Recreational fishers enjoy the ‘catch of their lives’ with Leslie Dam’s thriving Murray cod

Keen fishers are getting their “catch of a lifetime” at Warwick’s Leslie Dam as breeding efforts during the drought pave the way for “monster cod”.

Peter Delahoy has fished the dam in Queensland’s Southern Downs for seven years and recently caught three cod that measured over 1 metre.

“[They were] 109cm, 114cm and 119cm,” he said.

“My heart was nearly beating out my chest with excitement and when I finally got them landed, I couldn’t stand up.”

Mr Delahoy said he had never caught anything that size.

“I put it down to the big rains we had,” he said.

And while it was definitely a catch to remember, it won’t make it to the trophy room or dinner plate, as August to October is a closed season for Murray Cod in Queensland.

But capturing the catch in a picture was the next best thing for Mr Delahoy.

“I know of 13 cod being caught over 1m all within the last few weeks,” he said.

“Between 30 to 60cm was common and I used to hear of one or two big cod getting caught a month.”

While the Leslie is significantly fuller after a good year of rain in the catchment, tireless efforts to ensure the dam is a good breeding habitat are a major contributor to the number of large fish.

“Instead of putting cod back in the dam, we’ve built structures to get them to breed and the cod are quite happy with what we’ve provided,” said Warwick Fish Stocking Association secretary Mario Sala.

Mr Sala says the number of large cod being caught shows it’s been a success.

“That’s something that most people would strive for, and probably never get,” he said.

“It allows for people to get the trophy fish, and it’s an achievement a lot of people fish all their life for that big fish.”

A tourism drawcard
Adam Bennett owns the Tourist Park at Lake Leslie and is hopeful the cod will attract big tourism numbers too.

“It’s really good right now. It’s been about 10 years since it [the dam] has been full, everyone’s enjoying it while it’s there.”

Two years ago the dam was down to 4.6 per cent full, Mr Bennett said.

“There was still fishing … there was less water so it was less concentrated,” he said.

“It’s actually a lot better now — a lot more fresh water and it’s only going to get better hopefully.”

Mr Bennett said the fish could be even bigger than what has already been seen so far this year.

“The biggest one we saw was going back four-odd years ago. [It] was about 160 [centimetres] from memory so there are some big monsters out there,” he said.

“[The] biggest one we’ve seen so far this year was about 130, 140cm.”

Will fish cope with another wet summer?
The third La Nina in a row this year has raised concerns about maintaining the fish in the dam.

The dam is currently at 100.02 per cent capacity.

Prolonged rain can actually reduce fish numbers due to changes in water quality and oxygen levels.

“The biggest thing is to make sure this is an ongoing project for the fish stocking association. We’re always monitoring dam levels and how we can best look after the fish,” he said.

“If the dam fills and fish go over the wall when they release the water, they will escape so we have to take all those things into account.

“In a drought, you lose fish because of low water and when it rains we can still lose fish because they go over the wall.

“But at least then they go down the river where someone else can catch them.”