Will Trueman, who is well known for his historical fish research and writings recently wrote to me in response to my posting on the biggest ‘authenticated’ Murray cod story. He writes:
“My history on native fish has been published online by the MDBA and can be downloaded in total, as well as individual chapters and booklets.
“The chapter titled ‘species summaries’ reviews all the historical information I collected on each species. The section on Murray cod discusses the record size for murray cod. Basically, I think there is serious doubt on the Walgett cod record. The same person published a number of other letters on giant cod, including another at Walgett weighing 250 lb that was a pet and towed a barge! There is no supporting evidence for the capture of a 250 lb cod at Walgett.
“The best documented example may be a 225 lb fish taken from the Murray in South Australia in 1914. There are a number of news stories on it and the head may have been in the South Australia museum. There are news accounts reporting the capture of a 250 lb fish from the Murray River in 1857, and one of 200 lb from the Murrumbidgee River near Hay in 1913, but they lack details.”
Thanks very much, Will.
So, it looks like the Walgett record is dead-in-the-water, if you will excuse the pun. Which still begs the question why it continues to be used in textbooks. We should not use any unsubstantiated record, despite the appeal of mega-cod and all the images that they bring up. Perhaps we should move towards something along the lines of: “There are several unsubstantiated reports of Murray cod in excess of 225 lb, however, extrapolating from verified sizes of this species, it is quite possible that fish of this size could have, and maybe still do, exist.”
I really recommend reading Will’s remarkable histories of Murray-Darling Basin fishes. He has provided us with a wonderful and rare window into the past.