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South Island Fish & Game
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 24 March 2017
A bit of rain and a bit of sun will be the theme of the last weekend of the sea run salmon season in the Central South Island Fish & Game Region. Next Friday, the 31st of March is the last day of the season.
The rest of the summer season continues through to the last day in April, and then year round fisheries and winter seasons will see us through to the next October the 1st. So plenty of fishing options ahead.
If you are a one-eyed salmon angler then by next weekend it will be time to turn your attention inland to the canals and lakes of the Mackenzie Basin where year round salmon fishing is on offer.
Before winter kicks in though, remember the last two public holidays before winter are just around the corner. Easter and ANZAC weekend offer enough time to plan a decent trip to finish the summer season. Many will head to the canals, last year while we were conducting an angler use survey at the canals we recorded the Sunday of ANZAC weekend (ANZAC day fell on a Monday) as the busiest day of the season.
Around 500 anglers fished throughout the canal system that day, which is more than on Boxing Day etc.
If big fish are your buzz, then the canals are the go-to place in the Mackenzie. After the Canals I'd be looking to fish either the Ahuriri River or Lake Alexandrina.
Although fishing the Ahuriri could be a bit frustrating currently. Fish & Game Officer Hamish Stevens was there last Wednesday conducting an angler satisfaction survey and said that spawning sockeye salmon were schooled up in numbers and swimming around erratically throughout the pools and spooking easily. He said the trout couldn't but be disturbed by these.
If you have fished the Ahuriri lately please fill in our online angler satisfaction survey, we'd love to get some info from you. Here's the link.
Our spawning surveys reveal that the sockeye spawn has peaked and they are dying off at a rate of knots, as they do. If you want to see sockeye spawning you better go look quick. The Twizel River is the most easily accessible spot to do so.
Brown trout in the 6-9 pound class are common up at Lake Alexandrina, but a few even bigger get caught there each year. This past week Fish & Game staff were up at the lake undertaking annual maintenance on the two spawning creeks at the lake, Scotts Creek and Outlet Creek.
Plenty of work has gone into these two creeks by the Lake Alexandrina Conservation Trust in recent times to modify the creeks to improve spawning habitat. The fishery is considered to be limited by spawning habitat rather than food availability. One part of the enhancement was the introduction of tons of ideal size spawning gravels. So, each year Fish & Game head up to the creeks and mechanically 'reset' the gravel spawning beds by pushing the back upstream with a small digger.
While there, we got talking to trust member Alister Clarke, who informed us that some big fish had been caught this summer including a rainbow over 10 pound. The biggest he had heard of was a 14.5 pound brown. He's been fishing a lot to and caught a fair few, most being rainbows in the 2-3 pound range and he reckons the enhancement works have meant more of these are around than there used to be.
Alister and the Conservation Trust will be at the lake undertaking more enhancement works of the creeks this weekend and he said anyone interested can come and lend a hand.
They are meeting at 9:30 am on Saturday the 25th of March at the top end huts. First job is to install rock block weirs that increase the velocity of Scotts Creek around the gravel beds. Second job is back down at Outlet Creek placing rocks on the banks of the creek to narrow the stream. There will be a BBQ for lunch. Apart from Fish & Game and the trust, Genesis Energy make this ongoing maintenance possible by funding the efforts.
The efforts to enhance Outlet creek have gone downstream this week. Massive diggers and a loader have skilfully enhanced the final enhance-able section down the bottom end of Outlet Creek near Lake MacGregor. Huge boulders now line the banks, and they are filled with graded spawning gravels. This season trout will have even more area to spawn. Good news for the future of the fishery. Alister said the conservation trust couldn't have achieved the expensive enhancement without the help of Pub Charities and the Mackenzie District Council who assisted with funding.
I wanted to share pics of the work with you all but a power at the office means my photos are trapped on the work computer and I'm writing the report at home.
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 17 March 2017
The weather should be pretty good this weekend and our rivers will be flowing clear and fishable. A short and sharp southerly front is set to blast through Canterbury in the wee hours of Saturday morning and some cloud should hang around following it. I'd guess the front is not wet enough to be a problem for river levels.
Last weekend and earlier in the week we had a good long period of light rain in the low country and a few rivers like the Pareora and Te Ngawai which had been threatening to dry in places got a nice top up. This rain also made it to the Hakataramea valley which often misses out.
The timing of the rain was great as we (F&G staff) had been awaiting an opportunity in late summer/early autumn to get in the Hakataramea and measure flows in relation to salmon migration. Historically the Hakataramea attracted a significant proportion of the Waitaki River salmon spawning run but in recent years the flows have been so low that for significant periods of the spawning season, salmon have been unable access the river.
Sometime between now and 2024 Environment Canterbury will review the allocation of water for irrigation and other uses in the Lower Waitaki catchment. This will be an opportunity for Fish & Game to advocate for higher minimum flows in the Hakataramea that actually allow salmon to migrate into the river and spawn without the needs for significant rain events. The flow data we collected in the river recently will bolster our case.
In the meantime we are advocating that the review of the water allocation should be prioritised and brought forward as the passage of sports fish into the Haka is critical to the quality of the Lower Waitaki River sports fishery.
Fish & Game Staff assess flows in the Hakataramea River after a recent rain event
We have had plenty of reports coming into the office regarding sightings of spawning sockeye salmon, thanks for that. Like last year they have been found in the thousands, spread out through the upper Waitaki Catchment. They are clearly visible in places like the Twizel River near the township where hundreds can be found in a short walk of the river bank.
The most notable finding this year is that they have turned up in tributaries of the Lower Waitaki River. The most likely reason for this is that they spilt over the dams through the summer months when there was an excess of water for power generation. Unfortunately, a sea-run sockeye salmon has never established and the last time we found sockeye in the Lower Waitaki it also coincided with the dams spilling.
Our sockeye are not a great sporting fish in New Zealand and are rarely caught. Their main value for anglers is the large food resource they produce in the form of juvenile fish. Chinook salmon and trout gobble these up. We are confident that this food resource helps to maintain the high quality and huge popularity of the Lake Benmore sports fishery.
Sockeye salmon in spawning mode, Lower Ohau River
Continuing with the salmon theme, (sorry trout nuts) I caught up with Opihi River regular Richard 'Davo' Davidson to see how the salmon season has panned out down there.
Richard reckoned about 20-25 salmon have been caught in the river mouth gut, mainly by the local enthusiasts, with last Wednesday accounting for 5 of those. He said the surf and upriver has only produced a few fish but a number of fish have run the river.
Richard is optimistic the last couple of weeks will produce a few more salmon as long as the mouth remains open. He reckons February and March are traditionally the best months at the Opihi for salmon.
On the trout front he reckons the river is fishing well and there are good numbers about.
If you want to know how the Opihi mouth looks currently, here is a photo. We were in a plane counting mallard ducks on Thursday. If you look close you can see two anglers with the water to themselves at 9:15am.
The Opihi River mouth 16-3-2017
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 10 March 2017
A wet front is threating to hit the region in the weekend, it's a hard job figuring out the best area to fish based on the ever changing forecasts. In any case take a raincoat on your fishing trip.
If you are a sea-run salmon angler then best to take an optimistic view of the weather and chance your arm; after all there is only three more weekends of the salmon season left before Friday the 31st of March, the last day of the season.
Will there be enough rain to bring the flow up in the Rangitata River? Hard to say, it's pretty low at the moment around 45 cumecs at Klondyke.
The Rangitata has been flowing low and clear for about 3 weeks straight. In this time there has been a steady daily catch of 1-4 salmon at the mouth, although word from the river mouth was that none were caught there on Thursday morning.
21 fish have been caught so far this March (as of Thursday noon) near the south side mouth, as recorded on the South Camp weigh in board. This doesn't account for what was caught half a cast length across the gut on the north side. Fish have been caught there too, I was down the river last Friday morning and witnessed one caught on each side, but there was also one caught on each side at the crack of dawn before I got there.
Ashburton local Chris Tew, Rangitata River mouth 03-03-17
I gave Fish & Game Councillor and Waitaki River salmon angler Linn Koevoet a call to see how the fishing was down his way. Linn accesses the river with his jet boat and generally covers the water between the SH1 Bridge and Bells Pond.
Linn said a small run went through last Sunday but other than that it has been a poor salmon season. He reckoned maybe 5-7 fish got caught on Sunday. With low numbers of salmon around more interest has been given to trout and Linn says there are surprising numbers of trout around. He has observed that many trout caught are 1.5-2lb rainbows with the occasional 4lb fish caught.
Linn reckons a decent run of sea-run browns must have come into the river recently and he caught a large one of these, a solid 8lb hen, and he's heard of others caught too. Linn said he's catching the trout on classic salmon lures: zeddy's and Colorado spoons.
The Waitaki River flows have been fluctuating a lot lately and this is an issue for anglers as it causes large amount of didymo to float down the river and it gets hooked on lures easily. Linn targets river flows between 300 and 400 cumecs and during spells where the flows havn't fluctuated much.
Fish & Game Officer Hamish Stevens was in the high country on Wednesday and while ranging checked 30 anglers on the Ohau B and Ohau C canals.
Hamish checked the angler's licences and compliance with bait fishing rules. All anglers were licenced but one was using bait not defined as legal. In this case the angler was using a strip of salmon flesh. If anglers wish to use fish for bait the fish must be whole and fully intact, as "natural fish” is legal bait but that excludes any portion of a fish. Find this definition yourself on page 7 of the regulation guide by clicking here.
On the morning the fishing was tough, with very little action observed by Hamish. One angler did have an encounter with a canal monster. When hooked the fish raced across the canal. When the angler realised he was about to be spooled he tightened the drag and 'ping', the line broke, game over.
A Fish & Game Officer's work load is varied and Hamish and I were on the banks of the Temuka River on Monday educating the Temuka Scouts about the ecology of the river. We showed the kids some invertebrate samples and electric fished out some fish that eat them. The highlight of the day for the kids was the big old longfin eel, but for us Fish & Game officers it was the swarms of mayfly nymphs that were clogging up our sampling nets. I'd say there is plenty of tucker in the river for the resident trout.
Fish & Game Office Hamish Stevens shows theTemuka Scouts a juvenile brown trout
Sockeye salmon are in spawning mode now and we have observed or heard reports of them in the following waters; Ahuriri River, Omarama Stream, Twizel and Fraser rivers, Lower Ohau River, Mary Burn, Forks River, Tekapo River and Otematata River. Please email Fish & Game Jayde Couper (email@example.com) if you observe them in any other waterways.
The season is currently closed for sockeye fishing in rivers and streams. If you want to catch one then Lake Benmore would be your best option. We anticipate the peak of spawning activity will occur in the next week or two so there is still a chance to catch an aggressive pre-spawning fish in the lake before it runs a river or stream to spawn.
Finally in this report, a reminder for a game bird hunters, applications to ballot for our opening weekend hunting stands will only be received up to 5pm on the 13th of March. For details on how to apply visit our website at this link.
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 3 March 2017
Caught a Tench lately? Ever heard of coarse fishing waters? If you are wondering what I am getting at, it's the fact that unique fishing opportunities exist in the Central South Island Region (CSI) that are available to sports fishing licenceholders but are rarely utilised.
In CSI we have four designated coarse water fisheries. Two are tributaries of the Kakanui River: Waiareka Creek and Island Stream and the other two are Centennial Park Lake and Saltwater Creek in Timaru. Tench and Perch are classed as both sports fish and coarse fish. Anglers who target them in designated coarse waters can legally use different methods from trout and salmon fishing.
The main difference in methods is that you can ground bait/berley in coarse fishing waters, you can use any type of bait and you can use a rod that doesn't have a reel. There are other rules that differ too.
The coarse fishing regulations are in the first schedule of the regulation guide, and the regional named/designated coarse fishing waters are listed in the regional rules. In many regions there are no coarse fishing waters listed. Click here to link to an online version of the regulation guide.
I am one of the majority of licenceholders who have never used coarse fishing methods or targeted Tench so to find out a bit more about our local options I called Waimate angler Ken Baker and asked him to share some of his knowledge.
Ken has targeted Tench in Island Stream, near Maheno a few times and has had some luck. He says it's not unusual to have fishless days and landing fish can be a challenge too, as they fight "like bulldogs” and will seek any cover available like logs, undercut banks or over hanging willows.
Ken reckons the Tench in Island Stream are a healthy size, and he kindly shared a photo of his best 'bag' from there, five fish between 5 and 6 pound which he caught a couple of season ago. Ken couldn't tell me what Tench tasted like, catch and release is standard practice. Another traditional aspect is that fish are kept live in a 'bag' and at the end of the fishing session the bag is weighed and all the fish are released. 'Bagging' live fish is another option only available to the coarse fish angler (refer to page 8, sports fishing regulation guide).
Like many coarse water anglers Ken prefers using sweet corn kernels as bait for Tench and if time allows he ground baits the day before fishing and clears some of the weed away and trims any willows that impede him casting a 12ft rod.
Island stream like other Tench waters is a slow flowing, tannin stained and weedy, lowland rural creek with big still pools. Tench are only active in warm water so the height of summer is the best time to fish. Ken reckons by March the water temp is probably too cold already. You will struggle to sight fish Tench but when they feed a trail of fine bubbles gives away their position. To spot feeding bubbles and to maintain your float position you will want a windless day.
I asked Ken if it was worth just having a go for Tench with trout gear. He reckoned you'd probably struggle. It's best to use 12ft rods, which are helpful to steer Tench away from cover. He reckons a 12ft surfcaster would be better used than your standard 6ft trout spin set. He also said they are fussy and so you will need a light float, 5lb line, and have to fish precisely on the stream bottom. Coarse anglers often measure the depth of their position to the millimetre.
Aside from Tench, Ken said there are a few perch, brown trout and eels in the stream and that he's always been granted access by landowners on request. The Stream flows almost entirely through private land.
As for the other designated coarse fishing waters in CSI: Historically speaking, Waireka Creek, Centennial Park Lake and Saltwater Creek hold Perch and Tench populations. What are the stocks like today? We'd like to know from you! Please give me an email if you have any first-hand knowledge of Perch and Tench numbers in these waterways from the past few seasons firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perch and Tench are found in other waters of the CSI that are not named coarse waters. In these locations sports fishing regulation must be adhered to.
If your keen to get started and learn the trade and purchase purpose fit gear there are no local coarse water/ float fishing clubs in CSI but there are options in Christchurch. I'd advise searching the internet for clubs, how-to info and tackle.
Ken Baker's best bag of Tench from Island Stream, Maheno
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 10 Feb 2017
There were a few salmon anglers about with reasonable river conditions on offer. I have had first hand reports that salmon were caught at the Rangitata and Orari mouths over the holiday weekend.
Bill Whipp rang the office to mention that there were 6 salmon weighed in at the Rangitata south side weigh-in over the weekend. You can assume that if Bill weighed them in there they are caught near the mouth on the south side, so what got caught on the north side or upriver over the weekend I couldn't tell you.
I fished the Orari River mouth on Saturday afternoon. It sure was pleasant sending my ticer out over the waves on a hot summer's day, but nothing was caught by the small crowd of 4-6 anglers. A mate of mine Jeremy had some luck there on Sunday though, catching a 9 pounder. He watched another one landed that day too.
Jeremy and his salmon at the Orari River mouth
A couple weeks ago I asked for angler feedback regarding sea-run rainbows being caught in the Opihi River or anywhere else in the region. This question came about as angler Rodger Findlay sent in a photo of his 5lb Opihi River rainbow. The fish had hard scales falling off to the touch which led him to identify it as a sea-run fish. He posed the question to readers of this report; have anglers encountered sea-run rainbows in the Opihi before?
Within the Opihi catchment Lake Opuha and its tributaries offer good rainbow fishing but outside of this catching a rainbow is a very rare event.
The few anglers that got in touch with me shared that they have caught or seen one or two rainbows in these parts of the catchment; Opihi upper reaches, Opihi near Raincliff, Te Ngawai River, Opuha River and Opihi lower reaches in summer and in the winter season. The only angler who thought the rainbow they caught was sea-run, was from the lower reaches in the winter season.
So thanks to Rodger Findlay for sending in his photo of his 5lb Opihi rainbow and sparking the interest of the report readers. It's fair to say Rodger's rainbow was a very rare catch.
It has been a wet summer locally, and my mates from the West Coast confirm that the West Coast deserves its reputation of late as the rain has been relentless. The West Coast rain spills over into the headwater of our rivers and this would explain why the Rangitata River has often been high, discoloured and unfishable this summer. This also leads to our big hydro lakes like Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau filling up with water.
When the lakes fill up the hopes of Tekapo River anglers rise. If the lakes get high enough, and the power stations cannot process anymore water, then excess lake water must be spilled down the Tekapo and Pukaki River beds. The benefit for anglers when this happens is that annoying clumps of didymo get knocked off the rocks in the Tekapo River with the dramatic increase in flows. For anglers this results in a more pleasant fishing experience and for trout, an increase in available habitat for favoured prey food species.
Last week a Tekapo River angler got in touch with us to see if Genesis Energy had any plans to spill down the river, considering that Lake Tekapo levels were getting quite high. We got in touch with Genesis and the answer to that question is that as of last Friday the lake would need to rise 1.1 metres before Genesis would spill water down the Tekapo River. In terms of rain, the Genesis Energy Hydrologist reckoned we would need some significant rainfall events in the headwaters in the near future to achieve that sort of lake level increase. Genesis will notify Fish & Game if they are planning to spill down the Tekapo River.
In the meantime however The Pukaki River and lower Tekapo River have received spilling water from Lake Pukaki so let's hope the lower Tekapo River has had plenty of didymo knocked out of it recently.
Finally in this report, on Thursday the 16th of February the Central South Island Fish & Game Council is holding its bi-monthly Council meeting at 7pm. Licence holders and members of the public are welcome to attend. For full details click here.
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 4 Feb 2017
On Monday and Wednesday this week Hamish Stevens and I took to the skies in a Cessna airplane to monitor populations of game birds, in particular paradise shelduck and black swan. We covered a fair chunk of the CSI region. It was pretty evident from the sky that the recent rainfall has affected the condition of some waterways so I can pass on a few point to consider for the coming holiday weekend.
On Monday the Waitaki River was discoloured and high, the mouth positioning hasn't changed much however. Let's hope some of the didymo has been blasted out to sea. Moving further upstream Lake Waitaki was also discoloured and the lower half of Lake Aviemore was discoloured and both the Aviemore and Waitaki dams were spilling.
The Otematata River was flowing clear after the recent flood, if anyone fishes the river we would like to hear how the trout have fared after the recent flood event.
The exposed slip near Canyon Creek continues to spill silt into the Ahuriri River affecting water clarity. On Monday I would have said it was just sight fishable in the shallow margins. Above this point the river was clear. We spotted a few fish in the lagoons.
Lake Pukaki was spilling, resulting in the Lower Tekapo River being high and discoloured. This water then flowed out into Lake Benmore discolouring a large area around the mouth. Let's hope the high flows knock some of the Didymo out of the lower Tekapo River. Feedback from anglers is that the didymo in the Tekapo River is a nuisance this season.
We didn't see any schools of Sockeye salmon near the Tekapo mouth but if you ever wanted to catch one their spawning run is about to happen and the aggression that they show at this time of year holds the key to getting one to bite your lure. February is the only month you have a realistic (and legal) chance to catch one in a river or stream.
Your best chance to catch one in the lakes would be from February to April. Around the mouths and lower sections of Lake Benmore tributaries are the best place to target them. Please check your regulation guide to make sure you understand the sockeye salmon regulations correctly. Click here to link to the online version of the 2016-2017 season regulation book.
The Hakataramea River was still flowing as one stream. Often by February the river dries up in near Wrights Crossing and the upper and lower reaches become disconnected.
The Waihao Box was open.
Silty water enters the Ahuriri River near the Canyon Creek confluence
Our second day in the air was Wednesday and here's a few more observations.
The Rangitata River mouth was just fishable, clarity-wise, but by the time we flew to the headwaters a 300 cumec fresh of grey silty water was heading towards the Pacific. With a little rain predicted in the headwaters on Saturday the river will be marginal for fishing this weekend.
The mouth has only changed in shape but not position from the last decent rain event. The mouth now exits mainly to the north.
The Opihi River mouth was open and has swung to the south, the surf was dirty but at both the Opihi and Rangitata a few anglers fished around the gut. The Orari mouth looked same old.
Upriver on the Opihi and Opuha around Raincliff and pleasant point the summer algal cover has taken a hold, the fish are still there in reasonable numbers however, but they will be harder to spot on the dark algae.
Lake Emma was windswept and some sediment was stirred up. Meanwhile the shallows of Lake Heron and Clearwater looked tempting for some sight fishing between gusts.
All in all there was a good amount of water around and we glanced over a life-times worth of fishing adventures in just several hours of flying around. I kept my lunch in too which is a highlight for me every time we make it back to the airfield.
The Rangitata mouth @ 10am on February 1, 2017
Feedback from readers has been great over the week regarding Lake Poaka and rainbow trout in the Opihi River. I'll touch on this at a later stage. I will however share a photo from Allan Brown of a salmon he caught. Allan Brown caught a beautiful 12 pound salmon down the Opihi mouth on the 27th of December. Allan said "It put up a good fight”. I asked Allan if he had had any luck lately, he said he hadn't and neither had the other he'd been fishing near.
Have a great Waitangi weekend. After flying around the region I can reinforce that there is huge amount of options that locals have at their doorsteps. It might just pay to check the forecast and river flows before you go.
Good luck to those game bird hunters heading out over the next two weekends of the summer special season. Paradise shelduck numbers look good, and although we don't count the mallards on these flights there was a nice scattering of them everywhere we flew. Here's a link to the game bird hunting regulation guide for those interested in summer season dates and regulations.
Allan Brown's beautiful 12lb Opihi Salmon
Tight Lines All
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 27 Jan 2017
Last weekend most of the region received a nice dousing of rain. Although we would have hoped for a bit more in places like the upper Opihi, altogether it helped to maintain river flows and provide trout with varied habitat. Summer fishing conditions will resume shortly.
Two rivers had a good dung out though; according to the Environment Canterbury website the Otematata got as high as 500 cumecs while nearby the Maerewhenua got to 203 cumecs.
My Colleague Hamish was down in the area on Tuesday the 24th. He said both these rivers have been beat-up by the flood flows with gravel beds turned over, and riparian vegetation smash around. Chances are a few trout would have perished.
The Otematata River burst its banks and cut into the Boat Harbour Campsite near the Lake. This resulted in gravel and debris being strewn through the area and caravans being inundated with water.
The Aviemore dam was spilling on Tuesday and both Lake Aviemore and Waitaki were discoloured in parts due to the flood waters. The Lower Waitaki River was also high and discoloured. It will be interesting to see how long it takes until the water of the rivers and lakes clears up.
The Waitaki River has been up to 540 cumecs and the Rangitata River had almost 900 cumecs flowing down it too. Not huge flows for rivers of this size but don't be surprised if this results in a shift in their mouth locations/orientations.
Flood debris stuck on the fence and piles of gravel washed around
at the Boat harbour campsite, Otematata.
Last week I told a story about my fishing trip to Lake Poaka which received a bit of interest in the media. That was the first time I had fished the lake so I'm no local. If you do fish the lake on a regular basis I would like to hear from you. In particular can you tell me; how do the surrounding trees which hug the lake shoreline affect your fishing? I've got my opinion on the trees but I'd like to hear yours. Please email your response to email@example.com
An angler fishes Lake Poaka on opening day 206-2017 season.
Feedback and stories from report readers has been great this season, it certainly helps me to compile interesting newsletters on a regular basis. It also helps me to get to know the region a bit better. After all this is only my second fishing season based in CSI.
This week's story to share comes from Rodger Finlay. Rodger caught a rainbow trout in the lower Opihi River recently. Although a rare catch, it is consistent with angling reports from over the years; a small number of rainbow trout get caught there each year. There are of course rainbows in the catchment, Lake Opuha being the hotspot.
What's is captivating though is that Rodger reckoned "He was definitely sea-run as hard scales easily fell off his torso to the touch”.
Now many of us will know that no sea-run rainbow fisheries have established in NZ, but to my knowledge there is no definitive reason why they couldn't as they are physiologically capable of doing so. Sea-run rainbow are called steelheads in North America and are highly prized by anglers.
I ran the info past my colleague Mark Webb. Mark recalled that historically there is some evidence of some rainbow trout becoming sea-run in New Zealand. He tagged a rainbow in the lower Waitaki River back in the 1980's that was later caught in the Kahutara River near Kaikoura, quiet the sea-going journey.
I also talked to a few 'stalwart' salmon anglers down the Opihi mouth, none of which had caught a sea-run rainbow in there many years of swinging shiny lures.
So my conclusion; there is a good chance it is a sea-run fish, but there are so few in existence there is no real point setting a goal of catching one.
Hard scales easily falling off in my knowledge doesn't happen often with rainbow trout. I've personally seen it with sea-run brownies though. This observation doesn't rule out the possibility that Rodgers fish was a resident river fish that lost scales.
This fish was released, but if it was killed we could have extracted bones out of its head called otolith. If we spent a bit of money and payed a scientist, they could burn the otolith with a laser, capture the gas that comes off and measure the levels of certain chemical elements within the gas. If the gas contains certain ratios of particular elements we know it has lived in sea water for a period.
A closer look at the otolith can even reveal at what age it was when it lived at sea. This method is commonly used for fish life history research. I did a bit of this work looking at salmon life history while employed by the West Coast Fish & Game Region.
If you have any stories of sea-run rainbows to share, Opihi or otherwise, Rodger and I would love to hear them. Flick them to me in an email.
Rodger Finlay with his Opihi river rainbow.
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 20 Jan 2017
Young angler Max Rogers got in touch with us to share his awesome fishing story. The story begins back in the September school holidays when Max and his big brother Johnny helped the Lake Alexandrina Conservation Trust and Fish & Game staff with the trout tagging programme at outlet Creek. Outlet Creek is close to Tekapo, it runs between Lake MacGregor and Lake Alexandrina. We filmed a You Tube video on the tagging project and angler diary scheme back in October. To see the project in action Click here.
Max was so stoked on the tagging day and thought it was about time he caught a trout himself. He started saving his money and by the summer holidays he reached his goal of $29.95 and had purchased his first fishing rod.
So, where better to head in the summer but Lake Macgregor, to test out the new rod… His mum Debbie wasn't too confident a 6 year old first time angler would be successful straight out of the gates, but she got a nice surprise when max returned from a trip out in the dinghy with his first fish, a 1.8 pound rainbow trout. If that wasn't special enough, guess what, the fish was tagged!
A check of the tagging records showed that Max's fish was tagged in September too, and was one of only 305 fished tagged over the 2016 winter from Lake MacGregor and Alexandrina, what are the chances… Well done Max, great story, great to hear it tasted yummy too with a drizzle of lemon juice.
A quick reminder to the tagging programme angling diary holders; keep filling in you diaries they are critical to the programme.
Max Roger helping out at the September 2016 outlet creek tagging day
Max Rogers and his first fish
Now I have been trout fishing for a bit longer than Max, but I had a 'first' of my own the other day, and this one was too good not to share with you. If you have a light stomach tough luck.
Now you may recall a few weeks back I recommended that if you fished the Twizel River a good idea would be to imitate a juvenile trout as they are abundant and a common food source for big trout… Well I don't think you will have a fly that can accurately imitate the prey items that the trout are eating in Lake Poaka, the lake that the Twizel River flows in and out of. And, if you do, you will have to be a good caster. Remember, Lake Poaka is restricted to fly fishing only.
Anyway the story go's; I was up there recently fishing the lake for the first time. I spotted a trout looking 'doggo' i.e. sitting there spooked/resting. With dry fly – nymph dropper rigged up, I thought why not have a cast, doubting I could catch it. However, couple of cast later and the fish sprung to life and devoured my #14 parachute Adams.
I was a bit surprised that my offering had been accepted, but, you never look a gift horse in the mouth, right. What was more surprising though was what happened next. While the trout was thrashing around trying to get rid of my fly, a long orangey-pink object was ejected from its mouth.
Now, this was weird, so I had to investigate immediately. One handed I played the fish and with the other I collected the unidentified object. The fish gave up after a half decent battle and I was able to reunite the trout with its breakfast and get a photo.
Now the fish wasn't small, un-weighed, but comfortably 6 pound. The trout's breakfast was a half-digested brown trout, head missing along with its skin and guts. A small amount of skin and the tail were intact which lead me to identify it as a brownie. The undigested tail end must have been protruding from its mouth.
The fillets were fully intact and of size suitable for a one person meal. The trout eater was released but a pretty good guess would be that this 60cm battle-axe brownie had eaten a 30cm brownie the day/night before.
Now a few questions have since ran across my mind; why did he take my #14 parachute Adams, could I cast a 30cm long fly on a 6wt rod, and what size trout or salmon does a 40 pound canal resident brown trout eat for a midnight snack?
My Lake Poaka cannibal brown and his regurgitated breakfast
If you are heading out fishing this weekend go on Saturday. Sunday is looking pretty rough and hopefully wet. We could do with a decent rain to freshen up the rivers. The rain forecasts can be fickle in this part of the world. We were expecting a small deluge on Wednesday night this week but it turned out to be pretty minor and only bumped up flow in River like the Te Ngawai River and Bowyers Stream a little bit.
Finally if you want to get in touch with me with any fishing stories or feedback from the CSI region, please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Central Suth Island Fish & Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 13 Jan 2017
As always, I appreciate feedback and fishy stories via email, from weekly report readers who fish the CSI region. Lance wrote to me last week with news from Lake Ruataniwha. I'm guessing this was after great fishing reports were presented from nearby Lakes Aviemore and Benmore. This is what Lance had to say and the photo he shared with us, thanks Lance.
"Camping with the kids at Ruataniwha. While many travel up and down the canals, and some distance, I've blooded the grandkids on fly fishing with 5 browns the last few days no more than 3 mins from camp. Best at 6.5lb on a small hare and copper in no more than 150mm water.”
Henry, Harry and Lance with a golden Lake Ruataniwha brown trout.
From first-hand experience I can say that the Opihi River near Temuka is fishing well currently. I had a couple of evening hours up my sleeve last week so popped down to the river. I fly fished three pools, focussing on only the best water and the parts where the glare wasn't preventing me from spotting. If I had a full sunny day I'd probably spend an hour or two on each pool.
In the first pool I spotted 4 large brown trout, the first, which I thought I had spooked mooched from the edge to the main current. I plopped a #18 pheasant tail a metre in front of him fishing downstream on a 45 degree angle. I wasn't fishing with an indicator so when I guessed he might of taken it I struck and connected. 5 jumps and a tussle later and I had him in the net. I thought I could catch a fish in better condition so released it. The next three fish in the pool were feeding actively but they refused my offerings and eventually spooked.
In the next pool I spotted only one fish but the glare was so bad I walked past the best water. A different story in the next pool however as I spotted at least 6 large brown trout actively feeding, one on the surface the rest grazing the bottom or chasing down prey. A fat 4 pounder gobbled my #18 pheasant tail and my family and I gobbled a fat 4 pounder over 3 nights. The image below show; the fly, my fish and the excellent colour flesh. A gut inspection revealed that the trout had been grazing on snails in large quantities.
It was a great, short, action packed outing. The river was in good nick where I fished. I was expecting algal growth to be annoying being summer, with low flows and warm water, but no such issue for me near Temuka.
'fly, fish, flesh'
On the salmon front, we are still awaiting the first decent size run of fish this season in all our popular fisheries. As of yesterday afternoon the has been 4 salmon weighed-in for January at the Salmon Anglers weigh station at Bill Whipp's hut on the South side of the Rangitata River. However, I am unsure how many have been caught on the north side and upriver.
The river was looking great yesterday but a 200 cumec freshet came through late last night (Thursday) so it may be discoloured for the weekend.
We have had first hand reports from a keen eyed angler who works occasionally at the Waitaki Dam; that at least 3 salmon have run the Waitaki River and made it to the dam. We have also heard a report that a salmon was caught near Duntroon about 10 days ago.
I have heard little news from salmon anglers regarding the Opihi River. The mouth was blocked for some time but opened up again on Wednesday.
The weather for the weekend will be affected by a westerly front hitting the main divide. I reckon it will be mostly sunny with gusty winds in the low country but near the main divide in the backcountry expect rough weather. Keep this in mind if you are heading to the Ahuriri River as this may result in a high and discoloured river.
Once again a reminder for anglers that over this season Fish & Game are undertaking a survey to find out how satisfied anglers are with their upper Ahuriri River and lagoon fishing experience. Have you fished there recently? If so, an online version of the survey, can be found on our website by clicking here. We plan to use this information to maintain the experience anglers have always cherished.
The main lagoon in the upper Ahuriri River valley.
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 5 Jan 2017
If you're still on holiday, lucky you, have fun. If you're back at work, this report may just instil a little jealousy as there is some pretty good fishing on offer currently that I can fill you in on. It may just bring out the weekend warrior in you.
Last Friday (30 Dec) I was ranging down at lakes Benmore and Aviemore. It was Deja vu at for me at Pumpkin Point on Benmore when an anglers' wife asked me if there were any fish around. "Of course” was my knee-jerk answer, and then I spotted two cruising through the shade of the overhanging tree about 3 metres in front of us. A bit of impromptu guiding by me and the angler had his lure running past the fish, but not even a follow. I consoled the angler mentioning that they were brownies, the most cunning of trout.
A pair of Temuka anglers were encountered up at the Otamatapaio Station access point. They were all smiles, reckoning that the fishing at the Ahuriri Arm was better than last year, and the best fish of the of the trip (so far) was a 3.3lb brown.
While ranging around the canals yesterday (4 Jan) I bumped into another angler who had fished the Ahuriri Arm on the 3rd of January. He had been having a blast on the rainbows but said the browns were a bit fussy. He landed about 18 and lost about 15. He said the browns were in the shallows but the rainbow were a bit deeper and harder to spot. In fact, the best method was to spot a rainbow hitting the surface and then cast about a metre or two in front.
Ahuriri Arm fishing at Lake Benmore - it is shallow so small boat or wading access is preferred
Lake Aviemore is fishing great too! The anglers I checked there last Friday hadn't had any luck and two of them didn't have a licence either! Now their rods are locked up in our office as we process the offence. Evidence of the great fishing was emailed to me by an anonymous angler with the subject line "Aviemore fishing well”.
The anonymous angler wouldn't say where on the lake he caught his rainbow trout but it looks like it was from a boat and he says the fish he caught were between 4 and 6 pound. The photo here shows the quality of the fish, maybe a cut above Benmore currently.
Great fishing and plump rainbows at Lake Aviemore
The canals have been fishing well over the x-mas period, I'd say better than last year. Yesterday I saw brown, rainbow and salmon in chilly bins. Some of the rainbows were massive. One conservative angler at the Ohau B caravan park-up showed me his 15lb rainbow jack, I suggested he ask around to borrow some scales as he's probably got an 18 pounder, possibly even 20.
Across the canal I caught up with fellow Taranakian Jeff Collins. The day prior, he had caught a 21 pound rainbow and 5 legal size salmon of which he kept one. When I checked his licence he agreed to share his mornings catch with us so I took a pic. Jeff fishes with bait, puts in long days and gets rewarded for his effort.
Jeff Collins with a plump rainbow and salmon
Still in the Waitaki but on a different note; we have received a report of sea-run salmon catches. Our third hand info is that four sea-run salmon were caught in the Waitaki River below the SH1 Bridge. Great news, and If someone wants to back this report up please me with details, how big? How delicious? How's the trout fishing too?
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 29 December 2016
If you're a keen Rangitata River salmon angler keep in mind there is another wet Westerly front set to hit the main divide on the weekend. Mark Webb and I were down the river mouth ranging on Thursday morning and the water clarity was looking great, with the flow at around 90 cumecs at Klondyke. So best to fish the river on Friday or early Saturday Morning, the River may be high and discoloured on Sunday.
We must have set our alarm clocks too early because there were only 2 anglers fishing when we arrived there at 6:20. By the time we left there were about 15 anglers in the area, many of them on the bank yarning rather than rushing down for their first cast.
It gets light really early at the moment. I reckon it's light enough to swing a zeddy at about 5:45am. None of the angler we checked had caught a salmon by 7am but at least 3 had been caught over the last couple of days. The South side currently has the best mouth fishing access, the north side looked pretty dodgy with waves pushing up over the beach bar. Not far up from the mouth the north side has some decent looking lure or zeddy water. We also checked upriver at the Badham and Brodie road access. One of the two anglers we encountered there had only caught small trout by 8am.
Anglers fishing the gut at the South side of the Rangitata River mouth
Jayde Couper and I were at the canals ranging on Wednesday. After a blustery Nor West day on Tuesday the anglers were out in force enjoying the light winds and basking in the sunshine. There were kids fishing everywhere which is always encouraging to see. Young angler Xavier Smith caught a nice wee brown too, on the bibbed rapala style lure he got for a Christmas pressie. He was pretty wrapped with his fish and reckoned he had spotted it earlier cruising the edge of the canal.
Reports passed on from anglers revealed that there were plenty of small fish getting caught and released and a few large salmon were put on ice too. But, the medium and XL trout were off the bite. In saying that, better luck had been had the evening before, I heard of a 26 pound rainbow being landed and a 12 and a 15 pound fish of unconfirmed species landed too.
One angler reckoned a few salmon had got out at the Pukaki-Ohau farm, but others had no luck there, fairing better down at the Ohau C canal. One young angler had only watched others catching fish at the canals but had recently been successful trolling on Lake Benmore, catching a few browns, rainbows and salmon all in one outing.
I stopped by and checked a single angler on Loch Cameron. His partner who was enjoying the sunshine asked if there were any fish here. I pointed out a cruising brown straight away. On the walk back to the truck I spotted three more, relaying the information with a shout. There were already several groups of sunbathers and swimmers surrounding the Loch by 11am and by 2pm it was a hive of activity. Best to fish this spot early or late, or on days not ideal for swimming.
A few words of advice from a ranging perspective; please carry your licence with you. It only takes about 1 minute to check a licence and about 5-10 minutes to write out a failure to produce notice, and then that needs to be followed up on by you later. If you carry your licence it means we have more time to check more anglers.
Another bit of advice from a ranger with the canals in mind. It is illegal to berley for sports fish, we have dealt with cases recently where anglers have been caught throwing salmon farm fish food pellets into the canals to attract fish. Additionally, because these fish farm pellets contain portions of fish it is also illegal to use these as bait.
Xavier Smith with his x-mas present eating trout
A brown trout cruises the shallows at Loch Cameron
Once again a reminder for anglers that over this season Fish & Game are undertaking a survey to find out how satisfied anglers are with their upper Ahuriri River and lagoon fishing experience. An online version of the survey can be filled in after your days fishing which can be found on our website by clicking here. We plan to use this information to maintain the experience anglers have always cherished.
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 22 December 2016
From spending a fair amount of time ranging the Mackenzie Basin canals over the past year or so I can comfortably say that a trophy trout gets caught every day at the canals. Some days plenty get caught too. In New Zealand the term trophy trout means 4.5kg, but most anglers, like me, prefer measuring fish weight in pounds as it sound bigger and it's what we grew up with, so 10 pounds is a trophy. In other countries, or at least overseas regions, the length of fish defines the trophy.
When the first salmon farm got plonked into the Pukaki-Ohau Canal in 1992 the trophy trout fishing game changed in New Zealand. Not overnight however, but by about 1995, trophy trout were being caught in the canals. Prior to salmon farms the canals produced high numbers small, slender trout and were rarely fished. Without the salmon farms there would be no trophy trout fishery in the canals.
It has been 24 years since the first farm was established and farm owners have come and gone, farm sites have changed too. Currently there are four congregations of farms on four canal sections owned by 2 companies.
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer Jayde Couper holidayed around Twizel last week. I thought a quick account of his fishing would give anglers interested in fishing the canals an idea of what to expect should you dedicate some time to learn how to fish there. Trophy and regular size trout and salmon can be caught with all the usual methods by angler with all levels of skill on any day of the year at the canals but, but if you really want to catch of big fish on a regular basis it pays to put in the time and learn the tricks and spots.
Jayde fished for 2 hours on Ohau C Canal on Wednesday afternoon, he got a few bites but nothing stuck. With the water being a bit hazy with the classic blue-green glacial colour he couldn't tell what was biting. On Thursday mid-day Jayde fished Ohau A canal, around and above the farm and near the confluence with the Pukaki Canal for about 2 hours.
He had plenty of follows and refusals by trout of all sizes, plenty being trophy size. He thought that the water might have been a bit too clear and the trout's eyesight too good. Sunset and night fishing might have been the ticket to getting the fish to bite. He did catch one fish, an 18 pound rainbow, at the confluence where the murky water of the Pukaki Canal join the clear water of the Ohau A.
Later that afternoon he went to Ohau C and over about 3 hours Jayde landed a 10 pound brown and two 8 pound browns. He also lost a brown estimated at 10 pound and had follows from heaps of trout of all sizes right into the shallows. All fish were released to progress their obesity. Jayde was fishing with a spin rod, 8lb braid and used a variety of 'soft plastic' lures with plenty of movement, fished on jig heads of varying weights.
Jayde also fished the Twizel River in the middle section only a stone's throw from the canals. At the time the glare was bad for spotting so he blind fished with fly rod using glister nymphs. He managed to pluck out two rainbows around 2 pound out the four pools he fished. He said that didymo was there in clumps but it didn't hinder his nymph fishing.
I also made a trip to the Twizel River last weekend, having never fished it before but being enticed by good reports around opening weekend. The day before however I bumped into an angler who fishes it regularly who said most of the fish had now dropped out downstream into Lake Benmore which put a dampener on my enthusiasm.
I ended up fishing 3 kilometres of the lower river over 5 hours. I was expecting good numbers of both brown and rainbow trout but what I found was low to moderate numbers of browns only, about 1 fish in every second piece of holding water with the odd pool holding 2 fish. In total I spotted and fished for 10 fish and managed to hook and land 7 of them. I spooked a couple of undetected fish too. The fish were pretty accepting of #14-16 pheasant tail type nymphs. I only saw a couple of rises and I'm the nymph first - ask questions later kind of fly angler. The surrounding vegetation was ever-present but never got in my way, and when it opened up I got views of Mt Cook.
All in all it was a great day. However, there was a good covering of didymo on the rocks which rarely got stuck on my hook, but was super slippery when wading across the fast water. Tom Petty, in his 1981 hit song wrote "the wading is the hardest part”. Now my knowledge of Tom Petty's lyrics is not great so I don't know if he mentions the Twizel River or didymo in the song, but the chorus certainly described the most difficult aspect of fishing the Twizel River that day.
'Evidence of brown trout and slippery rocks from the author's Twizel River fishing trip
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 9 December 2016
Next Thursday, the 15th of December the Central South Island Fish & Game Council is holding its bi-monthly Council meeting followed by the Annual public meeting at 7:30pm. Licence holders and members of the public are welcome to attend. For full details click here.
The upper Ahuriri River and associated lagoons and tarns opened last Saturday. We had rangers in the area and they can confirm that tarns and lagoons were very popular with anglers, with a few of them catching some nice trout between 4 and 6 pounds.
On Saturday the river was discoloured and not suitable for sight fishing. The flow was about 25 cumecs, not particularly high, which made our rangers think that somewhere in the upper catchment a recent slip may be depositing silt into the river. Some of the tributary streams were flowing clear so there may have been options to fish the Ahuriri at their confluences.
If you do fish the upper Ahuriri River and/or associated tarns and lagoons upstream of Longslip Creek this year we would like to hear from you! An online version of our upper Ahuriri angler satisfaction survey can be filled in following your days fishing by visiting our website, click here.
We plan to use this information to maintain the experience anglers have always cherished in this backcountry fishery.
There will be some rain and wind in the high country this weekend so keep an eye on river flows. The low country will be a mixed bag weather wise but in general lowland river flows should be ideal for fishing. The wet spring with its regular rainfall has left our lowland rivers looking sharp.
If you look back to the last two fishing seasons by this stage we were talking about low flows and dry weather in the low country, not this year thanks to all the rain, what a great thing. I suggest you get out there this weekend for a pre holidays/pre summer flows outing. Sunday looks to be less windy for the novice fly anglers to hone their skills, maybe take a rod for spin or bait fishing on Saturday too.
The Rangitata will be high and discoloured this weekend with recent and impending high country rain. Last weekend the river cleared and became fishable for spin anglers but by Monday and Tuesday when the flows dropped below 90 cumecs the river clarity was looking ideal. If you want to target a sea-run salmon this weekend best to try the lower reaches of the Waitaki and Opihi Rivers.
If you prefer to fish the Waitaki for trout then you will be pleased to hear that Kurow local Graeme Hughes reports that currently "caddis flies are being consumed with great gusto by upper Waitaki trout”. In reporting this to the writer of the weekly fishing report he was a bit concerned that it may result in a flood of anglers to his patch. But, he rests easy knowing that the modern angler is scared of the dark and that only one man ties an infallible, unbeatable Waitaki sedge pattern.
On the canal fishing front, I havn't heard any news of salmon escaping from the farms of late but a quick scan of some fishing pages on Facebook show once again, massive trophy trout are getting caught on a regular basis.
Next to the Pukaki Canal, near Glen Lyon Road and Loch Cameron lies Lake Merino. Lake Merino is small and shallow and holds a few, mainly brown trout. With no substantial inflowing stream in this lake the trout are limited to spawning in lake edge gravels. Generally, this style of spawning has a low success rate. So, on Wednesday this week we boosted the population and released a mix of 100 brown and rainbow trout into the Lake. However, these fish are only about 1 year old and easily fit in the palm of your hand so they'll need to do some growing before they make it to your dinner table.
These fish were sourced from the Twizel River with our electric fishing machine, and 'while at it' we were very encouraged to see swarms of trout fry in the river. Proof that the previous spawning was very successful.
A fishing tip on that note, If you're having trouble catching a Twizel River trout on the traditional pheasant tail nymph or Royal Wulff dry I'd try a grey ghost or something that resembles a small trout. The modern soft plastic spinners should do the job too. I'd guess there will be plenty of cannibalism happening currently, and in fact we did catch a 1 year old brown with a recently hatched trout fry sticking out of its gob…
The size of Twizel River trout from the 2016 and 2015 spawning season
Fish & Game Officer Hamish Stevens carries a bucket of trout to Lake Merino for release
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 2 December 2016
The upper Ahuriri River and associated lagoons and tarns open up for fishing this Saturday. Anglers the world over rate the quality of the fishing experience in the upper Ahuriri highly. This is due to the attractive back-country setting and excellent but challenging fishing for trout of all sizes. This season Fish & Game are undertaking a survey to find out how satisfied anglers are with their upper Ahuriri fishing experience. An online version of the survey can be filled in after your days fishing which can be found on our website by clicking here. We plan to use this information to maintain the experience angler have always cherished.
After a bit of digging, I can now confirm from a first-hand witness that an 8.9kg salmon, just a smidgen short of the magic 20 pound mark, was caught upriver in the Rangitata a couple of weeks back. Unfortunately I can't provide a photo.
With this great news, also comes a good forecast for river flows for the weekend. Last week when the Rangitata river flows dipped below 100 cumecs at the Klondyke flow recorder the river was great clarity for 'zeddy' fishing. On Thursday at 3pm I visited the river near the poles by the mouth when the river was running at about 110 cumecs. At that time I could only just see the end of my gumboots when I was wading as deep as rim of my boot.
The old saying is that for good zeddy fishing you should be able to see the end of your boot while wading knee deep. At the time of writing the River is currently just above 100 cumecs and is trending well to dip below 100 cumecs by Saturday morning. There is forecast rain for today (Friday) and over the weekend but in the context of the Rangitata flows it looks minor.
All in all an encouraging forecast for salmon fishing on the Rangitata this weekend and in to early next week but as always it best to keep your finger on the pulse and view the Ecan flow website before heading out, the link can be found at the bottom of this email.
With all the recent lowland rain giving rivers like Opihi and Orari a good clean out and spilling out to sea the mouths of these rivers may also be attracting a few salmon. Now that the whitebait season is over there should be a bit more room to play with around the surf and gut too.
On that note, rumours are that the whitebait season was pretty good so the sea-run trout should be well fed, and according to three anglers I won't name, there have been reasonable numbers of 1-2 pound sea-run trout caught in the Rangitata which is an improvement on last season and encouraging for the next.
It's always great to get feedback from anglers out there doing it and this week I was sent a nice pic taken on a 'go-pro' camera by Tom Sims. Tom was fishing one of the Ashburton Lakes and managed to battle windy conditions to hook this 5 pound aerialist brown on a woolly bugger fly. It just goes to show, like Jeremy said in last weeks' report "you got to be in – to win(d)".
Tom Sims, inland waves and a jumping trout
Coincidentally, Fish & Game staff were up at the Ashburton Lakes this week on a mission to give the Lake Emily fishery a boost. 'Google search' Lake Emily and you will find out this is one of only a few place in New Zealand where you can catch a brook char that will put a bend in your 6 weight fly rod. That being said they are not easy to catch. There is a rough 4x4 track or 1-1.5 hour walk to the lake, it is fly fishing only and fishing from boats is prohibited to protect the small population.
Casting can be a challenge too, being a wind prone area. So anyone into that sort of challenge with be buoyed by the fact 76 small brook char (45-195mm) have been released into the lake to grow to rod bending size. We welcome feedback from anglers about how the lake is fishing now, or was last season, and is next season.
Feedback is especially relevant if you catch one of the newly released fish which are recognisable from the 'locals' as we removed their adipose fins as a way to monitor the success of the release. Feedback can be sent to my email address email@example.com
Fish & Game Officer Jayde Couper releasing the 'brookies' at Lake Emily'
A blurry photo of an attractive brook char that now calls Lake Emily 'home'
Finally in this report, on Thursday the 15th of December the Central South Island Fish & Game Council is holding its bi-monthly Council meeting followed by the Annual public meeting at 7:30pm. Licence holders and members of the public are welcome to attend. For full details click here.
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 25 November 2016
The McKinnon's hatchery crew have had another successful winter and spring, raising over 100,000 salmon smolt at their hatchery on McKinnon's Creek near the mouth of the Rangitata River. The goal of the hatchery is to get these fish through to an optimum size for release in winter 2017.
The hatchery is only so big though, and space in the hatchery races becomes a premium as they put on weight and girth over the summer. That means 25,000, 7 grams smolt got their marching orders on Wednesday and were released into the wild to supplement the wild salmon fisheries of the Rangitata and Ashburton Rivers, while around 75,000 remain. Fish & Game staff helped out on Wednesday by transporting the fish for release.
Both Butterick's aka Spring Creek in the Ashburton River catchment and Ealing Springs in the Rangitata River catchment received 5,000 smolt, while an additional 15,000 smolt were released into the Rangitata at the artificial spawning race associated with the Rangitata Water Limited (RWL) irrigation ponds at Arundel. This spawning race diverts water from the schemes intake into a gravel lined stream that exits out into the Rangitata River below the Arundel Bridge, about 2km below the lower most irrigation intake on the Rangitata River.
In addition to raising the salmon, over winter 2016, the McKinnon's Crew including Phil de Joux incubated approximately 20,000 fertilised salmon eggs in the RWL spawning race and a few more than that in Three Springs, a tributary Creek of the Opihi River near Fairlie. Phil said the hatching success in the RWL spawning race was excellent but in Three Spring it was phenomenal at around 95% success.
McKinnon's hatchery have an informative website where you can keep up to date with news and find ways to get involved, click here to visit their site.
McKinnon's Creek hatchery volunteer Jackie Manning releasing salmon into Butterick's aka Spring Creek
Ranging at Lake Alexandrina on opening day and seeing all the action got me keen to go back for a fish, so I did, last weekend with a mate over from the banks of the Taramakau River. Unfortunately we got blown off the lake, with propulsion being limited to rowing only, a strong South Westerly made rowing and casting awfully difficult.
We did manage about an hour of marginally windy conditions during which Jeremy released a fat young rainbow, and I managed to spook a couple of 'submarine' browns. We got blown to shore so had lunch and a look for cruisers in close. In a short time we found a large brownie whose size, when doubled by its shadow on the lake bed, got our hearts racing.
Some pretty good casting between gusts and willows had four flies inspected with intent; hares ear, blowfly, bead-head damsel, and Woolley bugger. When I finally presented a red-bodied Mrs Simpson a few bubbles rose from its direction, I guess that was the fish saying "bugger this smorgasbord, out into the deep I go”. So it was off to Lake Tekapo for us to find some younger, less picky trout and salmon for dinner, and that we did.
Finally in this report, on Thursday the 15th of December the Central South Island Fish & Game Council is holding its bi-monthly Council meeting followed by the Annual public meeting. Licence holders and members of the public are welcome to attend. For full details click here.
Until next week, enjoy your fishing, might be a bit windy this weekend, but low country river flows and water clarity is looking good after last weeks' rain so there should be some good opportunities for keen anglers in between gusts.
Jeremy getting out smarted by a Wiley old brown at Lake Alexandrina
Jeremy says "you've got to be in - to win(d)”
Central South Island Fish & Game
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 17 November 2016
Region-wide rain has caused almost all of our rivers to rise and discolour. Some rivers like the Temuka are by far and above at their highest flows for the year-to-date. Many rivers and streams will be discoloured over the weekend but a bit of investigating should still lead to fishing options as the waters drop, especially in the high country. Keep an eye on the ECan river flows website, the link can be found at the bottom of this email.
The Temuka River flowing at 140 cumecs and rising on Thursday 17 November
Fortunately, in the CSI region there are plenty of lakes and canals that remain fishable, even during heavy rain. In fact, you're never more than an hour and a half drive from a popular still-water fishery, unless that is, you start your day at Mesopotamia Station up the Rangitata River, then its 1 hour 49 minutes to Lake Hood…
Loch Cameron will be worth visiting this weekend. Last weekend we held the Kids Fishing Day there and it was a great success. It was cold but the fishing action made that irrelevant, and the 126 kids that registered for the event caught 80 salmon and 1 brown trout. Although it was a kids event it was more like a family day-out, and I'd encourage families to get to the loch ASAP and catch the remaining salmon.
400 salmon kindly donated by Mt Cook Alpine salmon and High Country Salmon released into the loch so there should be plenty left to catch, although a few did get taken over the rest of the weekend after the event. On behalf of licence holders a big thanks goes out to the salmon farms and our other local sponsors; Meridian, Jakes Hardware and South Alps Outdoors who shouted the kids a bunch of fishing gear as spot prizes.
Kids and families enjoying their day at Loch Cameron
If you are keen to get the kids into a fish this weekend then targeting perch could be the ticket. As a rule of thumb perch are easier to catch than trout and salmon and are not so challenging to land once hooked. They can be aggressive feeders and take most general trout lures (like black and gold toby) but depending on the size of the perch, smaller lures are preferred. Lakes; Emma, Camp, Clearwater and Hood in the Ashburton area are a good bet and when conditions allow Saltwater Creek in Timaru is worth a cast.
On a side note I was ranging at Lake Clearwater last Thursday and bumped into a few anglers. They said the fishing was a little tough with not much surface activity but some nice fish had been hooked and a couple landed around the 2-3 pound size. While I chatted to William Johnson (pictured) we watched a trout rise twice beside his loves lures, obviously preferring something more natural.
'William Johnson flyfishing Lake Clearwater'
This time last year I reported that the first few sea-run salmon of the season had been caught at the Rangitata mouth. Salmon are creatures of habit, somewhat anyway, so chances are there will be salmon within casting distance in the very near future. The river has been high and discoloured so if you're keen to fish the mouth and the lower river when the river clears up you could see your name on the first fish of the season.
Until next week, tight lines.
Central South Island Fish & Game
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 10 November 2016
Rain, hail or shine we will be holding the CSI Fish & Game Kids Fishing Day at Loch Cameron on Saturday the 12th of November. For the full event details, like age restrictions, clicking on this link to our website. It looks like a shower of rain or two might pass through in the morning so best to come fully prepared. I'd throw a raincoat, warm clothes, full brim hat and a flask of hot chocolate into the kit to keep the kids comfortable.
The high country waters opened last Saturday and what a cracker of a day it was. We had a crew of rangers spread through some of our popular fisheries. Hamish Stevens and I were on the water at Lake Alexandrina in the morning and can report that the fishing was pretty good. Most anglers in the 'Coruba Cove' camp had landed a rainbow or four by mid-morning with a few hooking fish but not landing them. This 'boys only' group cherish the social aspect of fishing opening weekend and got into the spirits of opening weekend with some good matey banter about the one(s) that got away and other laughable moments that can't be shared in this report. Most of the crew are local but one travelled down from Tauranga, and another from Nelson for the event. There are some young members of the crew but one member in particular celebrated his 43rd opening fishing the lake.
The 'Coruba Cove' crew opening weekend 2016
21 anglers were 'checked' in the morning from the Outlet Creek to Scotts Creek and only one had landed a brown, but that was real beauty weighing around 9 pound. There were a few more anglers on the lake and a handful on Lake MacGregor but there was plenty of room for more. If this is the busiest day of the season then it is a quiet lake with an exceptional fishery. I was told by more than one angler, however, that there is a knack to the fishing so don't expect to do well on your first visit. One angler reckoned it took him three years to suss the old wily browns. Most anglers fished from row boats but there were a few amongst the trees and tussock on the shoreline.
'Tojo' Pawson and his 9lb Lake Alexandrina brown
I also had a look around Twizel and can report that the Twizel River was popular and fished pretty good, although some said last year was "phenomenal” so it didn't quite compare. Lake Poaka had a small contingent of anglers on it and one angler commented he found the fish to be 'late season' spooky.
Mark Webb was ranging the Tekapo River and reckoned about 70 anglers fished there on
Saturday and that there were less camps and more day visitors than he had seen on previous opening days. Mark said "By lunch time most had landed 1 or 2 fish. The best report was 7 landed and then another angler with 6. About 3 rainbows caught for every brown and the biggest fish was a rainbow at 2.5kg. All fish in great condition.”
Mark also checked anglers on the canals and said while checking 45 anglers he only saw one small salmon landed. The only offence detected for the day was a breach of regulation 2.3.4 of the regulation guide "No licence holder when fishing for sports fish shall: be more than 15m from the rod being used”. In this case the angler had gone to Twizel and left his rod fishing in the Pukaki-Ohau Canal.
Jayde Couper ranged the Maerewhenua and Hakataramea Rivers on Saturday. He said the Maerewhenua was scarce of anglers but in contrast the Hakataramea was busy. The flows were up as predicted and some anglers struggled a bit with this. Of the anglers checked it was an all rainbow affair including one angler who caught and released 11 fish for the morning.
We also had reports passed on by honorary rangers up at the Ashburton Lakes. We had one covering Lake Heron and one at Emma and Clearwater. Both rangers blamed a calm, mill pond morning for tricky fishing, although at Lake Emma fly anglers seemed to do alright on 2-3 pound browns while spin angler only caught perch. At Lake Heron plenty of salmon were landed by the 66 anglers who had their licence checked, but not as many as last year.
On a different high country note, the Mackenzie District Council has asked us to pass on the message to anglers intending to fish Lake Ohau, and the Hopkins/Dobson Rivers for the next 6 months via Glen Lyon Road.
'Private logging operations will be occurring on Glen Lyon Road (up the east side of Lake Ohau) from the 7th November 2016 for the next 6 months. Approximately 30,000 tonnes of logs will be carted down the unsealed section between Glen Lyon Station and the boat ramp during this time on the way to Timaru.
Logging operations will be carried 6am - 6pm Monday to Friday. No works are to be carried out over weekends or the days between the 23rd December 2016 and the 9th January 2017.
A gate shall remain closed across Glen Lyon Road while the operations are in progress and be opened at the completion of each day and during none work periods. Warning signage and temporary speed limits shall remain in place onsite for the entirety of the operation.
The road shall be closed to campervans and towing vehicles during the hours that logging is in progress.
It is strongly advised not to enter this section of road during logging operations. If it is essential to enter area extreme care shall be taken. Log trucks will have the right of way on this road during operations. If a truck is met then the approaching vehicle must reverse to the nearest passing opportunity.
The above measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of all road users during these operations.'
Until next week, happy fishing, maybe next week I'll have news of a salmon caught in the Rangitata River, it's about that time of year…
Central South Island Fish and Game
Fish and Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 3 November 2016
Good luck for high country opening day tomorrow (Saturday November 5), the weather will be a mixed bag. I'll be out checking licences and looking for photo opportunities to furnish this weekly report, our monthly 'Reel Life' newsletter and local newspapers. See you out there.
The Hakataramea River will no doubt attract a few anglers for opening day. I was there on Tuesday presenting a stream ecology lesson for a school group and it was flowing at around 10 cumecs near the Waitaki confluence and should be similar at the weekend (last opening day it was around 2 cumecs). On Tuesday the water was tannin stained but clear enough to sight fish in the shallower water. We scuffled around in a stony riffle and caught what was dislodged in a fine mesh net so we could show the kids what critters the trout are eating.
It was good to see the usual assemblage of trout favourites including; dobsonfly (creepers/toe-biters), mayfly, cased caddis, free living caddis and snail. As always the 'toe-biter' was the crowd favourite. With the increased flows I'd try a dobsonfly larvae imitation on opening days. These typically live in the margins of the stream so when the flows are up they are more likely to get swept towards a hungry trout.
We didn't manage to locate any adult trout or eels with the electric fishing machine but we were able to catch lots of brown trout fry of around 30-40mm length and upland bully around 30-60mm in length. These would be two more prey items to try and imitate come opening weekend at fisheries throughout the region.
Back in winter the Waitaki Riparian Enhancement Society aka the Waitaki volunteer salmon hatchery crew had a fish trap in the Hakataramea River for the purpose of catching wild salmon for use as hatchery brood stock. They managed to trap 28 salmon, but more importantly in the context of the impending opening day they caught 593 trout. The trout were migrating upstream from the Waitaki River and were trapped over the period of May 20 to July 21. Of the lot, 445 were brown trout, which makes sense as the timing was fitting to capture the brown trout run.
That wasn't all the trout caught though as the trap allows fish under about 3 pounds to pass through so the figures only represent large fish. All the trout were allowed to resume their journey as the hatchery only raises salmon to supplement the wild salmon spawning in the Waitaki River. I'd guess a few of these fish will be hanging around in the Haka while the flows are up but may drop back to the Waitaki when the flows diminish in summer.
If the canals are more your buzz this coming weekend then be sure to have something in your tackle box that imitates a juvenile salmon 60mm in length. Last week around 30,000 salmon were released into the Pukaki-Ohau canal by the Mt Cook Alpine Salmon hatchery (the Ohau A salmon farm). The canal trout and salmon love eating these guys and if they survive they should make the 300mm minimum size limit within a year or so, tails intact.
We also carted 14,000 more of these little fella's up to Lake Tekapo for liberation, which adds to the release of 45,000 we did back on the 6th of October. The releases occurred at two locations, the first near the Lake MacGregor Outlet and the most recent near the Cass River mouth. If I was fishing Lake Tekapo this weekend I'd use something silver that sort of imitates a juvenile salmon, like a toby or hex wobbler, I wouldn't get to caught up on it being too life like.
As well as the 2-4 pound salmon on offer at the lake there are rainbow and brown trout worth targeting. Most are in the 2 to 4 pound category like the salmon but every now and again a real whopper is caught. What does a real whopper look like, a lot like the fish in local angler Sam caught last season, 75 cm and 14 pounds of Lake Tekapo's finest brown trout.
Tekapo local Sam with his 14 pound Lake Tekapo brown trout
Fish & Game Officer Hamish Stevens releasing 14,000 salmon into Lake Tekapo
Once again, a reminder for all the young anglers, the CSI Fish & Game Kids Fishing Day at Loch Cameron will be held on the 12th of November this year. The full details of the event can be found by clicking on this link to our website.
Central South Island
Fish & Game Officer.
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 14 October 2016
It is great to have frequent rain events hitting the region this spring, I personally target days when river flows are receding after some rain when fishing the Opihi catchment. The forecast is for region wide rain this Friday the 14th so keep the flow levels in mind when selecting a destination for the weekends fishing.
A note for those intending to fish the Opihi River below the Opuha River confluence, during wet spells there is likely to be didymo floating downstream in suspension, although the clarity is usually fine for sight fishing. This is because the Opuha River, which receives its flow from Lake Opuha, has been subject to fluctuating flows which promote didymo to break off the river bed and flow downstream. A mate of mine was fishing the Opihi last Saturday and came across this situation. He said it didn't seem to bother the fish and he hooked a couple of nice browns. During extended periods of stable flows in the Opuha River it is rare to see didymo floating downstream in the Opihi River. Didymo is present in the lower Opihi but generally not at levels that detract from the great fishing.
We will have to wait a month or so to target sea-run salmon but in the meantime there are inland salmon to target. Since 2010, Fish & Game have release 245,000 salmon into Lake Tekapo. The fish have been gifted to licenceholders by commercial salmon hatcheries operated by Sanfords Ltd and Mount Cook Alpine Salmon. There were rumours that these salmon were growing to healthy sizes over two years and ending up on angler's dinner tables.
About this time last year, after releasing 60,000 salmon into the lake I put out the call for anglers to email me with any salmon fishing success at Lake Tekapo. Gratefully, I received feedback and photos from many anglers and it became quite clear that our salmon releases were successful. Last season salmon were getting caught from both the shoreline and boats. Fish up to 3.5 pounds were being caught and many in fine condition. A few of the fish caught were long and slender which is typical of lake resident salmon.
Last week, only days before the release of another 45,000 salmon into the lake, gifted by Mount Cook Alpine Salmon, we were lucky to receive more news of Lake Tekapo salmon. Angler Struan McCaskill landed two salmon exceeding 3 pounds on the 2nd of October and as the photo shows, Struan's dog and cat jostled for position to receive the prime off-cuts at the filleting bench.
We invited Timaru Herald newspaper reporters along to this year's release and they put together a video and article for your enjoyment. Follow this link to check out the release. Any more salmon catch information and pictures from Lake Tekapo would be appreciated, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Struan McCaskill and his Lake Tekapo salmon
Good news for whippersnappers, the Fish & Game Kids Fishing Day will be held on the 12th of November 2016, at Loch Cameron near Twizel. This is the event where the salmon farms in the Mackenzie Basin hydro canals gift us hundreds of salmon. Fish & Game release them into Loch Cameron and then kids under 12 years old try their luck at catching them. We have traditionally held this event during the summer holidays but have brought it forward to November this season. The full event details including the generous event sponsors are on our website, click here to check it out.
Kakanui River anglers are invited to attend a day to 'Celebrate the Kakanui'. The event is put-on so that The Kakanui Community Catchment Projects group can share the results of their work. There will be guest speakers and afternoon tea provided. Fish & Game staff are attending and will collect several fish species from the river to display in a fish tank. It may be a chance to learn about a fish species you never knew existed… The venue is the Five Forks Hall on Kakanui Valley Road. The event will be held on Saturday the 15th of October from 1:30pm to 3:30pm.
Last season's Kids fishing Day
Finally in this report, next Thursday the Central South Island Fish & Game Council is holding its bi-monthly meeting. Licenceholders and members of the public are welcome to attend. For full details click here.
Fish and Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 11 October 2016
As far as I can tell opening weekend was a cracker in the CSI Region with plenty of anglers cashing in on the fact the 1st of October fell on a Saturday for 2016. I was ranging on Saturday but have since managed to get out twice for a fish myself and what a great start to the season I have had. Maybe the tale of my fishing success could be told on a slow news week…
Having checked 20 odd licences myself on Saturday and getting feedback from fellow rangers and anglers I can share a few observations from the field.
The Pareora River was flowing at around 6 cumecs on Saturday morning and the fish were feeding actively. There was a slight discolouration in the water which made spotting tricky. I encountered five anglers on the river and managed to snap a shot of Karl and Kyan Fountaine. Kyan had hooked and lost a couple in the morning on spin gear and Karl had his sights on a few fish cruising the pool. I later found out that the trout won the game on Saturday but Karl returned on Sunday and caught a couple on the dry fly, both fish around 4-5 pound.
Karl Fountaine with son Kyan fishing the Pareora River on opening day
I visited 10 access points on the Te Ngawai River and only managed to find one angler. He was happy to be back on the river for another season. He had lost a couple of fish and landed one, a nice fish over 5 pounds. I encountered two other vehicles but couldn't track down the anglers.
The river flows were looking good, about 3 cumecs at Cave, on the tail end of the recent rain event. I spotted a few fish and would guess that between access points there would be some untouched water for this coming weekend.
I finished up my day ranging at Lake Opuha, where there was also another ranger checking licences there around lunchtime. The anglers we encountered had mixed results. Some had some great catches and others were struggling to find a fish. The Lake is very full at the moment and for some anglers this made wading their favourite areas out of the question. All in all it was a great day, and the lake shines as the hub for opening day fishing and socialising activity in the region.
Most of the fish caught were brown trout in the 1-2 pound range but one young angler had done very well landing a couple of three pounders and a four pounder. A boat load of anglers managed to catch several browns and 2 rainbow. There was also talk of small salmon being caught in the lake, we would love to see pictures of any salmon caught at Lake Opuha as it has been several years since we released salmon there.
Oli Christensen with his opening day catch at Lake Opuha
We had a ranger covering the Opihi River from the Milford huts to the bottom of the gorge near Raincliff. He encountered a few anglers who had sighted fish but struggled to fool them. He said vehicles were parked up at almost every access point, showing the popularity of this river on opening day.
The Ashburton area was also visited and our ranger had these comments; Lake Hood was quiet but the one angler encountered was busy targeting cruising brown trout, the lower Ashburton River looks in good shape and was ideal colour for spin fishing, flows were about 12 cumecs. Three anglers fished the mouth area early on Saturday morning but hadn't had any luck when encountered. The main Ashburton tributaries streams, Taylors and Bowyers, had vehicles parks at the main access points.
I was lucky to receive some information from weekly report readers William and Jayne Rayner. They said "The Waitaki is still fishing well” and "We caught 9 fish on opening day, 8 browns and 1 rainbow. They were in fine condition for the time of year, particularly the rainbow. The browns were holding right up close to the bank. So shallow in fact that their backs must have been out of the water!”
Jayne Rayner started her season with a great Waitaki brown trout
So that's about all the info I can pass on from opening day. I think the takeaway message is that most lowland waterways are currently fishing well with the spring water levels. So don't wait around for summer, get amongst it. If you want to keep an eye on the river flows then follow the link at the bottom of this email.
Finally in this report, a notice that the Central South Island Fish & Game Council are meeting on Thursday the 20th of October. Licenceholders and members of the public are welcome to attend. For full details click here.
Until next week, tight lines
Fish & Game Officer.
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 22 April 2016
The summer fishing season is drawing to a close but there is still time to get out and enjoy autumn fishing in the Central South Island. The school holidays are in full swing and ANZAC day falls on a Monday giving most people the time to get out and enjoy our sports fisheries. The weather is a bit of a mixed bag this weekend so be prepared for a shower of rain and keep an eye on the local forecast, Monday is looking the pick of the days I reckon. I'll be out ranging so might see you out there.
This week I investigated a report from a DOC field workers that sockeye salmon were spawning in a small tributary creek of Lake Pukaki in February. It has been a good year for sockeye spawning with thousands of fish spawning in the Lake Ohau, Benmore and Aviemore tributaries. To this date there has been no official record of a sockeye population in Lake Pukaki. Multiple hydroelectric power generation structures have blocked upstream migration from the Benmore and Ohau sockeye populations for decades.
I was a bit late to see the fish spawn, but there were several sun-baked fish carcasses along the creek banks. Luckily, one dead fish I came across was still in identifiable condition. Its appearance was that of a sockeye male although discoloured, misidentification of a Chinook salmon was not out of the question.
The one proven method to tell the difference between a sockeye and Chinook salmon is to look at the gill rakers. This is done by lifting up the gill plate and looking at the gill that will be exposed. Sockeye being plankton feeders will have long fine gill rakers very close together and that is what I found. Their purpose being to collect the plankton that they are feeding on. If you lift the gill plate on a Chinook salmon (which are predators not plankton eaters) the gill rakers will be short and stubby and somewhat widely spaced in comparison to the sockeye.
The significance for this finding is minimal for an angler looking for a feed but It does help explain the why Lake Pukaki sustains a healthy but underutilised brown and rainbow trout fishery. Sockeye juveniles once hatched from the spawning creek provide an additional food source to the typical bully and insect diet of high-country lake catchment trout.
A sports fishery survey undertaken by Fish & Game in the lake ten years ago drew attention to the under-utilised fishery. Hundreds of trout were caught and they were in good condition. Brown and rainbow trout made up equal parts of the catch and staff had trouble discerning the species apart due to their stark silver colouration.
The fish were most often between 2-3 pound and gut samples gave little indication of what they were eating to sustain their good condition. Many gut samples containing only silt. Perhaps juvenile sockeye salmon make up an important part of the trout diet in the Lake.
It is rare to see an angler trolling on the lake but someone looking for a new spot could discover some excellent fishing. Be aware of the weather though as a strong Nor-wester can turn a picture-perfect postcard lake with idyllic reflection of Mt Cook into a surf beach with waterspouts.
Boat launching is possible near the Tekapo B power station. Most fishing activity in the Lake Pukaki catchment is shoreline angling around the mouths of inflowing streams and the Tekapo B power station tailrace. There are also a couple of spring creeks on the Tasman River bed that hold a few trout. The Lake is open for fishing for the full season and all legal methods can be used, the tributaries close for trout spawning at the end of April.
The Lake Pukaki sockeye salmon found by the author.
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 15 April 2016
Last week I put out a message for any good fishing stories from the Central South Island Region. I received two stories from the Region which means they are the lucky winners of the Fish & Game supporter caps. Thanks for sharing you stories!
Cameron Gibb said this; "Late March saw myself and a friend head up to a beautiful clear river with well-conditioned trout. The wind was up, the blowflies were about and the sun was beaming, not as much as our smiles. Two beautiful brown trout landed on size 12 Humpy blowflies, our new favourite fly.
Cameron Gibb and trout, both fans of #12 Humphy blowflies
Annie Bougen shared this with us; "I love fishing... So I got to thinking that there must be other fellow females out that share my passion as much as I do. Eventually three of us joined forces and headed to Lake Heron for the middle weekend of Feb in our campervan and caravans. Prerequisite was to retain our femininity and dress for dinner....
The lake was calm hot and clear and nothing rising so practised our fly fishing techniques. Saw humongous trout, but they'd fed well from hatchings overnight and weren't interested... but lovely to watch all the same.
I don't think the camp site peeps at Heron will ever get over this!!”
Lake Heron girls Weekend
On the subject of Lake Heron and big trout, in March the Department of Conservation (DOC) undertook a cyclic survey of pest fish distribution in a few of the O Tu Wharekai (Ashburton Lakes) waterways; Lake Heron, Emma and Maori Lakes in March. The results were what we all hoped for – no pest fish found! For the survey they were using nets and traps that are known to catch pest fish like Rudd, Koi carp, mosquito fish and cat fish but also catch sports fish. Any sports fish caught accidentally were released with minimal harm, and can be targeted over the next couple of weeks before the season ends on the 30th of April.
Brad Edwards and Graeme Ure from DOC Geraldine shared interesting information and observations from the survey with us. Like Annie, the DOC team came across some large trout in Lake Heron, with several brown trout estimated to be close to 8 pound. There was also some well-conditioned rainbows caught, most notably around Harrisons Bight. They found that there is good number of 0.5-1.5 pound lake resident salmon about.
In Lake Emma, perch up to 200mm in length dominated the catch, with a few long slender browns encountered. No sports fish were encountered at Front or Back Maori Lakes but they weren't using methods likely to catch trout.
A couple more observations were that there are plenty of freshwater mussels in Lake Heron, there are a few big eels everywhere except for back Maori, and there was plenty of common bullies and dragonfly nymphs caught.
Any fly or lure that looks like common bully of dragonfly nymphs representing bully and dragonflies should be in your fishing kit when visiting the area – a Mrs Simpson or Hamills killer fly kind of looks like both.
Common bully are a favourite food of trout at the Ashburton Lakes - credit Graeme Ure – DOC
The Central South Island Fish & Game Council holds its bi-monthly meeting next week. Licenceholders and the public are welcome to attend. The Council will be discussing a report on the recommendations for the 3-yearly review of the anglers notice. For the exact details of when and where, please click here.
All the best for your weekends fishing.
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 8 April 2016
Over the past week I have managed to bump into a few keen anglers and glean some passing information from them on their thoughts on the size of the salmon runs in their local rivers. A regular Orari surf angler managed to catch 2 this season, the best weighing around 7kg. He guesstimated that as many as 40 salmon may have been caught throughout the season there.
Our Opihi River mouth Diarist Brian Bennett recorded 42 salmon caught for the season in the mouth area with fish being sighted as early as Friday the 13th of November but the first caught on recorded on the 6th of January. He said majority were smaller fish this season, being 5-9lb, but a few big fish were caught with the best he recorded being just over 19 pound. He noted the mouth was closed for 21 days of the salmon season. Weigh-master Bill Whipp ended up measuring 106 salmon in at his south side Rangitata River hut for the season and said the fishing slowed off I the last couple of weeks of March.
I caught up Waitaki River identity Linn Koevoet who gave me a few good facts on the season. He said he knew of one angler getting 10 for the season, while Linn caught half a dozen himself. He said 72 salmon got weighed in at the Glenavy pub but he knew of more that didn't get measured as well. Linn is involved with the Waitaki salmon hatchery and could confirm that 3 fin clipped fish had been caught to his knowledge. Linn said that it wasn't a great season overall but it did finish well with a run of fish entering the river on Good Friday.
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 24 March 2016
After publishing the photo of the Waitaki mouth in the fishing report a couple of weeks ago I had a couple of anglers get in touch with me wondering how the salmon season was going down there. To find out the goss I gave Linn Koevoet a call. Linn is a Fish & Game Councillor, part of the Waitaki salmon hatchery team and can be found almost every day on the banks of the Waitaki during salmon season.
Linn says the season was very slow going but in the last two weeks it has picked up and now about 2 salmon are getting caught each day. The fish are between 3 and 16 pound this season and are in excellent condition. Linn says the river has been too warm for salmon, up around 21°C, which may contribute to the low catch rates.
Linn says with the end of the season approaching fast and with Easter weekend giving people free time the river will be very busy with angling activity this weekend.
If you intend to fish the Waitaki in the last days of the salmon season remember that Didymo can be a nuisance during periods of fluctuating river flows. If the river flows remain stable for several days you should be right. The river flows can be viewed on the ECan website.
In other salmon news the Mckinnons hatchery team offered up 4,000 of their salmon smolt for Fish & Game to help release into the Rangitata Water Limited's spawning race. The race which is located near the Arundel Bridge on the Rangitata was constructed to create new spawning grounds on the river for salmon.
The race is essentially brand new so the verdict isn't out yet on whether it will be well used. By releasing the smolt into the race this year it is hoped that it will help establish an annual run of fish into the race. So far this season a couple of adults have ventured into the race so the signs are looking promising and last season when mature adult fish were transplanted into the race in spawning season they spawned in the gravels provided for them.
Bill Whipp, Shaun Fitzgerald and Fish & Game Officer Hamish Stevens release salmon into the spawning race.
The enhanced spawning grounds at Outlet Creek and Scotts Creek at Lake Alexandra received their annual maintenance during the week, with the finishing touches to be done by the Alexandrina Conservation Trust this weekend. When the brown and rainbow trout dig their redds they move masses of gravel downstream into areas not suitable for spawning the following years so each year the spawning gravels need to be mechanically shifted back upstream several meters and smoothed out to maximise the available areas for spawning.
Just by observing the thousands of juvenile rainbow and brown trout living in the Creek along with all the bullies and galaxiids I'd say the work the Conservation trust and Fish & Game has put in over the years has paid off.
Leading into the holiday weekend, I'm guessing many readers will want an update on how the canals are fishing. Mark Webb was up there again on Wednesday and observed good catch rates Ohau C canal between the B and C power stations. He also said when the rain hit the Tekapo Canal came alive with perhaps hundreds of massive jumping fish. He said some anglers even stopped fishing and just watched in awe (or frustration) as trophy trout jumped everywhere except for onto their hooks. One lucky angler managed to fool one though and Mark got a photo to share.
I hope you all enjoy your Holiday weekend and get out for a fish. Region wide the Weather forecast is looking decent for the most part, with a bit of rain to kick things off today (Thursday). The Rangitata River is flowing high from Westerly rain on the main divide so may be unfishable for a couple of days. The sea-run salmon season closes on Thursday next week so why not get out for one last hurrah.
George Cruickshank with his 13.5lb brown from the Tekapo Canal.
Until next week, tight lines!
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 18 March 2016
Last week I talked of low river flows, and what do you know… the region gets a dousing of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many rivers like the Twizel, Te Ngawai and Taylors had a good flush while other rivers like the Hakataramea and Pareora only got a small bump in flows. Great news none the less and with the days getting shorter and cooler as autumn progresses water temperature should decrease too which the fish will benefit from.
The McKinnon's hatchery team are fin clipping 70,000 salmon smolt this coming Saturday and Sunday (19th and 20th). Your help is needed, so if you have the time you would be more than welcome to clip a few. All the finer details you need for the clipping days can be found on the McKinnon's Creek Hatchery website by clicking here. While surfing the website you can also find out how the hatchery team goes about enhancing the Rangitata River and other nearby salmon fisheries.
On that note I was at the Rangitata River mouth last Tuesday and just missed a couple of anglers landing salmon. The angler obliged though, and let me take a photo of their fresh fish to share with you. I did see a few hook ups and could feel the anglers heartbeats increase from a distance but then reduce when the fish was revealed to be a kahawai. There were around 20 anglers fishing the gut and nearby surf but only a couple anglers fished the braids between the poles and the mouth.
Blustery Westerlies and rain on the main divide are forecasted for the weekend so it may pay to target Saturday morning on the Rangitata. A woollen hat and wind proof jacket may prove useful this weekend.
Helen Austin and Phil Gapes display their Rangitata salmon 15-3-16.
The Canals continue to produce trophy trout on a daily basis. Fish & Game Officer Mark Webb was Ranging at the canals last weekend and came across angler Ashley Burgess all smiles with a mighty fine rainbow trout. Mark thought the 20 pound barrier had been broken but a phone call later to Ashley revealed the weight at 18 pounds. One cast was all that was needed to secure the meal for many nights but the following 5 hours fishing and a move from the Tekapo canal to Ohau B canal near Lake Ruataniwha resulted in no more fish nibbles.
Other than checking licences, Mark was also interviewing anglers to find out what they caught on the Weekend. He randomly interviewed two more trophy catching anglers, both whom caught rainbow trout. The smaller being 1 pound bigger than Ashley's and the largest testing the strength of the scales at 27.5 pound! Mark interviewed 21 anglers by phone who he encountered fishing the canals on Sunday. 10 of them landed a fish or two for the day with 1.5-4 pound salmon making up the bulk of the catch. Mark said there was no indicator that there had been any recent escapements of salmon from the farms. A thanks goes out to the anglers who have participated in our canal harvest survey so far this season.
Ashley Burgess only hooked this 18lb rainbow at the Tekapo Canal on his first cast.
Until next week, tight lines!
Fish and Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 11 March 2016
Teaching youngsters to fish can be rewarding, dramatic or even humorous. Hooks, line and sinkers can end up anywhere and everywhere. In my experience casting should be practiced without hooks, fish and water before an attempt is made to get a first time angler hooked into their first fish. A mate of mine over in Hokitika would vouch for this as his now teenage sons are highly accurate casters and started out 'fishing' at an early age by casting only a ball sinker into a bucket for reward.
Last Sunday at the Children's day event in Timaru, Hamish Stevens and I held castings lesson for kids. It was a simple set up, just a spin rod with a trout lures with the hooks removed. A few buckets were placed out on the lawn in front to act as targets. Over 3.5 hours we were flat tack teaching around 90 kids to cast. Some of them had a go last year and enjoyed it so much they came back for more. From what we could tell they all had a good time and no one got a new black n gold toby piercing. Kids as young as 3 years old were casting confidently after a couple of minutes tuition.
Hamish Stevens instructs casting at Children's day.
Back in January, South Canterbury got an overdue dousing of rain which improved river health and fishing conditions. Since then we have received little rain and most rivers have been steadily reducing in flow to the point where surface water takes for irrigation farmland have been restricted or ceased.
We are now again in a similar situation as we were back in December where we could continue to lose surface water flows in sections of our local lowland trout fishing rivers. Rivers like the Hakataramea and Pareora are already drying in sections and staff have been keeping an eye on these. If you intend to fish these rivers this weekend, the Hakataramea would be best in its lower reaches around the gorgy section and the Pareora best upstream of the huts.
If more rain doesn't arrive in the next week or two and river flows continue to decrease staff may need to relocate trout that have become isolated in small pools to permanent waters. If you come across any stranded fish let us know. Keep in mind we can only catch the fish if the water is shallow (knee-waist deep maximum) and there isn't many hiding places for fish like overhanging willows, deeply undercut banks, and deep holes.
During periods of low flows in December I discovered some pretty good fly fishing in the Opihi Catchment. Large brown trout were congregating in the biggest and deepest pools and were feeding aggressively from the surface. If I find the time I'll be looking to get into some of this action again.
March is the best month to target salmon on the Waitaki River and it was nice to see plenty of anglers fishing the Waitaki during the week while undertaking duck population surveys from a Cessna aeroplane. The majority of anglers were fishing the mouth, lagoon and first few pools above the lagoon but there was also a handful of anglers fishing from the shore and jet boats in the middle reaches too. Make sure you get out an enjoy the last three weekends of the 2016 sea-run salmon season before it finishes up on Thursday the 31st of March.
The Waitaki River mouth from the air - a couple of anglers can be seen on the South side bar.
Fish and Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 4 March 2016
I'm back on deck after having a delayed x-mas holiday in Taranaki. I even managed to catch a couple of colourful brownies on a cicada pattern in a ring plain stream. Wow, they are slippery algae covered rocks up there! Most of the rivers I have fished in the South Island don't get close to that slippery-ness.
I was up at the canals yesterday ranging and can report that the high numbers of anglers encountered over the holiday period have gone back to work. There was still around 50 angler throughout the canal system at any time but that leaves more than enough room for a wayward cast at even the most popular spots like the Ohau – Pukaki canal confluence. It was pretty quiet on the fishing front except for the loud splashes made by the 10lb rainbows leaping clear of the water at the Tekapo Canal near the salmon farm. All offering by anglers I witnessed were not taken, but the anglers were still excited to see several large fish jumping within casting range.
There was no evidence of any escapements of salmon from the farms. Usually you will find anglers congregating in a small area fishing intently if an escape has occurred. On the subject, we sometimes have anglers saying to rangers "you should have been here last week there were heaps of salmon getting caught”. If you think that an escapement has occurred please ring our Temuka office ASAP (036158400) and let us know. Like you, our rangers are keen to make sure everyone only takes their fair share and by letting us know straight away it allows us to organise a ranger to be present.
I had a quick look in a tributary of Lake Benmore yesterday and was rewarded with my first ever sighting of sockeye salmon. About 30 were in a 'pod' jostling for position and the hens were having the odd dig. There is no mistaking sockeye for any other sports fish when they are in spawning mode, the males at least. With striking red bodies and green heads the male fish are quite a sight.
There have been other sightings of sockeye spawning in the upper Waitaki catchment by anglers this year too. Staff will be undertaking spawning surveys on the historically important spawning creeks over the next few weeks. If these sockeye are successful in spawning their offspring will make up a valuable food source for the trout in the area. Don't be surprised if the Lake Benmore fish are in good condition next spring. Just a reminder to all, no licenceholder shall fish for sockeye salmon in any river or stream between 1 March and 30 April (section 3.4 of CSI regulation guide).
Sockeye Salmon congregate to spawn in a Lake Benmore tributary
We are on the home straight now for the sea-run salmon season. Although the runs have only been relatively small this year it is still well worth heading out to see if we get a strong late run. From personal experience I can say that catching one good salmon can make all the effort for the season worth it. Make the most of it while you have the chance.
If you intend to fish the Rangitata this weekend it might be best to target Saturday morning as there is a wet front forecast to hit the headwaters from Friday afternoon and throughout the weekend. I may sound like a broken record but check the river flows on the Ecan website to make sure flows are suitable. There is a link to the flow site on the bottom of this newsletter if you receive it by email.
Any licenceholders or members of the public who wish to attend the bi-monthly Central South Island Fish & Game Council meeting can find the information they need on our website which can be found by clicking here.
Until next week, tight lines!
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 26 Feb 2016
I often hear people say the weather improves as soon as the kids go back to school. That statement is certainly true of the past week or two with the mercury breaking 30 degrees on more than one occasion. With that heat comes the iconic sound of summer cicadas and every high country angler should have some imitations in their fly box at this time of year.
The beauty of cicada eating trout is they don't mind the fly hitting the water hard as the naturals are not known for their flying skills and tend to crash land in spectacular fashion. Trout will key in on this and any sudden displacement of water is fully investigated to see if it contains a cicada meal. This is great news if you're anything like me and struggle with those delicate presentations just be prepared for them to take it at any stage. Trout that receive a bit of angling pressure can still be fussy so try and fish when there is a slight ripple on the waters surface as this is when most cicadas will end up in the drink.
Officer Jayde Couper gets amongst some high country cicada action (Photo: Dave Shearer)
Cicada pattern, a must have in your fly box at this time of year
On the Canal fishing front there are still double figure trout being caught on a daily basis. A recent compliance trip carried out by staff located large schools of salmon in the Ohau A Canal. He estimated them to be in the 500-1000gram bracket and are likely to be the result of an escape from the Mt Cook Alpine Salmon Farm. While these fish are unlikely to get regular canal anglers too excited they would be the perfect size to introduce new anglers into the sport.
Searun salmon are still proving to be elusive at the Rangitata River with the daily catch in the ones and twos according to mouth diarist Bill Whipp. The flood of last week has receded with the river currently flowing at 85 cumecs. This should provide ideal fishing conditions come the weekend as long as the Nor Wester is a dry one. Anglers checking out the Rangitata this weekend would be well advised to check the ECan river flow page and the Mistake Flat rain gauge as Nor West rain could bring the river up again. As a guide if we receive more than 20mm at Mistake Flat you can expect the Rangitata River will rise and colour up.
Salmon reports from our other rivers are fairly scarce although I would expect the Waitaki fisherman to keep any runs pretty close to their chest. On a trout fishing outing last week I did see a nice salmon in the upper Opihi River so there must be a few getting through the mouth. In addition I saw plenty of trout although none of them wanted to follow my script and I returned unsuccessful.
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 19 Feb 2016
If I was listening correctly to Bill and Linda Whipp the following numbers of salmon were weighed in on the south side of the Rangitata mouth this past week; Friday 6, Saturday 1, Sunday 5, Monday 1, Tuesday 1, and Wednesday 4. At the time of writing the Rangitata is in flood flowing above 400 m3/s and a few keen anglers were still fishing the surf albeit in rough conditions. The small flurry of catches over the week has boosted the number to 39 for February on Bill Whipp's weigh-in board. The 9.5kg fish caught early in the season still holds its position on the board for the heaviest fish, but with plenty more salmon being caught this season on the north side and upriver there is a good chance a heavier fish has been caught.
On the subject of big fish, apparently 5 Yellowtail king fish were caught at the Rangitata mouth last weekend by anglers targeting salmon! I'm not sure if they were legal size or 'rats' but regardless of size, pound for pound kingfish are said to be one of the hardest fighting fish in the world. The Rangitata was low and clear last weekend but it will high and discoloured for some time this coming weekend and into next week. With significant Westerly rains drenching the main divide during the week and some forecast for later next week it will be best to keep a keen eye on the river flows and consider fishing the surf instead of the river. Click Here for a surf forecast link if you want to keep an eye on the surf conditions, it is for Jacks Point near Timaru.
It has been quiet down the Opihi and Orari mouths for salmon this February. Brian Bennett a regular anglers in the area knows of about 14 salmon caught at the Opihi mouth for the season and 3 caught by 1 angler at the Orari. Brian said as of Thursday morning the Opihi mouth was about 400 metres to the south with only a bit more than a trickle of water getting out to sea. He thinks it might block up sometime soon. It would be best to fish the surf down there with the mouth in its current condition. Wind from the westerly quarter and swell less than 1 metre will make that more pleasant. Sunday morning could see these conditions, all going well, and the sea not dirtying up too much from the Rangitata flood waters and current heavy swell.
Sockeye salmon are unique to the Central South Island Region. They are present in the upper Waitaki catchment, most notable Lakes Benmore, Ohau, Aviemore, Waitaki and their inflowing streams. Unlike Chinook salmon they do not primarily feed on prey fish, insects, or crustaceans but filter feed on plankton. This means they are generally not susceptible to normal fishing methods. Prior to spawning they become aggressive and will bite lures like Wooley buggers. This presents an opportunity to catch them. During late February sockeye will start their annual spawning migration and this provide a short window of opportunity to catch one. From the first of March fishing for sockeye salmon is prohibited in all streams and rivers to allow the fish to spawn without disturbance. After then you will have to fish in the lakes.
Places to target them are the lower Ohau, Ahuriri, Tekapo, Hopkins and Dobson Rivers. Although sockeye only make up an insignificant portion of angler catch their young make up a highly valuable food source for trout and Chinook salmon.
We had an angler phone into our office reporting that some schools of very large fish were spotted in the tributaries of Lake Ohau, the angler thought they could be salmon up to 20lb. If anyone gets up there for a fish and manages to catch one we would love to hear about it. Before you rush up there remember some of that area is private land so be sure to ask for access. On the subject of big fish again, Fairlie local Kevin Payne sent in a pic of his mate Mick Malone with a big ol' brownie. He was scarce on details of where, when and how heavy but it is such a nice fish I thought I'd share it with you anyway. And from the banks of the canals, another whopper has been caught – a 35.9 pound rainbow. The pictures should hit the media soon enough but I haven't seen it yet. I thought this could be a record but my colleague says a 38 pound rainbow was caught at the canals in 2003 weighing 38 pound and was weighed and smoked at the Main Street butcher in Temuka.
Mick Malone with a big ol' brownie
Staff have been keeping an eye on the diminishing levels of Lake Wardell up in the Mackenzie basin. On Tuesdays this week staff relocated the majority of resident brown and rainbow trout to neighbouring Loch Cameron. The waist deep muddy conditions were on the limit of acceptable salvage condition but we think we got almost all of the fish out. They were mostly brown trout weighing about 200-500 grams but a couple of rainbows were relocated as well.
Until next week, tight lines!
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 12 Feb 2016
It is a rare event in some anglers' careers to be have their fishing licence checked by a ranger more than once every couple of years. That makes sense when you consider that locally alone, there are around 17,900 licences sold in total a season. We also get influxes of visiting licenced anglers from Otago, North Canterbury, and the rest of New Zealand to our waterways. Where you fish will have a lot to do with how many times you get checked, for example in the last two months at the canals I have personally checked some people up to four times.
Most anglers have some questions stored up at the ready to ask should a ranger appear from the morning fog and ask for their licence. Some of the most popular questions are: do you catch many people fishing without a licence and what is the most common offence?
If we just considered December 2015 and January 2016, staff have been ranging at the canals and nearby waters, the Rangitata, Opihi, Kakanui, Waianakarua, and Waitaki Rivers. 914 licences checks were completed with the majority of these occurring at the ever-popular canals. 16 offences were detected over those two months with a corresponding compliance rate higher than 98%.
So the answer to the first question would be no, we don't catch many people fishing without a licence, approximately 1 out of 100 anglers. And for the second question, our most common offence detected is fishing without a licence, however lately at the canals we have also detected several anglers using two rods. There is no excuse for this behaviour, it's simple and fair – one rod each.
The usual scenario is that a bait anglers gets bored waiting for a bite while their rod sits in its rod holders and when they see a fish rise they can't resist having a cast with their second rod stored in the car set up for spin fishing or soft baiting. In some instances anglers will get greedy and simply want to double their chances so use two bait rods.
Anglers parked up at the Ohau canal near the High Country Salmon farm
The Rangitata River is flowing at around 60m3/s currently with no significant rain events forecast for the near future likely to boost flows. The river should be fishable with high water clarity over the weekend and into next week. I fished the river on Wednesday morning and could see the bottom easily in all but the deepest run and turbulent water. It would pay to fish early and late during low light hours with these current conditions as the salmon and trout may see you and spook if you are wading out beside the best water.
South side Rangitata local Bill Whipp says it's still just 1 or 2 salmon a day getting caught down at the mouth, with 19 recorded by south side anglers for February as of the 11th. Apparently one more was caught in the surf in the morning that will add to that tally. He said 38 anglers fished the south side on Wednesday morning and with the mouth going straight out, anglers were shoulder to shoulder at times.
Lowland river flows are still at flows conducive for good for fly fishing after recent rains.
The Mackenzie basin streams could do with a bit more rain but there should still be some good dry fly fishing as expected in mid-February with cicadas and other large terrestrial insects falling into the water.
Until next week, tight lines!
Fish and Game Officer
Phillip Burdon with a high country spring creek brown trout caught on a dry
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 5 Feb 2016
Regular readers will remember from the first weekly fishing report of this season back in October that I am new to the region. During work hours and in my weekends I have managed to get around a good part of the region and I have learnt a thing or two about the Central South Island sports fishery. I have managed to catch a few nice trout in the Opihi catchment and at the canals, but am yet to catch a sea run salmon from this region or venture into the seldom fished backcountry catchments better known for their tahr hunting.
Many anglers are also game bird hunters and will be aware that around this time of year Fish & Game staff jump in a Cessna and fly around surveying paradise shelduck and black swan populations. Although this sounds like a lark most staff have had to use the paper bags provided in the seat compartment during turbulence. I was one of those staff earlier this week and only just managed to maintain my record of never needing to use the bag. The bird's eye view of this scenic region was spectacular and gave me a new perspective of the fishery. Paradise shelduck and swan often share habitat with trout and salmon so I got a look at many of our favourite fishing spots. Large fish can be seen from the air in shallow water and the perfect sunny and windless conditions made this easier.
The overall impression of the fishery I got from the flights was that there are too many places to fish, and too little time. Lakes, canals, creek, lagoons and large rivers are all on offer for the angler, what more do you need? Anglers were spotted in the popular fisheries but acres and acres of water were left undisturbed.
The canals, the mouths of the Rangitata, Orari, and Opihi Rivers all had good numbers of anglers. The odd angler was spotted in other lakes like Ohau, Benmore and Heron. They were fishing the shallow flats/delta areas from the shore or drifting in small boats. The most memorable of sight was the number of anglers seen in the upper Ahuriri and adjacent lagoons. It would be best to fish this river with the expectation of bumping into other anglers as there may be only a couple of km's of river separating the groups of anglers using the various access points. I could see some good size fish in the river up there and the scenery was as good as it gets so it makes sense why anglers flock to this place in mid-summer.
High country scenery and good fishing makes the Ahuriri River popular for angling.
The recent rains were evident in the fact that many of the wetlands we flew over were full and backfilling neighbouring land. Also rivers like the Pareora were flowing again near the State Highway. The mouths of the Pareora, Orari, Opihi and Ashburton were all flowing out to sea. Good news, for sea-run trout and salmon anglers.
The river flows, water clarity and weather forecast is looking favourable for salmon and trout anglers for Waitangi weekend. Some cooler temps should make fishing in the afternoon more pleasant than the last few 'scorchers' we have experienced. The days are getting shorter with autumn looming. Those anglers that like to have a cast on first light will be interested to know sunrise is about 6:30am (Timaru). Make the most of the ideal fishing conditions this weekend!
On a side note my colleague Hamish says the paradise shelduck and swan numbers are up from the last couple of years. Good luck to the hunters heading out tomorrow for the summer game bird hunting season. Click here to find information on the dates and regulations for the summer season.
Fish and Game Officer
The Rangitata River mouth February 2, 2016
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 29 Jan 2016
It has been another wet and cold week with healthy amounts of rain falling in the low country and foot hills throughout the region. This is great news for our low country fisheries and backs up last week's significant rainfall event.
The Ashburton catchment has had a good flush with Bowyers Stream alone reaching 25 cumecs on Thursday. The rain starved Hakataramea and Maerewhenua Rivers both received enough rain to boost flows during the week. There is a small amount of low country rain forecast on Saturday and the rivers are already dropping meaning there should be some good trout fishing conditions across the region this weekend.
Don't forget your rain jacket on Saturday. The increased flows should improve your chances with all types of fishing but at this time of year never be afraid to throw out a large terrestrial dry fly pattern.
Next week is forecast to be a stunner and we may just get summer back. The sound of cicada song is the sound of summer to many fishos. Cicada have been quiet so far but I did hear a few in the forestry near Geraldine earlier in the week. When the sun comes out next week don't forget to take some cicada patterns with you.
Cicada, a rare sight this January
The Opihi River mouth has been open during the week but could block up anytime now. Reports of salmon catches have be scarce however. Rumour has it a couple were caught not far from the Waipopo huts after last week's rain. The high flow event did knock some of the dark coloured algae off the rocks in the Opihi River, especially in the faster water. This has made spotting fish easier and more pleasant.
I bumped into Wayne, a Temuka local up at the canals last weekend who reckoned his mate had caught a small salmon in the surf at the Orari. This was the first Orari salmon both he and I had heard of for the season.
The Rangitata has been too discoloured for good zeddy fishing through the week but at the time of writing the river flows are dropping swiftly below 130 cumecs. There have been plenty of high flow events in the Rangitata this season and by now salmon will have run through to the middle reaches. Fishing up as far as the gorge will be worthwhile. If you're keen and are seeking scenic surrounding as well, then there could be a few salmon above the gorge by now.
Rangers have been frequenting the canals this season and many of you would have noticed this. Some anglers have had their licence checked on multiple occasions. Our rangers all reckon that last week the fishing has picked up a bit from a lull around the Christmas/New year period. Although bag limits are only attained by a small number of anglers a day there have been some nice fish caught over the past week, plenty over 10 pound.
Lake Ohau must be discoloured from headwater rain as on Thursday one of our rangers commented that the Ohau A canal was discoloured. The school holidays are finishing up shortly which should see the numbers of angler decrease at the canals. Last week there were a ton of kids fishing, more than what was seen around Christmas/ New year. This was great to see, especially when they were catching more than fishing mum and dad.
Fish and Game Officer
Lachlan Buckingham with his Pukaki-Ohau Canal salmon
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 22 Jan 2016
It was quite exciting to watch the rain come down and the rivers rise up this week. It would be a safe bet that the ECan river flow website got plenty of hits through the week from farmers and fishermen alike. The rain was significant for South Canterbury and some rivers like the Orari and Waihi became reconnected in their bone dry middle reaches. A few rivers reached the highest flows in over a year. By the weekend the flows should be good for fishing most lowland waterways.
Bone dry for the last few months, the Waihi River at Coach Road flows again.
The Rangitata stayed fishable through the deluge as the main divide received far less rain than the foothills. As far as I know its same old for salmon anglers at the Rangitata with 1 or 2 salmon a day being caught. We had an angler ring the office to let us know he had caught a fin clipped salmon on Thursday morning in the lower river which is good news for the hatchery team. Another Westerly front is set to hit the divide this weekend so it would pay to check the flows before you hit the river this weekend.
The Opihi River had a good flush and we hope that some of the Didymo and other resident algae got knocked off the rocks. The Opuha Dam Company released a 30 cumec flush down the Opuha River from Lake Opuha in timing with the rain event which should have helped clean up the Didymo in that stretch of river and enhance the effect of the high flows in the lower Opihi.
The Opihi mouth is open and looking good for fishing over the next while. When it closes up again is anyone's guess so if you intend to catch an Opihi salmon this season best to get to the Opihi sooner rather than later. I was down there on Wednesday and Thursday morning and the couple of anglers I bumped into were very optimistic about the high flows bringing in a run of salmon. I met our Opihi mouth angling diarist on the river bank and he can account for 7 salmon caught so far this season, the best he thought looked to be a 15 pounder caught in the gut.
The mouth has cut well, and when I was there the surf looked inviting with low swell and light offshore winds. The mouth is veering slightly to the south. The water was a bit murky on Wednesday but had cleared sufficiently for a cast in the surf on Thursday and looked worthwhile.
There are several surf forecast websites out there that would be worth a view if you intend to do some surf fishing. I often use the Jacks Point (Timaru) forecast on the Metservice website but there might be others that are more indicative of your spot. The swell height, wave period and wind conditions all factor into the fish-ability of the surf.
Brian Bennet tries his luck at the Opihi mouth on Thursday 21st of January
Fish and Game Officer
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 15 Jan 2016
I caught up with Waitaki River angler Graeme Hughes during the week. He says he has been using his jet boat to fish the Waitaki between the Dam and Duntroon lately and has also caught up with a few anglers who have been doing the same.
Graeme reports that the river has been popular with Jet Boaters over the holiday period most notably on weekends, and they are mostly anglers. The big attraction at the moment is the prevalence of hard fighting rainbow trout in the river. Graeme said the locals are all agreeing that the fish are half a pound bigger this year compared with what they normally encounter. The rainbows getting caught are mostly in the 3-4.5 pound range and are in excellent condition. Getting broken off seems to be common and that makes sense in a river with about 400 cumecs of water and feisty trout.
The Waitaki River flows have been fluctuating a lot lately and this has made Didymo clumps break apart and float downstream. This has become a real nuisance for anglers. Fly fishing is the best method for avoiding Didymo and even better if you can use floating line and fish dry flies. Graeme and co. have been using #16 and #18 hare and copper and pheasant tail nymphs to entice the rainbows, and those with a flash back have been accounting for some fussy fish.
Graeme Reports that sea run salmon have made it to the upper river but are certainly not numerous. One, maybe two have been caught so far. Anglers have been observed targeting salmon at the usual haunts.
Fish & Game Officer Mark Webb was ranging the canals on Wednesday the 13th of January and commented that rainbow trout and salmon in the 2-7 pound range were caught occasionally but there were plenty more were observed. He also notice a guy doing a happy dance and guessed he may be celebrating a good catch. Sure enough, the dancer Ewan Stewart of Dunedin had caught a 15 pounder monster of a rainbow and was kind enough to let Mark take his photo so we could share it with you.
Ewan Stewart with his 15 pound rainbow trout
The Opihi River mouth was mechanically opened to the sea on about the 4th of January but has naturally closed again as of Monday this week. I havn't heard any confirmed reports of salmon getting caught in the Opihi this year but I'd guess there has been one or two.
I fished the Rangitata for the first time on Thursday morning. The flow was about 75 cumecs at Klondike, and in my eyes looked like ideal clarity at about 1 metre visibility. However, having only recently moved from the West Coast I still have to get my head around what clarity and flows make for ideal salmon fishing in the Rangitata. Generally on the West Coast I would be confident fishing water clarity of around 1-3 metres with a 24 gram zed spinner. I gather from yarning on the river bank with Rangitata regulars that this would be considered too clear for many and light tackle would be used.
My mate and I didn't strike it lucky and we didn't notice the two other anglers battling a salmon either. There were fresh boot and quad marks in the sand where we fished so now that I've found a few likely looking pieces of water I will be there at the crack of dawn to be the first to swing a zeddy for the day.
Like last Friday there is some rain predicted in the Rangitata headwaters today, but again at the time of writing it is too early to tell if the Rangitata will be fishable over the weekend.
Some plan B options for salmon anglers could be to fish for trout in the lowland streams that are still flowing at levels reasonable for fly fishing or light tackle spin. The Pareora, Te Ngawai and Taylors all got small but helpful boosts in flows from last Wednesday's rain.
Fish and Game Officer
Likely looking water on the lower Rangitata
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 8 Jan 2016
I hope you all got out for a fish over the last couple of weeks. I was ranging up the canals several days over the holiday period and can report the fishing has been a mixed bag up there. 2-3 pound salmon are making up the bulk of the catch and trophy trout are getting caught most days by one or two persistent anglers. To my knowledge there hasn't been any big escapements of salmon from the farms.
I had a go at canal fishing myself at night using lumo doll flies and I also tried bait fishing on sunset. Both attempts were fruitless. I did however catch a brownie by fly fishing the Tekapo Canal on a sunny windless morning. I walked the canal and sighted a few fish cruising the canal edges and managed to fool one on a #16 pheasant tail. This is a great way to fish the canals and there are plenty of underutilised Km's of canals to target.
Ainsley Armishaw hooked up on a Boxing Day rainbow trout, Tekapo Canal
Salmon fishing at the Rangitata continues to be slow and steady, one or two a day seems to be the norm and this was the case when rangers visited the lower river on Wednesday the 6th of December. McKinnon's salmon Hatchery volunteer and Fish & Game Councillor Bill Whipp has 25 on his weigh-in board for the season so far at his south side hut. The biggest tipping the scales at 9.5kg (about 21 pound). Word on the river bank is that the North side anglers have caught a few more than the south this season.
The McKinnon's hatchery crew are hard at it building new holding pens for the upcoming spawning season. Three salmon have poked their noses in the Creek so far this season. Bill said a bit of work is needed at the confluence of the hatchery creek and the Rangitata to improve the entry for the spawning fish to the Creek at low flows.
The first big run for the season could come soon and if you're like me you will be watching the weather reports and flow charts. Rain is predicted to fall in the headwaters of the Rangitata today and we all hope this will encourage a new run of fish. It's too early to tell if the river flows and clarity will be good for fishing this weekend.
Pleasingly, southerly rain has come frequently in the region in the last couple of weeks which has maintained reasonable summer flows for trout fishing in our lowland rivers. There are no signs of a drought yet and little need for staff to relocate stranded fish, great news.
The rain also hit the McKenzie basin hard last Sunday which timed in perfectly with the Fish & Game kids fishing day at Loch Cameron. 330 kids signed in at the tent for the day and there appeared to be just as many parents and supervisors. Some nice salmon were caught by a few lucky kids. Thanks to the event sponsors; Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, High Country Salmon, Benmore Salmon, Mackenzie Supply Services, Meridian Energy, Jakes Hardware and Southern Alps Outdoors.
There were still plenty of salmon left in the Loch after the event. One of our local rangers said the Loch was busy on Monday as the kids returned to fish in more favourable weather. There will be a few less salmon in there now. At Loch Cameron child anglers can use all legal methods but adult anglers are restricted to fly fishing only. There are a few resident brown trout in the Loch, one was caught on the day. I had a quick reconnoitre before the event and spotted three brownies patrolling about 100m of lake edge. It would be worth a fish but be aware swimming is a popular activity at the Loch on a hot summer's day.
Liam Grosvenor persevered in the rain and was rewarded with a nice salmon
|Central South Island
Fish & Game weekly report: 5 Jan 2016
For those anglers new to a certain fishing method, new to a waterway, or not having much luck with their usual tactics, a bit of information on what other people are using can be a game changer and instil confidence. I whole-heartedly believe that confidence in your gear actually makes a difference to your success. It could simply be that you fish for an extra half an hour by spending more time with your gear in the water rather than constantly changing your tackle. As the old adage goes "you have got to be in to win".
I contacted a few Central South Island licence agents recently to see what was filling the tackle boxes of anglers who fish our popular waterways over the holiday period.
Richard from Hamills at Washdyke reckons Rangitata salmon anglers are buying 24-28 gram deep dish Zed spinners for river angling. The deep dish style is adapted from the standard zed but as the name suggests has a deeper curve and by nature should 'swim' different. Richard says white and green coloured lures sell well and compared to silver or chrome lures don't lose brightness as quick when bumped along river bed stones all day long. The classic 22-44g silver zeddies continue to sell well, with the lighter and smaller zeds working best when the river gets low and clear.
For the anglers who target salmon in the surf at the Rangitata, Orari and Opihi, Richards says the amazing baits range ticers are top sellers. The weight forward designs and range of lures sizes allow anglers to maximise casting distance. The silver lures are popular but Richards says the White and Green coloured hex wobblers in any brand sell well too.
Top selling salmon tackle, Deep dish zed spinners and an Amazing Baits ticer
Dave from Temuka Fishing and Outdoors said anglers who fish the likes of Lake Opuha, McGregor, Poaka, Alexandrina and Emma will usually buy a few Hamills Killer and Mrs Simpson flies. He said on any given day you could strike a cicada hatch and get some dry fly action or simply troll your favourite colour tassie or black and gold with success, but if all else fails fly fishing or harling with a Mrs Simpson or Hamills Killer will get results. Both fly patterns resemble various food items for trout, including prey fish like bullies and trout fry, dragonfly nymphs and damselfly nymphs.
Tried and true, Mrs Simpson and Hamills Killer fly patterns
For the Mckenzie basin canals, Andrea from Southern Alps Outdoors in Twizel says its best to choose your favourite lure/bait fishing style and get some size and colour variations of those lures/baits. If you are soft baiting Andrea reckons to have at least two difference size jig heads to match the flow in the canals as flows can change throughout the day. A good starting point is to have 1/12oz and 1/6oz jig heads. The colour choice of the soft bait varies with each angler but Andrea says it pays to have two colours, a dull and a bright. Soft baiting at night is increasing in popularity and with it the sales of savage luminescent soft baits.
Richard from Oamaru Sports and Outdoors says anglers who troll from boats in our big lakes like Benmore, Ohau, and Tekapo buy rapalas in both brown and rainbow trout design. He has also had pink coloured Tasmanian devils selling well and has had reports recently that Benmore anglers are catching heaps more fish on pink tassies than any other colour. Lead lines are making a comeback in sales, as most people have favoured trolling near the surface in recent years.
Anglers who fish the shallow lake margins from boats and shoreline have been buying Black magic spin tactics and jelly beans lures. The traditional lures like black n gold toby and small silver hex wobblers with prism tape still sell consistently for lake anglers. Lures from 10-20 grams are most popular.
All the best for your fishing adventures in the New Year!
reports from previous seasons...