Hotspot: Chasing monster Murray cod in Copeton Dam

An early morning Copeton Dam cod for Dan Aylward.

by Dayne Taylor •

Copeton Dam is located on the Gwydir River, around 35km southwest of Inverell on the northwest tablelands of New South Wales. At full capacity the lake spreads out over 46km2, with the purpose to supply water for farmland irrigation, stock and household water needs in the Gwydir Valley.

This dam is a popular inland sport and recreation destination, offering year-round attractions for watersports and fishing enthusiasts, nature lovers, bushwalkers, campers and picnickers.

Accommodation, food and supplies

There are a number of options available if you wish to stay at the dam. The Reflections Copeton Waters Holiday Park is located on Copeton Dam Rd, and offers ample amounts of unpowered waterside camping, perfect for a campfire. There are also powered sites and comfortable air-conditioned, self-contained cabins, which are ideal for winter. There is great kiosk that does a fantastic burger and chips along with a small selection of fishing tackle on-site. Being part of the Reflection holiday park group means the facilities are in tip-top condition and are always well maintained. To book, call (02) 6723 6269 or jump online and book via their website at

When it comes to supplies, such as food, fishing tackle and camping gear, the closest town that will tick all those boxes is Inverell, only a short 20-minute drive away. Inverell is a relatively large country town, and you will find plenty of grocery stores, take-away and fast food restaurants.

And then there’s the infamous Inverell Fishing and Hunting Outdoors store. If there isn’t an Australian-made Murray cod lure in there for every occasion, I will happily eat my hat. They stock a great range of lures, rods and reels suited to all our native fish, and are only too happy to give you some pointers on techniques and some likely lure selections and locations on the dam to give you a head start.

Fishing and Kayaking

Currently the dam is sitting at around 10%-12%, which is fairly low in the grand scheme of things, but it does mean the fish are more concentrated in a smaller body of water.

Does this make them easier to catch? Definitely not!

The dam has a healthy population of Murray cod, golden perch (yellowbelly), silver perch and catfish.

Copeton has a ridiculous amount of fish habitat, even at the low levels currently being experienced. You can expect to see rocks and boulders up to 10m across, as well as standing and fallen dead timber, and weed beds covering areas sometimes up to a few acres, all making for some spectacular scenery and fish-holding structure.

Naturally there is an established food chain at Copeton, and because the Murray cod are the largest of the species they sit at the top. They are followed by the golden perch, silver perch and catfish, then the redfin and bobby cod, yabbies and so on.

The author enjoys flicking lures at structure at daybreak.

Lure recommendations

For that prized, gigantic trophy Murray cod that Copeton is well known for, you can’t beat an extra-large lure. Mimicking the natural food source with big baits that replicate a redfin perch, trout, or even a golden perch or smaller cod, such as jointed swimbaits and glidebaits are a great option. Brands such as Jackall, Westin, Megabass, Zerek, DEPS and Evergreen all have fantastic ranges suited to this style of fishing.

Another couple of favourites to use in the cooler months when the fish are hungry and cruising the shallows in the low light conditions are topwater crawlers and wakebaits. These lures imitate snakes or lizards that may have fallen in the water, or even big moths, bats or birds. And you can’t beat that explosion a cod creates on a topwater lure, especially when they hit while you’re least expecting it!

The final lure types that I recommend are vibration/reaction style baits. Spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and vibes all work well. Glen and Sue from Bassman have designed an extra-large range of spinnerbaits and mumblers with the sole purpose of trophy natives in mind, so they are well worth having a look at before you head on your mega cod quest.

A selection of topwater, swimbaits and spinnerbaits used in an early morning session on Copeton.

With all the artificial lures you intend to use at Copeton, I strongly recommend upgrading some of the terminal tackle such as split rings and sometimes even trebles. It is such a heart breaking moment when you have spent days casting and finally get that big bite, then feel a split ring let go or a treble straighten mid fight (yes I’m speaking from past experiences). On the other hand, make sure you don’t overdo it to the point where you impede the intended action of your lures. There is sometimes a fine line between a swimbait that will and won’t swim and it often comes down to one treble size.

When fishing Copeton from a kayak, be sure to take care when handling these large fish. The last thing you want to do is end up in the freezing cold water trying to land or handle a fish. Sometimes it’s easiest to swim a well-hooked cod to the closest bank for a photo and un-hooking. The temperatures in winter fall well below zero and you will often have your guides and reels ice up and even freeze over while fishing late nights and early mornings.            

Remember to stay warm, take care, and enjoy your Copeton Dam fishing adventure!