Rob Paxevanos holding the 40 kilogram Murray cod nicknamed "The Hulk". Photo: Courtesy of www.robpax.com
MEET ''The Hulk'' - a 1.3-metre, 40 kilogram green monster Murray cod lured from the depths of Lake Burrinjuck in the dead of night.
Sunday Canberra Times fishing columnist Rob Paxevanos caught the beast, likely to be the largest Murray cod ever landed from a kayak, on a recent overnight fishing trip and traces of the adrenaline-fuelled high it gave him are still evident when he recounts the tale.
''I'm chuffed just thinking about it. I may never see anything like that again … I'm just beside myself,'' he said.
Considered the holy grail of freshwater sportfishing, the Murray cod is not an easy catch at half the size.
''A lot of local cod anglers take 20 years to catch a metre-long fish and a some never do,'' he said.
Paxevanos caught three that night over the magic metre mark, including the 40 kilogram specimen that had called the lake home for at least 30, perhaps 40 years.
Hauling the oversized fish aboard his Hobie fishing kayak for a quick photo before releasing it proved a feat in itself. It was 4am, he was dog-tired and alone on the vast waterway.
''I had to be very careful sliding it up [on to my lap]. I had to wet the kayak and then lean over to get the edge of it down to water level, then slide the fish up and get the photo - all in the middle of the night. I knew it was big, but wasn't sure how big.''
Big enough for Paxevanos to declare it his most substantial freshwater capture - the biggest and best in a lifetime of fishing that started when he hooked and landed a redfin perch on a handline.
He was just three years old and not yet tall enough see over the edge of his father's boat.
Since then he's caught plenty of big cod, but none in the class of the Burrinjuck beast.
''I had to hang 50 metres or so back from where [the fish] were and make really long casts.
Once the fish was hooked, he quickly manoeuvred the kayak between the fish and bank.
''I had to keep it away from the snags.
''It was the fight of my life''.
''It was just a remarkable capture - and to think there are bigger ones out there.''