Almanac Poetry: Murray Cod


Murray Cod cartoon, based upon the arrival of an enormous cod at the Victorian Club, Melbourne, in May 1857. [Source: Melbourne Punch, 1857.]


Murray Cod


Men building the early bridges
across the River Murray
caught Murray Cod
off half-finished structures
with fencing wire.
Some fish were enormous,
bigger than the blokes who hooked them.
Old photos from newspapers
of Riverina country towns
and stuffed specimens
above the bars of riverside pubs
tell vivid tales
of men and mythic monster.
These days, though, the big Murray Cod
are more elusive than ever.
Locks, weirs and barrages
put across the river,
as well as other interventions
of the human kind,
mean the fish have little chance
of growing to their former giant size.
But I cannot help but wonder if,
in quiet backwaters,
dappled with shade and lazy sun,
some fish of mythological
proportions remain,
log-heavy, somnolent relics,
one day to rouse
from the quietude of ages.




105lb Murray Cod caught by Mr. B. Schwartz, Swan Reach, May, 1911. [Source: Chronicle, Adelaide, 1911.]




Read more from Kevin Densley HERE

Kevin Densley’s latest poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, is available HERE

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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose.


  1. You’ve reeled in a beautiful one here KD. Gosh, can’t believe how big those things used to be. Monsters of the Murray!

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks for the comments, DB!

    There’s still the occasional big Cod caught, but, as far as I know, not to the extent – or massive size – that occurred in the distant past. There was even an episode of the River Monsters TV series about this fish, but all host Jeremy Wade caught (from memory) was a couple of tiddlers.

    I remember as a kid seeing a 40 pound Murray Cod in an aquarium somewhere in the Riverina area, and it looked huge.

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