Only in OZ #21 – Big Murray Cod, Swan Hill, Victoria

Last Updated on October 4, 2017 by Red Nomad OZ

The Big Murray Cod car-surfing, Swan Hill, Victoria
The Big Murray Cod car-surfing, Swan Hill, Victoria

The huge fish levitating planking looming above the cars parked opposite the Swan Hill Visitor Information Centre ALMOST made up for Pilchard’s refusal to take a detour via the tiny town of Tittybong. Just so I could say I’d been there …

But the thrill of ALMOST visiting Tittybong dissipated as I sniffed out a story here on the Victorian side of the River Murray, which forms the state boundary with New South Wales.

Arnold, Swan Hill's Big Murray Cod
Arnold, Swan Hill’s Big Murray Cod

Swan Hill’s giant Murray Cod ‘Arnold’ was saved from oblivion by its community who fibreglassed the steel and timber behemoth and slapped it (him?) up on the banks of the river as a tourist attraction. And they were right to do so – ‘Arnold’ is now far better known as a stalwart of the Swan Hill streetscape than for his short lived movie career. Say what? Yes, he was constructed in 1991 as a prop for Australian movie production Eight Ball.

No, I’ve not seen Eight Ball either. I’d never even heard of it until our April 2012 visit to Swan Hill! It’s apparently about two men who meet on a construction site for a preposterous tourist attraction – yes, a giant Murray Cod – on the banks of the Murray River near Swan Hill!!

At least It makes a change from swarms of bees, creatures from black lagoons and killer tomatoes …

Arnold - the back view ...
Arnold – the back view …

So is Arnold’s reincarnation life imitating art? Or vice versa??

At 15 metres (~47 ft), Arnold dwarfs Jaws, a tiddler at only 8 metres (25 ft)! But giant Murray Cod aren’t just the stuff of B grade movies – the largest real one ever recorded was over 1.8 metres (6 ft) long and weighed 113 kg (250 lb)!

Whether inadvertently or not, Arnold’s size echoes the Aboriginal Murray River creation legend – a giant Murray cod chased down a small stream widens the river bed to assist its escape, it’s thrashing tail creating the river bends that the more prosaic attribute to weathering, floodwaters and time …

But will re-stocking programs, catch-and-release strategies, upper and lower size restrictions, and bag limits be enough to reverse the decline of this iconic Australian fish?

Once common throughout the Murray-Darling river system, the Murray Cod is now ‘vulnerable’, since European settlement a victim to unregulated overfishing, river de-snagging, decline of water quality and competitive introduced species such as European carp.

A youngster at only 21, Arnold has 27 years to go before he matches the age of the oldest recorded Murray Cod. And even further to go before 2061 when he’ll reach 70 – the estimated age of the monster fish of yesteryear!

I hope he’s not the last of his kind by then …

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  1. @Joan E – Ha! So I’m not the only Tittybong no-show!! Maybe we’ll just have to go there together one day!!!
    @PDP – It’s hard to imagine a real river fish that big, isn’t it? But I think a fillet would feed a small Aussie town for a week!!
    @Diane – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a classic!! One of those ‘so bad it’s good’ movies!!! I’m SO determined to get Tittybong photos next trip!

  2. Okay, I was looking forward to seeing pictures of Tittybong, but you’re right, Arnold makes up for it!
    P.S I like the movie about the tomatoes . . .

  3. Such a fun post Red, I laughed a lot!! A real cod of 6ft weighing 113lgs would also be a very impressive sight and hopefully left alone to live out it’s life not as a fish fillet!!

  4. I quite like this cod because it’s not too big … like you can’t walk inside it.

    I too wanted to go Tittybong and my usually compliant driver would not go their either.

  5. @TMWH – Funny you should say … my pix don’t show the skankville family propping their toddler into the gaping maw – and scaring him witless as he nearly disappeared into the depths like a modern day Jonah!!
    @Rita – WELL … if you liked this, you’ll LOVE the rest! Welcome and thanx for dropping in!
    @bettyl – I’m also amazed at what I get to see on the www!!
    @NixBlog – Yep, you can’t take such things seriously!!!
    @Andrew – Bummer! But I’ll still have to see it for myself …

  6. That is a big fish! It would have been cool if you would have been able to take a photograph while inside it’s mouth, but that probably wouldn’t have gone over well with the locals.

    Maybe next time? 🙂

  7. @Ken G – Haha, if it had teeth we’d call it a shark!!
    @This is Belgium – Welcome and thanx! Greetings from downunder – I promise you big fish are not all there is to see here!!
    @Michael & Hanne – Thanx for dropping in! I hope you had as much pleasure visiting my blog as I did visiting yours!
    @Halcyon – So do I! They’re a celebration of life!! Either that, or bad-taste kitsch! You decide!!
    @Pieces of Sunshine – Neither did I! It’d be a lucky fish that lived that long nowadays though!
    @Leovi – It’s even better in the flesh!

  8. I find these kinds of finds hilarious! Only in Oz… or perhaps the southern part of the US. 🙂

  9. @Alessandra – I wonder who first thought giant statues were a good idea??!! I bet they didn’t think how many there’d end up being …
    @River – ‘Eight Ball’ is irrelevant to Arnold now – he’s famous in his own right!! And Tittybong is SO on the list for our next foray into the wilds of Victoria!!
    @Liara – Aha! But who said he was asleep??!!
    @Dina – The irony wasn’t lost on me either!!
    @FruitCake – It’d be sad if they were lost forever, but clearly not so sad that fishing for them is banned!! I SO want to see the giant earthworm now – can’t resist the ‘tacky’ label for some reason!
    @SFlaGuy – How nice of you to think I’ve got the technical know how for trick photography! I’m such a technophobe that what you see is what you get!!!
    @Indrani – Haha! Yes, it IS amazing – but hard to get an original shot of it!!!

  10. Quite the fish tale you are telling these days. The real thing or some clever trick photography. Looks like yet another place I’m going to have to check out just to verify your story.

  11. Didn’t know Swan Hill had a giant cod – or even a piece of one, for that matter.
    Considering how the entire river network has been reduced to a trickle it’s amazing these amazing fish have survived at all.
    And yes, the giant earthworm is the world’s tackiest tourist attraction I’m sure. Inside said tacky attraction, however, you can actually see one of these earthworms, on display in what looks like an e n o r m o u s ant farm. It’s highly improbable there’s any other way to see the real McCoy.
    21 and counting…

  12. It’s kind of funny that they made the fish for a movie about a tourist attraction. And now it’s a REAL tourist attraction.

  13. I’ve never heard of Eight Ball either, but I think Arnold is gorgeous!
    Perhaps you can detour to Tittybong next time around?

  14. These fiberglass ‘gigantic sculptures’ seem to be popular here in NZ too, something a bit difficult for an Italian to get used to :-).



  15. @Aleah – And that is his downfall!! EVERYONE wants to eat them, they taste so good!!
    @Carole – Haha, apparently they can be very brightly coloured!
    @Adrianne – Thanx! Glad you enjoyed it!
    @Dianne – You SHOULD be! It’s quite possibly the biggest Murray Cod replica in the world!!

  16. Well, jeez that fish looks like he could widen any river, that’s for sure ;>)……interesting history of the Murray cod (the real ones and the fake)….and I guess this definitely qualifies as only in Oz”…we have lots of Native American river/ land/ forest creation myths and lots of crazy signs, but none exactly like Murray here… I am rather sorry you didn’t get to take a picture of that little town’s welcome sign though! (Actually if 7th grade boys in your country are anything like they are here, I’d be surprised if they didn’t steal every one of those City signs as quick as they got put up.)

  17. @Jane & Lance – I’d NEVER call you that!! At least you’ll be under no illusions about OZ should you ever make your way downunder!!!
    @Saucy – Haha! ‘Cod’ really IS on your side!!! One day a monster cod will rise again – I can just feel it …
    @Rae – Yes, FAR better here where tourists can take silly photos!!!
    @Lady Fi – Yes, some Aussies find the Big Things embarrassing, but I embrace their kitsch!
    @Sallie – Hahaha, I’ll INSIST on going to Tittybong next time! Pilchard will just have to suck it up!
    @Windsmoke – He’s a fish of many talents!!!
    @MJWC – Actually, I think there’s a current movie out with that name, but this isn’t it!!
    @Magsx2 – I’m slowly tracking them down, one by one!
    @Andrew – Embrace the kitsch and see them for the figures of fun that they are, then there’s no problem!! I’ve heard about the Giant Earthworm – one day, one day … Do you have a pic???

  18. Our ‘big things’ spread widely around the country are an embarrassment, but only to some people. Kids adore them. The cod is perhaps a better example. I am not sure about its condition now, but the last time I saw the one below, it was very run down and tacky. “Located near the town of Bass is the Giant Earthworm Museum. This building allows tourists to crawl through a magnified replica of a worm burrow and a simulated worm’s stomach. Displays and educational material on the Giant Gippsland earthworm and other natural history of Gippsland are featured.”

  19. Hi,
    That is truly amazing, I didn’t know that we had a giant cod, another one to add to the collection of Giants in OZ.

  20. That is one HUGE fish!! You know, I think I might remember the Name of the movie 8 ball, but I don’t know if I seen it or not.

  21. I do not remember the movie Eight Ball either, but what a fascinating home for this prop to end up. Love the story Red.

  22. Aah Red, I feel we are truly joined now, with this post. I have been waiting for a story about a cod and The Big Murray Cod had made this “SaucyKod’s” day. I love this story about the Murray River creation legend. This is just WAY TOO KOOL – Isn’t is just too sad with the over fishing and depleting of these species. We suffer the same over this way and some of our “Monster Fish”, are now extinct.
    Thank you so much for this post Red – I loved it.

  23. Hello Red:
    We are somewhat inclined to echo the title of this post, ‘Only in Oz’! Surely! We are amazed, impressed, surprised and not a tiny bit horrified! But then call us Mr. and Mrs. No Sense of Fun Pommies!!!

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