The Ovens River gets its start in the High Country, flowing through Bright, Myrtleford and Wangaratta to ultimately join the Murray River at Bundalong at the top of Lake Mulwala. The Ovens stands as one of Victoria’s largest rivers unimpeded by a dam, allowing great migration and recruitment of natives. From wider sections lined with wetlands, to fast-flowing rapids, the 200-kilometre Ovens varies considerably in strength from beginning to end. For boaters, this means sticking to waters towards Wangaratta and further downstream.
In its lower reaches, the Ovens has extensive backwaters as it intersects the Murray River. Here, extensive weed beds and fallen timber provide ideal structure for fish, but can make for challenging boating.
The Ovens provides great fishing for golden perch, trout in its upper reaches, and redfin. Its abundant of fish habitat explains why it rivals the lower Goulburn River as the best Murray cod river in the state. There are numbers behind its claim too, with a 2019 study finding an average of 171 Murray cod per kilometre of river! All conventional fishing methods work in the Ovens, with bait fishing, lure casting, and trolling popular choices.
A self-sustaining population of trout cod has returned to the Ovens after stocking by the Victorian Fisheries Authority. Trout cod are fully protected in these waters, so be aware as they’re often caught when fishing for Murray cod.
Wangaratta to Lake Mulwala
The relatively short 40-kilometre section of river from Wangaratta to Lake Mulwala is considered one of the most productive Murray cod spots in Victoria. Although this stretch of water is home to thousands of smaller fish, trophy size cod are there to be found. Access for shore or kayak-based anglers is good right through Wangaratta, with the Northern Beaches and Sydney Beach offering great facilities and wide sandy banks. Some of the best waters can be found right above where the King River meets the Ovens, making for great family-friendly fishing complete with a big sandbar. The boat ramps at Templeton Street and Faithful Street are suitable for small craft like tinnies or kayaks.
Go via Peechelba Road to Peechelba and you’ll find the river takes on much steeper banks, but with ample space for camping riverside. With many kilometres of tracks to explore on either side of the river, including Billabong Creek Track, Lavis Track, and McLaughlin’s Track, you won’t be short of good fishing spots in this less pressured and more remote area. Water depth averages 1-2 metres but gets down to 4 metres in parts, making it an ideal stretch for kayaks and small craft fishers. The most common catch is small to medium size cod, complemented by golden perch, and some redfin, with golden perch becoming more prevalent in the lower reaches.
For big cod, Bundalong is the area you’re looking for. The Bundalong South boat ramp and a small ramp behind the Bundalong Caravan Park give access to a multitude of backwaters and the river itself. A maze of weed beds, cumbungi, overhanging willows, snag piles and deep holes provide days of opportunity within a small stretch of water. With plentiful riverside campsites available, pitch a tent and make the most of the ample boat, kayak and shore-based fishing this beautiful area has to offer.