Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Collection and distribution of the early life stages of the Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) in a regulated river

John D. Koehn A B and D. J. Harrington A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Freshwater Ecology, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Sustainability and Environment, 123 Brown Street, Heidelberg, Vic. 3084, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Zoology 53(3) 137-144
Submitted: 6 December 2004  Accepted: 8 April 2005   Published: 16 June 2005


The Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) is a large fish species keenly sought by anglers. However, this species has declined in distribution and abundance and is now listed nationally as vulnerable. This study was undertaken in the Ovens and Murray rivers, to collect larvae and age-0 Murray cod and determine the distribution of larval Murray cod around the mid-Murray River irrigation storage of Lake Mulwala. Murray cod larvae were collected from 17 of 18 sites: main channels and flowing anabranch channels of regulated and unregulated rivers, sites upstream and downstream of the lake, in the upper and lower reaches of the lake, and in the outflowing Yarrawonga irrigation channel. Larval Murray cod were collected only by methods that sampled drift in flowing waters. Age-0 Murray cod were collected by electrofishing in the main river, but not in off-channel waters, suggesting that cod are likely to settle into habitats in the main channel at a post-larval stage. The widespread occurrence of drifting larvae suggests that this species may be subject to previously unrecognised threats as they pass through hydro-electric power stations or become stranded in anabranch and irrigation channels. Results of this study are likely to be applicable to other species with drifting larval stages, and are relevant to other locations in the Murray–Darling Basin.


Thanks to the Snobs Creek hatchery for supplying sample Murray cod and trout cod larvae. Tarmo Raadik undertook and verified fish identification, especially between larvae of the two cod species, and Neil Murray and Adrian Daniell of the Genetics Department at LaTrobe University conducted the GPI analysis. Technical support and field assistance was provided by John Mahoney, Damien O’Mahony, Russell Strongman, John McKenzie, Bill O’Connor and Justin O’Connor. Graeme Coulson and Alison King kindly provided comments on the manuscript and Matt Jones assisted with Fig. 1. This study was funded by the Murray–Darling Basin Commission and Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria.


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