoyable place to fish and watching the sun set or rise over the lake is always magic! The lake is home to some giant cod, and if you're on the quest for the magic 1m long Murray cod, it's a great place to start.
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