Double-take on an old girl

By Iain ‘Listy’ Ellis

I was finished writing my first spiel about Spangled perch for the Lair, when I noticed the category of ‘Magic moments’. I reckon I’ve had a few of them. My first up close with a monster Murray cod for instance– that was magical. Standing on the front of an e-boat as what looked like a fridge emerged slowly from the turbid depths in front of me, before rolling to take the form of a huge fish – yep, magic. I’m not claiming it as “magic” in a hero kind of way – anybody who knows me knows I can’t angle for goldfish, let alone big natives. But geez that was an experience. Forty-four kilograms and 1.24 m of sweet native fish magic. And the crowning glory? …. the gentle flick of her massive tail as I held her briefly in the flow to recover before release.


The Old Girl – a stunning example of the iconic Murray cod – my magic moment (Photo: Rex Conallin).

I’m pretty sure I saw her again too ….three years later– in that same stream. It was the middle of a drought. Shallow, clear water – you could see the bottom. I was again standing on the front of a boat (why not when you have an office called the Murray-Darling Basin), drifting slowly downstream to a field site. Out she popped from under a snag to my left, gently gliding in front of us for a good ten metres. She surged, winked (I swear!), to then disappear beneath a mass of logs and shadows. It still baffles me that some people keep them to mount above the fireplace.

Further reading

Allen, M.S., Brown, P., Douglas, J., Fulton, W. and Catalano, M. (2009). An assessment of recreational fishery harvest policies for Murray cod in southeast Australia. Fisheries Research 95, 260–267.

Ebner, B. (2006). Murray cod an apex predator in the Murray River, Australia. Ecologyof Freshwater Fish 15, 510–520.

Humphries, P. (2005). Spawning time and early life history of Murray cod, Maccullochella peelii peelii (Mitchell) in an Australian river. Environmental Biology of Fishes 72, 393–407.

Koehn, J.D, and Harrington, D.J. (2005). Collection and distribution of the early life stages of the Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) in a regulated river. Australian Journal of Zoology 53, 137–144.

Rowland, S.J. (1989). Aspects of the history and fishery of the Murray cod, Maccullochella peelii (Mitchell)(Percichthyidae). Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales 111, 201–213.


Editorial note: It is with some reluctance that I allow the following ramble to permeate on the Lair.

A few words on Eb and The moray’s lair

I like this webpage, and I hope it builds. I really do. I just spent an hour reminiscing as I typed, and that’s something I reckon we could all do more of. Too often we get wrapped up in the argey bargey of scientific competition, taking for granted the “friendships we made during our scientific endeavours” as Eb himself eloquently said, ‘It’s been really nice sharing some experiences without having to attach a p-value and some internationally relevant citations’ [to a piece of writing].

For those of you who don’t know Eb, he’s the bloke that started this Moray’s Lair thing. He’s also a guy you don’t want to share a tent with in 40° heat (manstink alert!). He’s the one who you don’t want to share a tent with on a chilly winter night either, when he’s fast asleep and dreaming of cuddling a warm body. He’s the one who knows everything (according to him)… but “nothing” according to his lovely and sharp -witted wife Louise.


Listy with the last of the Lake Hawthorn hardies (Murray hardyhead). These threatened fish were rescued months before their home dried up, and later released (successfully) to establish a translocated population – one of only four that remain in Victoria.

You’ll probably see him one day if you attend fishy conferences or workshops. He’s that guy talking everyone’s ear off at tea and lunch breaks, before doubling back to bite again during question time – after every presentation! You could introduce yourself, but he’ll probably beat you to it to be honest. On reflection Eb is a valuable asset to the fishos of Oz…. and by association, the fish they work on. He’s that special type of person that is the social glue binding fisho-goober-nerds together. We need folk like that to regularly breach the walls that our professional loyalties and alliances may create, and to knee-cap the ego’s that often fester behind those walls. This web page is an example of what I mean – most of us are too busy or perhaps selfish to even think of an idea like themorayslair.

When I think about it, he is also a bit of a mentor to me. He taught me how to sample for fish, introduced me to that Murray hardyhead fish I mentioned in my “species spotlight”, and he programmed me to hide my packing lists from colleagues, lest they form the basis of a really unnecessary nick-name. Eb essentially got me hooked on this freshwater fish thing I now call a job. Thank you for the opportunity Eb, it’s been fun.


Listy at work (pic by Anthony “Rex” Conallin”).