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Peel River. Foot of the New England Ranges. NSW

Not being recognized till fairly recently as a native fish proposition, the Peel River has a great population of natives, more specifically Murray Cod, Golden Perch, Eel tailed Catfish and the protected Silver Perch. The Peel starts its winding fast flowing path up in the ranges above Nundle where pre drought days saw decent numbers and sizes of Rainbow Trout targeted by a few “in the know” anglers. Since the recognition of Native species, heavy and positive impact on the “rabbit of the rivers” and despised feral introduced species the European Carp, stocked numbers have been increased and with a great survival rate.

At one time the Bowling Ally Point and Hanging rock area’s around Nundle were recognized for another pastime in the form of Gold panning with some nice “shows” still turning up in pans and slush boxes of those with a good back and patient personality it is an option for when the fishing slows a bit.

The headwaters the Peel can run clear, and fish can be spotted 4 and sometimes 5 meters below the surface when conditions are good. Even though the native’s are relatively uncommon in the headwaters, the scene changes once you hit Tamworths water supply Chaffey Dam.

Being heavily stocked with Golden Perch and Silver Perch, and to lesser extent Murray Cod has seen a dedicated and extremely competent group of anglers using specific techniques to great effect. Apart from baitfishing with live Shrimp, Yabbies and worms, without a doubt trolling is the number one most used year round technique and with good reason, it works. Tilsan Bass and Halco 50mm Poltergiest’s are at the top of the lure choice list, particularly now that the new 8 meter bib 50mm Poltergiest has been released and opened up previously untouchable water without the aid of a down rigger. Another underutilized method is to cast the shallower western weedbeds with shallower divers where the Goldens move in to hunt in the fading afternoon sun. Some spectacular fishing can be had as the visual aspect of an attack on your lure in clear water can be amongst the biggest rushes in sportfishing.

Once the waters of Chaffey take the fall of the spillway and resume the path of the Peel once more, more natural landscape from that of the Dam will allow anglers to make daytrip kayak journeys and if possible, pre approved private property access trips where walking the banks and casting can produce some incredible fish. Even though the “idiot factor” of some irresponsible anglers has left a sour taste in the mouth of property owners, there are still a few which will allow strict access. Never ever sneak onto a property. Apart from being illegal, the response when caught will no doubt be an aggressive one and rightfully so. There are stock routes and some public reserves made available for the general public access between Chaffey and the junction of the Peel and Namoi rivers below Keepit Dam not far from Gunnedah. The further West the river winds the more suspended sediment accumulates in the water column and a more traditional Cod water color becomes apparent. Still with reasonable water clarity lures are still the most effective way to target native fish with catch and release in mind.

Lures that work are as normal for any Cod water, with spinnerbaits being at the top of the list for consistency. A proven pattern in the spinnerbaits is a 3/8 Bassman spinnerbait in the purple and brown, natural greens and black and green tips. A stinger hook will always increase the hookup ratio and turn more strikes into hookups. Surface fishing of a night with lures such as the Halco Nightwalker delivers the ultimate rush in freshwater fishing and persistence is the secret here. Deep diving lures in the form of Halco Rellick docks, Oargee’s and Jamie Fletts Mudeye lures all work at times also.

Massive Cod are still regularly taken in the Peel and as already stated, stocking will help the numbers keep on increasing and the dreaded Carp numbers will continue to subside.

Whilst on the subject of Carp, why not make the best of a feral pest and target them for sport with light tackle and fly. Carp fight hard and will put any angler to the test on light gear. They can be sight fished as they feed in the shallows and a small Wooly Bugga or shrimp pattern will have the desired response. Learning to stalk Carp in the shallows is a great challenge and aids in the reduction of Carp in our waterways as all Carp should be killed as soon as they hit the bank.

Dave Hodge

Dave Hodge with a good size Murray Cod
Click on image for larger version

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Copyright© 2006 Dave Hodge. Sweetwater Fishing Australia