Bourke was once the end of the line for most of the paddlesteamers that made their way up the muddy Darling. They sometimes had to wait for months before the waters became navigable and when the rains didn’t come, the channel dried to a series of pools.
Since the coming of Europeans, the health of the river and its fish have degraded. The paddlesteamer trade, grazing, and irrigation, all changed the rivers. Weirs were constructed, reaches desnagged, water extracted, foreign animals and plants introduced and new ways to catch fish also had an impact. These changes mean there are now a lot less fish than there were. Before the turn of the twentieth century there are stories of catching great numbers of silver perch, Murray cod, catfish and yellowbelly - and no tales of carp.
These are the traditional lands of the Ngiyampaa, Murawari and Yuwalaraay peoples. They have seen great changes to the river and surrounding waterways where they fished and hunted the wetlands.
(Source: Frawley, J., Nichols, S., Goodall, H. and Baker, E. 2011. Darling ‐ Brewarrina to Bourke: Talking fish, making connections with the rivers of the Murray‐Darling Basin. Murray‐Darling Basin Authority, Canberra.)