Murray Cod, Maccullochella peelii (Mitchell 1838)


Other Names: Cod, Codfish, East Coast Cod, Goodo, Goodoo, Green Fish, Mary River Cod, Murray Perch, Ponde, Pondi, Queensland Freshwater Cod

Murray Cod, Maccullochella peelii. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved

Summary:

The iconic Murray Cod is the largest freshwater bony fish in Australia. This elongate, deep bodied fish has a broad, depressed head, a short rounded snout and a large mouth with the lower jaw protruding slightly, and jaws extending beyond the eyes. The soft dorsal, anal and caudal fins are large and rounded. Murray Cod are brownish to yellowish-green with a mottled pattern of darker and paler markings above and a pale belly.

Murray Cod populations have reduced markedly throughout their natural range, and the species is now rare in some areas. They are very territorial, and prefer deep holes in rivers and streams with  boulders, fallen trees and other woody debris and banks with overhanging vegetation.

Video of Murray Cod breeding in the Dumaresq River.

Murray cod production at the Snobs Creek Hatchery, Victoria.


Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Maccullochella peelii in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Dec 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4655

Murray Cod, Maccullochella peelii (Mitchell 1838)

More Info


Distribution

Endemic to river systems of the Murray–Darling Basin in south-eastern Australia, including South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland. Once widespread throughout the Murray-Darling system, the Murray Cod is now uncommon in much of its range and is more restricted to the lower Murray-Darling.

Murray Cod live in a variety of habitats ranging from clear, rocky streams to slow flowing turbid rivers, lakes and billabongs. They are absent from some of the cooler areas such as the upper reaches of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, preferring warmer waters. Murray Cod are more common in waterways with large rocks, snags and undercut banks with overhanging vegetation. Although usually in the main river channels, Murray cod spread out when floodplain channels are inundated.

Murray Cod numbers have declined and populations have become fragmented due to overfishing, man-made barriers to migration, introduced species, habitat degradation and pollution and removal of in-stream woody debris. Some populations have suffered from habitat modification and long-term drought conditions that reduce river flows.

The species was unsuccessfully introduced to south-western Western Australia and into the Cooper Creek catchment in the Lake Eyre Basin.

Features

Body large, robust, somewhat laterally compressed to almost rounded in very large specimens. Head broad and depressed, snout blunt and rounded, mouth large, terminal, gape extending well beyond posterior border of the eyes. Jaws about equal in length, although the lower jaw can be slightly longer in large specimens. Eyes small, dorso-lateral in position. Dorsal profile of head concave, dorsal profile from the nape to caudal peduncle weakly convex. Operculum with fleshy margins and two spines, the lower larger and more distinct.

Body covered by very small scales extending to the cheeks, snout naked. Lateral line indistinct, unbroken, following dorsal profile from operculum to caudal-fin base, with 65-80 sccales.

Dorsal fin single, long-based, spiny anterior portion separated by a shallow notch from the soft-rayed posterior section. Caudal fin large, rounded. Anal fin short-based, opposite the soft-rayed section of the dorsal fin. Pectoral fins large, rounded, upper rays longer than the lower rays. Pelvic-fin rays inserted in front of the pectoral fins, first ray elongated into two filaments.

Size

Murray Cod reportedly grow to 1.8 m in length and 113.6 kg in weight, although most fish caught weigh less than 5 kg. Fish longer than 1 metre and a weight of more than 40 kg are now rarely seen.

Colour

Body typically olive green to yellow-green dorsally, with black, blue-black, grey-brown to pale green mottling on the dorsal surface, sides and head, often becoming reticulated in large specimens. Sides of body usually more yellowish, fading to white or off-white ventrally. Colour pattern extending on to bases of the dorsal, caudal, anal and pectoral fins. Caudal, anal and posterior section of the dorsal fin often with off-white to greyish margins.

Juveniles usually with larger blotches along their sides and a blackish stripe extending from the snout through the eyes to edge of operculum in individuals less than 150 mm.

Feeding

The Murray Cod is the apex aquatic predator in the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Biology

Murray Cod undertake a spawning migration each year. Females lay demersal eggs that are guarded and fanned by her male partner until they hatch into pelagic larvae after about 25 days.

Fisheries

The Murray Cod is considered to be an iconic recreational fish, and is keenly sought by anglers. Recreational fishing for Murray Cod is now regulated throughout its range. Regulations include restrictions on fishing gear, size and bag limits, and closed fishing seasons.

The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey (Henry & Lyle 2003) provided information on the annual harvest of Murray Cod. The total catch was estimated at 483,284 fish, with a release rate of 77.6%.

Conservation

Although the Murray Cod is considered to be an iconic freshwater angling species, it is

IUCN REd List: Critically Endangered

EPBC Act 1999: Vulnerable

National Murray Cod Recovery Team. 2010. National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii peelii. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne, 52 p.

Threats to Murray Cod populations include alien species, illegal fishing, recreational fishing, habitat destruction and habitat degradation, removal of instream woody debris, flow regulation, man-made barriers that impede or prevent spawning migrations, pollution, including cold water released from dams.

Remarks

Murray Cod was traditionally an important part of the diet of Aboriginal groups living near inland waters. In Aboriginal legend, the Murray Cod created the wide and meandering Murray River and the other native fish that live there. For indigenous Australians, the fish is a symbol of both the river's creation and of its degradation.

Similar Species


Etymology

The species is named after the type locality - the Peel River in New South Wales.

Species Citation

Acerina (Gristes) peelii Mitchell 1838, Three expeditions into the interior of eastern Australia 1: 95, pl. 5(1). Type locality: Peel River, New South Wales

Author

Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Resources


Murray Cod, Maccullochella peelii (Mitchell 1838)

References


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Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37311076

Behaviour:Migrates to breed

Conservation:EPBC Act Vulnerable; IUCN Critically Endangered

Fishing:Recreational angling

Habitat:Freshwaters rivers & streams

Max weight:183 cm, 113 kg, most smaller

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