The Life and Times of the Murray Cod

May 2023
More details
  • Publisher
    CSIRO Publishing
  • Published
    2nd May 2023
  • ISBN 9781486312320
  • Language English
  • Pages 256 pp.
  • Size 6" x 9"
  • Images 21 color plates, 20 b&w photos, 14 illus, 9 maps

The Murray cod is Australia’s largest and most iconic freshwater fish. Tales of the species have long been part of Australian folklore and this book describes its history, biology, cultural significance and conservation.

The Life and Times of the Murray Cod reveals the many roles the species has played throughout the history of the continent, from its place at the heart of the Aboriginal creation story of the Murray River, its role as a food source for explorers surveying inland Australia in the early 1800s, to its forming the basis of a commercial fishing industry up to the early 2000s.

Living for upwards of half a century and growing to astonishing sizes, today the Murray cod is a hugely popular target for recreational fishing, its future, however, is anything but assured. In the face of climate change, river management and fishing pressure, much needs to be done to ensure this extraordinary fish swims confidently into the future.

The Life and Times of the Murray Cod draws on historical, anecdotal and scientific sources to reveal what makes this remarkable species so special, and will appeal to fishers, natural resource managers, conservationists and any reader interested in natural history.


  • Presents insights into the breeding, early life, growth, habitat, feeding and movement of the Murray cod.
  • Explores the relationships between people and the Murray cod in inland rivers, from pre-European through to modern times.
  • Describes the history of environmental change in the Murray–Darling Basin and the conservation principles to safeguard the Murray cod's future.

Cultural sensitivity warning
About the contributors
An introduction to the life and times of the Murray cod

Part I: Origins
1. In the beginning: the origins of the Murray cod

Part II: Biology
2. Next generation: the spawning of Murray cod
3. The young and the restless: the early life of the Murray cod
4. ‘A lazy fish’: diet, habitat and movement of adult Murray cod
5. From little fish big fish grow: age, growth and the biggest Murray cod

Part III: People and Murray cod
6. Murray cod and First Nations people
7. European encounters: colonial explorers and early contact with the Murray cod
8. Fish in abundance: the Murray cod is introduced to Western science

Part IV: Fisheries
9. Land, sheep and fish: settlement and the origins of the Murray cod commercial fishery
Colour plates
10. Gold-fish: the gold rush and the commercial Murray cod fishery
11. ‘A trade of extermination’: overfishing and Aboriginal loss
12. Recreational fishing

Part V: Conservation and the future
13. A fish in troubled waters
14. Past and future conservation of the Murray cod
15. Epilogue


Paul Humphries

Paul Humphries is a river ecologist and academic with 40 years’ experience in research in many parts of Australia and overseas. Paul co-edited Ecology of Australian Freshwater Fishes with Keith Walker in 2013, which won the 2013 Royal Zoological Society of NSW Whitley Medal for outstanding zoological publication.

freshwater fish, natural history, conservation