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North Canterbury Fish & Game News and Reports

The fishing reports on this page are from North Canterbury Fish & Game. See also previous years reports
  North Canterbury Fish & Game news

Latest fishing news

Fish & Game New Zealand
North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 13 April 2017

Well we certainly got some water in the lowland and high country streams over the last couple of weeks! Unfortunately most of the regions rivers and streams will still be flowing high, and some dirty from the last heavy falls, at least for the first half of this long weekend. Keep an eye on the Ecan website this weekend for up to date river flow levels. The main snow fed rivers were have also been effected by rain this week, and there is more forecast as I write. The time to watch for possible heavy falls as cyclone Cook tracks South, will be from 6pm tonight till 6am Friday. The Rakaia river is flowing at around 257 cumics and the Waimakariri river around 198 cumics. (These flows are at 7.30am Thursday)
There maybe fishable conditions late in the weekend, depending on how much rain falls inland later today, crossed fingers!  The main rivers may clear quickly from the last peak as they are not too high at this stage, but how much more will they rise over the next 24 hours, is crystal ball gazing. The best way of assessing fishability this weekend will be to go and have a look the night before.
As far as the forecast weather goes, it looks pretty good from Saturday on, only light rain is predicted, with reasonable weather to look forward to.
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South Rakaia Huts angler Murray Holland.
Very happy with his first salmon of the season caught in early March.

Groynes Junior Fishery, Salmon Releases.
The Groynes ponds have been fishing well the past few weeks. There will be one more release of salmon before the end of the month. Keep an eye on next weeks report for details.
Please remember that the Groynes fishing area is a junior fishery only. It is acceptable for an adult to assist junior anglers, but it is not acceptable for adults to fish. Rangers do frequent the area. There has already been confiscated gear and an offence notice issued over the past week.
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Ryan Ashby with his first salmon of the season, a long wait and well deserved.
Compliance issues
Most weekends we receive a report from the public or anglers regarding perceived regulation breaches. We always attempt to get to the scene as quick as possible, and if we can't get there, we contact our Honorary ranger team in order to find the closest ranger to the location. Unfortunately many times we are too late and the alleged offender has departed. This happened again recently, even though we had a ranger on site with in 15 minutes the offenders had left. It is a good idea if you do witness an alleged offence, to keep it low key, in other words don't alert the person to your concern to the point that they decide to depart. A better option is to casually go back to your tackle box and make a discrete phone call to the numbers below. Don't use the 0800 number on the weekend, or after hours, contact the names below. We want these cheats caught as much as you do! Adults without children fishing and taking fish at the Junior fishery at the Groynes! ….. That is simply stealing from children.   
If you see any illegal activities please Call Fish and Game on 0800 327426, or Dirk Barr, 021 221 8378, Steve Terry, 021 221 8327, Tony Hawker, 021 221 8325. We will try and get a ranger there asap
Fish and Game Field News.
Staff started the first of the aerial salmon spawn counts this week. Early indications are as suspected, there are not many there. Details will be available after the peak counts are determined and completed over the next 4 weeks.
A few salmon have just started entering the Fish and Game traps at Montrose and Silver Stream over the past few days. It is still too early to assess these runs also.
All salmon smolt release stocks from our hatcheries stocks are doing well and reaching their predetermined target growth weights. These stocks are all released in July at 1 year of age and at 50 grams. This formula has historically proven the optimum  return rates. Other stocks destined for the West Coast regions salmon enhancement program are being transported to their catchments next week. Some great reports are coming in from that side of the Alps about the increase of fin clipped salmon being caught from the rivers enhanced.
Rainbow and Brown trout yearlings are also being grown for release into many of our lakes and rivers in November 2017.
Any Salmon Around?
The Waimakariri river has been the best producer lately. Most of them are small fish, as they have been throughout all our rivers this season. There has been the occasional good one around 18 pounds this season, but they are certainly few and far between. There are still a few fish being caught most days in the lower reaches, at all of the common angling points at the Waimak. Reports from the Rakaia are very few of late, and it seems that this salmon run peaked ( if you can call it that) some time ago. The Hurunui river is still producing the odd fish, mid reaches. The Waimak middle to upper reaches (Eastern Zone only) are probably the best options for a salmon when the river is fishable next.

North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 24 March 2017

This weekend's weather is looking quite dull in the low land band with drizzle from the SE on Saturday, and the same from the NE on Sunday. These conditions maybe favourable for those trying to catch a salmon, as the rivers are very low and clear at present. Those looking to fish inland will find Saturday the best for fishing conditions. Sunday's high country forecast is predicting strong NW winds with the chance of rain spreading to the East.

Currently the Waimakariri river is flowing at 37 cumics and the Rakaia river is fluctuating, with the Lake Coleridge power station generation, between about 100 and 118 cumics. Although heavy rain is not forecast until Sunday in the headwaters, anglers are advised to be aware that there maybe rising rivers during the day. Check the ECAN river flow and rainfall sites for current information.

The Waimakariri, Hurunui, Waiau and Rakaia rivers all have salmon throughout them now. The Waimakariri is showing the best angling results at present due to good numbers of fin clipped Hatchery salmon congregating in the lower reaches and getting ready to make their run home.

Salmon are often reluctant to run in low clear river conditions, and often come into the river on each run off tide, and then go back out to sea when they decide conditions are not ideal for them. Many of these have been caught over the past 10 days.

Salmon are nearing spawn time now, and the time will come soon that they will need to make their run home regardless of river conditions. All of the main four salmon rivers are well worth fishing this weekend. Encouraging numbers have been evident in the lower reaches of the Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers over the past 2 weeks which is very pleasing to see after the slow start to the season.

For anglers looking to stretch a fly line or spin fish in low country streams this weekend, rivers such as the upper Ashley, or the upper Selwyn still offer some good sport.  High country conditions are not ideal this weekend but we have certainly seen worse this season. Saturday is worthy a look for sure. Sunday will be affected by Nor West winds. Lake fishing usually provides some wind sheltered areas which will be a good option.
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A first salmon ever for this angler on the Rakaia river in March.
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Dave Lee with a limit bag from the Rakaia this season. 2 very nice fish with the largest weighing 15 pound.

What's on the Agenda for Fish & Game at present.

Staff are getting ready for salmon spawn counts, and waiting for the hatchery salmon to enter the traps. This is always a busy time for staff, and the dedicated army of volunteers. No salmon have turned up in the traps at this point of time. This is normal for Montrose as they arrive very late in the season, but it is not normal for Silver Stream.

Hopefully the low clear river conditions are the reason for this, and there will be a late migration the next time the rivers rise. Last seasons salmon smolt are doing well and are due for release in July. Thanks to the huge support shown by volunteers fin clipping this season, all of the stocks have been fin clipped. It is important to note that only half of the releases have been fin clipped the past 2 seasons due to forced early releases as a result of low oxygen levels at the Montrose hatchery.

This means that in relation to this seasons returns, for every fin clipped salmon caught, there is another one caught that is not marked. Currently 150,000 smolt are being grown at Montrose for releases at various NC rivers including the Hurunui, Waimakariri, and Rakaia rivers, in July.

There are also another 50,000 smolt being grown at the new Whiskey Creek site and a further 30,000 smolt down at Bully Creek in the lower Rakaia. This is a huge increase of smolt releases for the salmon enhancement program. All of these stocks will be released around July 2017.  It is very important to recognise that this increase of production at the Hatchery has only been made possible by the massive personal input, of hundreds of volunteers, whom have helped out in someway at the hatchery this season. Thanks to all of you whom have given so much time to the enhancement of our salmon and trout fishery this season! 

The month of April is an exceptionally busy one as angling related topics are still very high on staff priorities lists, and at the same time the Gamebird season is also near.

North Canterbury Fish and Game are getting very close now to a move in date at our new base at 595 Johns Road. Building stages are progressing well and the word is that we may be in the new headquarters around mid May.
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A very happy angler, Paul Sumner from the North Island had a great Southern salmon fishing trip landing 2 salmon from the Rakaia in February.

Note the adipoise fin has been clipped as a smolt about 2 years prior. This method of marking fish not only helps Fish and Game staff to monitor fisheries population abundance, but also provides anglers with additional harvest opportunities as 50% of the adults are caught annually.

As only 50% of smolt releases in 2014 and 15 were fin clipped, for every 1 fin clipped salmon caught in the Rakaia and Waimakariri this season, there is another caught which is non clipped, or marked. These figures are taken into account when the annual angler harvest phone survey is undertaken in May. 1100 anglers are randomly selected for this survey annually. and this data is correlated with headwater spawn counts, and hatchery trap returns, which provides Fish and Game with valuable populations data.

Junior Fishery at the Groynes

A significant release of 600 2kg salmon took place at the Groynes 2 weeks ago. Some great fishing has been had by our junior anglers but we haven't finished yet! Just prior to next weekend the final release of the season will see around 220 salmon released into the the  No 1 pond nearest Clearwater. Watch for details in next weeks fishing report. Soft baits and bait fishing with worms should work well. Remember the Groynes ponds are strictly reserved as Junior Fishery. Adult licence holders may not fish there under any circumstances.

An Important Notice to Anglers

If you are driving a vehicle into areas like riverbed environments which have long dry grass around them, it is a real possibility that the heat for your exhaust pipe may cause a fire to start. Spark arresters are a simple addition to vehicles and they basically just slip over the end and are attached by a hose clamp. This is something that all off road drivers should consider. 4x4 kit out, and accessories retailers will be able to advise you of what's needed.  

Tight Lines for the weekend!

Dirk Barr
North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 17 March 2017

The Canterbury plains averaged around 60mm of rain this week.  Bringing some much needed relief for drought stricken areas.  It also boosted flows for our foothill streams such as the Ashley which had become disconnected below Rangiora.

This weekend there is a weak front travelling up the country on Saturday.  This will bring cooler temperatures and a strong Southerly for Saturday morning.  But the wind eases throughout the day leaving some settled weather for the afternoon.  Sunday is fine with some North West winds picking up later in the day. 

All the salmon rivers will be fishable this weekend.  The rain we had earlier this week put a little colour in the Waiau and the Hurunui which are now at ideal flows.  The Rakaia and Waimakariri received less rainfall so will be low and clear this weekend.  The Ashley is a healthy four cumecs at the Gorge which peaked at 17 cumecs earlier this week, providing a much needed fresh.  Other foothill streams would have had a similar event.  All these streams will be clear and fishable now.

The lower Waimakariri is producing reasonable catches of salmon in the lower reaches.  The Rakaia also has some salmon throughout the river.  The low water will make it challenging, so first and last light is a must for the Rakaia. 

The cooler southerly changes tomorrow will also provide better fishing conditions.

For the high country there looks to be a reasonable window of weather Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.  These periods of calm weather would be a good time to target the lakes.  The lakes have been fishing well for fly anglers lately. 

Sometimes at this time of year it doesn't look like there is much activity in the lakes, especially on a cold morning when there is not much surface feeding going on.  I find this is quite deceiving though.  The trout (especially browns) are still there cruising around.  A dry fly cast out blind just on the shelf will often be sucked down in seconds.  In fact I find March to be the best month for dry fly fishing on both lakes and rivers as this seems to be when fish are most responsive to them.  There are still some cicadas around if the afternoons are hot enough. 

Rainbow trout tend to go a bit deeper at this time of year as the lakes are quite warm.  Trolling deep is often the best method.  On calm days though rainbows will still respond to dry flies with a good 20m cast.
Backcountry rivers will be fishable this weekend.  In the northern part of the region the flows will be clear but will still be quite heavy. 

We have managed to drift dive a couple of backcountry rivers now and numbers appear to be down about a third from last year and have returned to similar numbers that we saw before the mouse plague a couple of years ago.  I am in no doubt that the continuous floods for the first half of the summer are the reason for this.  Especially in more braided rivers such as the upper Rakaia or Waimakariri where fish have been harder to find.

Earlier this week we held our annual Rangers Salmon Fishing Competition at the North side of the Waimakariri mouth.  Despite the cold wet conditions we had 112 participants.  Only two salmon were caught on the North side of the mouth that day. 

Angler Peter Lee caught the winning fish with a well condition 12lb salmon.  Fish & Game staff have never seen so many sausages eaten at one of these events.  No doubt the cold weather played a part in this.  Entry is free to this event and it is held every year usually around mid March so keep an eye out for this next year.

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North Canterbury Rangers Fishing Competition
Tight lines!

Tony Hawker


North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 10 March 2017

This Sunday 12th March at 9am, Fresh Waters, in conjunction with North Canterbury Fish & Game will be holding a day for junior anglers at the Groynes Fishing Lakes. Bring all the family and enjoy a fun kids fishing day. It's free for all children, including the fishing licence for kids under 17 years old for the day.

500 fantastic looking salmon weighing up to 2kgs, with an average of around 1.5kgs will be released into three of the lakes on Saturday evening prior to the event Sunday morning. Fish for this event have been sponsored by GVI Logistics and our Fresh Waters programme is proudly supported by Dux Dine, John Jones Steel, Team Hutchison Ford and Protranz Earthworks.

The Groynes fishery will be closed for fishing from 6pm Saturday evening, with rangers patrolling the area at night. Staff and volunteers will be at the event on Sunday to give advice, show kids what to do and help them land fish etc. Good luck to those families attending this event.

It has been almost a month since the last fresh in the main rivers and they are now low and clear. The Waimakariri River has been the standout salmon fishery with around ten taken each day from the mouth over the last week or so, and improving numbers right up to the Old SH1 Bridge. Other rivers have gone a little quiet with reports of only the odd salmon being caught recently. Having spent the first half of the season reporting fresh after fresh and unfishable rivers, I now find myself looking forward to the next fresh to bring a few more salmon into the rivers!

The weather forecast for this weekend is for rain everywhere in the region as the cyclone that hit the North Island slowly moves down the South Island. This may provide some relief for farmers and give a welcome boost to river flows, hopefully along with a bit of colour to the salmon rivers.
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Anglers fishing at McIntosh's Rocks in the lower Waimakariri River

We still hope to see reasonable numbers of salmon show up in all the rivers sometime over the next month, with the Waimakariri generally fishing well in the latter half of the season. While the rivers are low and clear we expect to see salmon numbers build up around the mouths and tidal reaches, with salmon coming into the gut and lagoon areas at high tide and retreating back to the ocean as the tide recedes. This can result in some great fishing in these areas and prime spots in these lower reaches are likely to be well contested! Anglers wanting to target salmon upriver would be best to be on the water at first light and use light tackle as there will be little activity throughout the day.

The annual Waimakariri River Rangers Competition is to be held next Monday, 13th March from 7am – 1:30pm. All anglers are welcome to take part in this social event with registration on the beach. The fishing area is from the north side of the mouth up to the Yacht Club. There is no entry fee, some great prizes and Fish & Game will have a BBQ running.

Good luck if you are heading out for a fish this weekend.
Steve Terry,
North Canterbury Fish & Game Officer

North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 3 March 2017

No doubt many of you have plans to go away this long weekend. The weather once again is dominated by North West winds.  It doesn't look to be raining in the main divide until Monday, but it is going to be windy inland and in high country areas while further towards the coast it will be calmer and very hot.

All of the Alpine rivers are running high and coloured at the moment. It will be marginal as to whether or not they will be fishable for salmon by the end of the weekend.  I'm guessing they probably won't be as the base levels of the rivers seem quite high this year due to the amount of saturation and rain in the high country.  There maybe some opportunities for catching salmon in the surf.

Backcountry rivers are also running high at the moment and may become fishable during the weekend but they will have big flows. This will present challenging conditions for fly anglers. Spin anglers should make the most of higher flows as the fish are more active. 

Usually at this time of year the fish tend to go docile with lower water conditions and high temperatures. This year seems to be completely different as the regular floods are keeping the water temperature down to around 14 degrees which is great for trout.  They are also hungry and active at the moment due to the constant freshes. 

Bear in mind that the high country will be windy this weekend but there might be the odd window of calmer conditions especially in the evenings of early morning.

Foot hill streams are in really good condition at the moment.  The Ashley has a nice healthy flow for this time of year as does the upper Selwyn.  The condition of fish this year in these rivers continues to be excellent.  Lowland streams such as the Cam, Silverstream and Otukaikino will be good options this weekend with the warm conditions and good flows. 
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Waimakariri River
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Rakaia River

Tony Hawker
North Canterbury Island Fish & Game Officer

North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 27 Jan 2017

Not looking that good for fishable conditions in the main rivers this weekend. At the time of writing (8am Friday) the Rakaia river is flowing at 409 cumics, the Waimak is 242 at Otarama and the Hurunui is at 74. The best chance of fishability will be in the Hurunui this weekend. The forecast for the Canterbury high country and Arthurs Pass is relatively good for Saturday and most of Sunday, however the wind direction will still be mostly Nor West. Another active front threatens heavy rain in the Alps by Sunday evening. This may be brief but snow fed rivers could rise yet again. Trout angling conditions will be better than salmon angling it seems, with the exception of surf casting possibilities at the Northern river mouths especially. Wind levels in the high country will be moderate over the weekend with Saturday looking like the better day.

t looks like it is one of those seasons that we are going to be plagued by poor, if not marginal river and weather conditions. That being the case we going to have to advise our families that when its good we are gone. I mean how much gardening can one actually do? In the past I recall a season like this that the main snow fed rivers only provided 16 fishable days for the season, and most of them were during the week. One positive from this is that salmon get a free passage, lets hope they are in there now and bolting for it.

All our High Country Lakes are worth a look this weekend. The dry fly indicator nymph method is the most effective for fly anglers. A Humpy pattern or Black Gnat used as the indicator, with a small Hare and Copper or Black and Peacock nymph about 700mm below can well. The length of trace used will depend on the depth of water. Terrestrial style patterns will also come into their own over the next few weeks. Larger patterns are used to imitate blowflies and cicada and sometimes it is the heavy splat of your fly that attracts excitement from trout. However make sure the cast is some distance from the fish as not to spook it. It often helps to spot the trout and let it cruise by while you are low and concealed, then cast out a few meters out to the side whilst it is swimming away from you. 

There are still some very nice fish being caught in the high country lakes, but they are getting difficult. It is a great time to try and sharpen up on your skills. Less casting is often a good tactic. However there are always periods of trout madness, especially when there is a new food source abundant, due to weather conditions. Anything can happen on these days! 

Sea Run trout options may be ok if river levels drop enough over the weekend. The rivers are usually trout fishable a day or two before they are termed salmon fishable. Trout seem to have the ability to see feed in very discoloured water, or maybe they can sense the movement. Silvery's often run in these discoloured conditions, and the Sea Runs are usually not far behind them. So it maybe worth a look.

Tagged Brown Trout
Keep an eye out for the 1,800 tagged trout that have been released into the Rakaia river. Many of these trout have been caught by anglers to date and they have started to venture a lot further than their original release site. The tag numbers are very important, and a landing net is recommended so that the trout can be secured without harm whilst the number is recorded. Please record the tag details, tag colour, number, and location of capture. Release the trout if possible and provide the information to (northcanterbury@fishandgame.org.nz) This information will be very valuable in regards to implementing future trout enhancement programs. All anglers providing this information will go into a special prize draw at the end of this season.

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Someone got lucky with a Rakaia Mouth Salmon last week.

Junior Fishery at the Groynes
There are still some good opportunities for the kids of catching a fish at the Groynes. The best time for success is the last hour before dark. Soft baits and bait fishing with worms or shrimps should work well. Spinners such as veltics can also work around dusk. Remember a fishing licence is required for all children regardless of age and it is a 100% Junior Fishery. Licences are available at most major tackle stores, or North Canterbury Fish and Game, 32 River Road Rangiora. Phone 03 313 5728
80 nice conditioned salmon weighing about 3 pounds were released into the top pond nearest Clearwater last week. Some great fishing was had by juniors last Saturday according to reports. Watch this report for notice of salmon release information.
Fin Clipping Weekend at Montrose
 Club Funds Raising Event, 2 days.
Saturday 11th  and Sunday 12th   February 2017
Volunteer Assistance Needed!
Hatchery staff are attempting to hold oxygen levels in an effort to avoid releasing  non marked smolt earlier and smaller than recommended.

Part 1 of the annual fin clipping program was held in early December with volunteers clipping 78,000 smolt weighing 6 grams. This was an especially fine effort due to the difficult handling size of the smolt. This second session in February should allow much higher numbers to be clipped with the smolt weighing around 20 grams.

Part 2 of the Annual Chinook Salmon Smolt fin clipping program will take place at the Montrose hatchery at 8.30am  Saturday the 11th of February and will involve 2 days with a good team finishing on Sunday. On both days the target will be to finish by 2.30pm.

This important task of marking Chinook salmon for the purpose of identification within the fishery is one of the most essential fisheries management tools we have. 

North Canterbury Fish and Game are inviting members of the New Zealand Salmon Anglers Association and the Canterbury Lurefishing Association, and members of the public to assist with the task of adipose fin clipping approximately 190.000 Salmon Smolt at the site. These smolt stocks are destined for release into Silver Stream, Otukaikino, Rakaia, Coleridge, Kaikoura,, Clarence, and the West Coast in July when they are 50grams in weight and 1 year old.

Numbers of members advised to complete this task on this weekend are 40 volunteers on both days.. Members of the public are also invited and they will be adopted by the clubs and be included on the daily registration list. So invite your friends and children to enjoy the comradery of anglers on this social and educational outing.

Fish and Game Rangers and Council members are also invited to take part over the weekend. 
The car pool meeting point will be at the Yaldhurst Hotel car park, at 7.30am Saturday. Volunteers whom have not been to the Montrose hatchery before are advised to meet at Blackford Road which is the first Road on the right after crossing the Rakaia Gorge bridge , on the South side of the river. The entrance to the property is 6 kms up the road from the turn off.

Fish and Game will also be providing a barbeque lunch on the day. Warm clothes and wet weather gear is advised incase of bad weather. Gumboots or waders are also advised.

An indication of numbers from the clubs prior to the weekend would be appreciated. Look forward to seeing you all up there at this great family day out.

Members of the public please contact below Thanks all,
Dirk Barr,
Fish and Game Hatcheries Manager, 021 221 8378. or email dbarr@fishandgame.org.nz
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Rakaia River mouth (one of three) Dirty river and messy sea, 20th Jan 2017

Any Salmon Around?
The Hurunui river seems to be leading the way to date with a mixed bag of small to medium sized salmon. A fish of around 18 pounds seems to be the largest at this stage of the season, but that is still a very respectable fish. The Waimakariri has only had a handful of salmon taken to date, and the Rakaia river has also been quiet. The rivers have been unfishable for over a week now, maybe when it clears there will be more evidence of fish in the rivers.
Tight Lines All!

Dirk Barr
North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 20 Jan 2017

Over the last few weeks there have been only limited opportunities for Canterbury anglers due to the frequent nor-westers and resulting heavy rain in the alps. The east coast rivers in Canterbury had a large flood peaking yesterday, with flows higher than seen for some time. New river mouths will have formed and the river braids will all be different. Although frustrating in terms of getting out on the river fishing this weekend, for many anglers this is a welcome natural event, which will freshen up the rivers and renew the challenge of finding good fishing water. Hopefully once flows recede, salmon and fishable waters are plentiful.

Before this flood, anglers were catching the odd salmon in the Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers, with 2-3 each day from the Hurunui Mouth, which had quietened off from the previous week. This recent period of prolonged freshes should entice salmon into the rivers, so hopefully we get a break from the nor-westers for a while and we get a flurry of salmon activity in the near future. As with salmon fishing, the rivers have provided limited opportunities for sea-run trout anglers recently.

The best bet for anglers wanting to head into the high country to fish the lakes this weekend looks like tomorrow morning, with winds increasing later in the day and rain spreading across much of the South Island into Sunday. Anglers that have put the effort in at the right time have reported good fishing in most of the lakes in the region, with good reports continuing to come from anglers trolling on Lake Coleridge, especially early morning.

Fish & Game released another 50 salmon into the junior fishing lakes at Groynes this week, so there will be some great fishing for the kids in the last week of the school holidays.

Good luck if you are heading out for a fish over the weekend.
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Photo above taken at the Rakaia Mouth yesterday morning by Dirk Barr showing a new mouth about to break through.
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Same location five minutes later showing the new mouth breaking through and forming.
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Photo below taken in the Rakaia Gorge yesterday morning by Dirk Barr
Tight lines

Steve Terry
North Canterbury Fish & Game Officer
North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 13 Jan 2017

Angling conditions are proving a little trying with all these strong nor-westers we have had in recent weeks and these fishing reports are starting to become a bit repetitive ...northwest rain in the alps has once again brought the rivers down in a fresh and the main salmon fishing rivers will not be fishable again until sometime next week, hopefully! I must apologise for getting the flows wrong in my last report, as I wrote the report on the Wednesday night, checking the rain forecast for the alps and underestimated the amount that resulted, making the rivers unfishable, the opposite of my reported forecast river conditions for the weekend!

This is the fifth fresh in the last four weeks, and with another north-westerly airflow forecast for the South Island this weekend, there is likely to be another fresh to follow. Between freshes, in the small window of opportunity, usually in the lower reaches of the main rivers, salmon fishing has started to improve with a small flurry earlier this week in the lower Rakaia.

Best reports are coming from the Hurunui River where they have been catching between 4 and 8 salmon each day from the gut and surf, with a few salmon also reported from the Waiau River, which is a good sign, as obtaining such information from locals is rare!

The Waimakariri has still been relatively quiet, with reports of only the odd salmon caught each day from the lower reaches, although there have been good numbers of kahawai about which has kept up many anglers interest. These are often regarded as a poor quality eating fish, but with a bit of care and preparation, they make great eating. Once caught, bleed them and place them on ice. Once home take time to remove all the dark red flesh when filleting these fish and cook them that day fresh, you will be pleasantly surprised.

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A typical Rakaia River fresh showing a plume of discoloured water extending well out to sea.

Hopefully over the coming weeks the weather settles down and when it does, make the most of the early mornings and the evenings, especially while you are on a break from work through the remainder of the season. We still hope to see reasonable numbers of salmon show up in all the rivers sometime over the next month, with the Waimakariri generally fishing well in the later half of the season.

Anglers often talk amongst themselves about the reasons why salmon are either abundant or scarce, and while no-one has any definitive answers that correlate from one season to another or for each generation of salmon, Fish & Game are trying to eliminate some of the variables that may reduce salmon survival chances in freshwater.

In conjunction with ECan, we have just completed a three year study looking at the differences in stream bed composition, invertebrates, algae and water quality, between various salmon spawning streams in the Waimakariri, Rakaia & Rangitata rivers, investigating whether there are any adverse effects from farm intensification in the Canterbury high country.

Many of the streams monitored, are likely to show near pristine habitats, however this data provides an essential baseline for reference in future years. Monitoring these streams has also provided staff with a valuable opportunity to liaise with and involve the landowners when gathering data, enabling long term data sets to be collected for greater understanding of the issues, ensuring that changes may be implemented if and when required.

Further research is about to commence on the Ashley and Selwyn catchments to monitor the health of these valuable trout fisheries, and we will keep anglers posted as to results of these investigations. Staff are also working with ECan to ensure fish screens are working effectively and this will be ongoing to ensure minimal fish are diverted away from our rivers.
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On the trout fishing front, there have been a few sea-run trout caught in the lower Waimakariri, but few elsewhere.  Lake Coleridge is still the lake of choice, with some nice trout and salmon taken, when winds allow.

A friendly reminder to anglers, please remember, there is no salmon fishing in the Western Zone of our rivers, above the white posts, as we get reports each year in the later part of each season of this occurring. Rangers have been actively patrolling waterways this season and will continue to do so in coming weeks, so please remember to carry your licence with you at all times. A long walk back to the vehicle to retrieve your licence when the fishing action is hot, does not help anyone, let alone receive a criminal prosecution for flouting the regulations, as it is an offence not to produce a licence when requested by a ranger, let alone fish without one!

Good luck if you are heading out for a fish over the weekend.
Tight lines!
Steve Terry
North Canterbury Fish & Game Officer

North Canterbury Fish & Game weekly report: 8 Jan 2017

Looks like we finally have a good window of fishable opportunity, after many weekends of poor conditions to date. The weekends forecast is pretty good, especially for anglers looking to target the main snow fed rivers. At the time of writing the Rakaia River is marginal at present and flowing at around 200 cumics and dropping fast.

This river has been fishable at around 180 cumics this season which is higher than usual due to consistently good rainfalls in the Alps. The Waimakariri River is fishable now at 85 cumics. A flow less than 100 seems to be the fishable mark this season. The forecast in the main divide is mostly West to South/West this weekend. Light rain may be possible but no moderate rain is forecast until Monday.
This forecast should provide great opportunity for all anglers high and low country, so get the lawns done now and make the most of this window.

Some great reports are still coming in of very nice fish being caught in the high country lakes. Trout up to 7 pounds are not uncommon this season, and some anglers have been beaten by supposedly bigger. It is prime time for dry fly action. Patterns such as the Black Gnat, Green Beetle, and Humpies are a good choice for the lakes. These are often used as a strike indicator, with a small nymph tied on to the shank hanging about 500mm below. This way the trout have 2 options to choose from.

Spin anglers may find that the trout are becoming more selective at this stage of the season. Lighter line of around 4 pound test, and smaller lures than you prefer to cast will be more successful with selective fish. Long distance casting is not easy with light lures but that is often not important as the fish are usually cruising not far out. Small veltic type blade spinners sizes 1# and 2#, or rapalas and soft baits will probably be the best option.

Searun trout options should be very good this weekend. On dusk will be the best time. Use feathered lures with a lead weight attached to the main line about 1.5 meters above. Silvery, or smelt type patterns are the best option. Hopes Silvery, Parsons Glory, Taupo Tigers in sizes 2# or 4#. The size of lead weight will vary depending on river current and depth but typically a range of weights between quarter ounce, and 1 ounce will cover most conditions. Barrel shaped weights are best as they are streamlined and create less line drag.

Tagged Brown Trout

Keep an eye out for the 1,800 tagged trout that have been released into the Rakaia river. Many of these trout have been caught by anglers to date and they have started to venture a lot further than their original release site. The tag numbers are very important, and a landing net is recommended so that the trout can be secured without harm whilst the number is recorded.

Please record the tag details, tag colour, number, and location of capture. Release the trout if possible and provide the information to (northcanterbury@fishandgame.org.nz) This information will be very valuable in regards to implementing future trout enhancement programs. All anglers providing this information will go into a special prize draw at the end of this season.

Junior Fishery at the Groynes

There are still some good opportunities for the kids of catching a fish at the Groynes. The best time for success is the last hour before dark. Soft baits and bait fishing with worms or shrimps should work well. Spinners such as veltics can also work around dusk. Remember a fishing licence is required for all children regardless of age and it is a 100% Junior Fishery. Licences are available at most major tackle stores, or North Canterbury Fish and Game, 32 River Road Rangiora. Phone 03 313 5728

80 nice conditioned salmon weighing about  3 pounds were released into the top pond nearest Clearwater and the large middle pond also 2 days before xmas. Fish and Game intend releasing more salmon later next week at the Groynes. Watch this report for notice of salmon release information.

Whiskey Creek Chinook Salmon Enhancement Program: Progress Report - 5th January 2017

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The History

The Whiskey Creek Chinook salmon enhancement program is now a reality. This concept began some years ago when a hatchery model was presented to council showing a detailed over all site plan, with 3 stages included, and an estimate of costs for stage 1 and 2. Subsequent to this, discussions were then held with the site location land owners ( Trust Power ) where Fish and Game explained the concept of what could be done with the 30 year old abandoned raceway site. This site had been left derelict, and the creek had been diverted away from it, after a failed commercial salmon farming venture in the 80s, and had become an over grown mess to say the least.

Trust Power were very receptive to Fish and Game plans, and positive partnership was forged, with a commitment and determination to make this happen.

From this initial meeting with Trust Power a 100 year lease was drawn up for the 30 acre area with conditions. One of the main conditions was that if Trust Power decide in the future to extend their power generation, and double their pen stocks, Fish and Game would need to move from the existing raceways area further out towards the river. There is no forecast of when or if that may happen at present, but all monetary input to the site is considered with that in mind.

Plans for the project were decided in 3 stages.  Stage 1 of the project being the restoration and kit out of 2 of the old abandoned races. The construction of a utility building to be used as an office/feed store/workshop, and smoko room providing, shelter for staff and volunteers working on site. Resource consent for the re diversion of the creek was also required, and after a lengthy process was secured in March 2016.

The granting of resource consent from ECAN in March 2016 triggered the long awaited go button. After 3 years of planning it was finally time for action!

The Primary Objective

To have 30,000 salmon smolt being imprinted in the raceways in December 2016, grown to 50 grams, and ready for release directly from the site in July 2017.

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One of the initial working bees, assessing how to reinvent the quake damaged headrace. Where to begin?

The Priority Plan

  • Working bees, hand clearing scrub and debris in raceways, barrowing years of accumulation.
  • Digger clearance of the entire surrounding site. Forming a new inflowing creek bed, and channelling an outflow with a trap area for returning adult brood stock. Levelling a site pile area for the construction of a relocate able office/workshop. Build vehicle access tracks.
  • Construct a new headrace with bypasses and silt collection areas. Poly line the headrace. Build stairs to feeders. Out flow boards. Pour concrete pads for trap and headrace inflow areas. Create a native fish bypass as required.
  • Construct 8 feeders, motors, timer box, solar panel etc. Netting for bird proofing races. Build 6 aluminium framed screens, clad with stainless mesh. Epoxy mortar gaps in raceway walls.
  • Create a diversion for existing creek to divert. Reinstate a bridge over the new stream. Salvage any fish from the old creek bed at diversion time.

Progress to Date:
Thanks to an extremely dedicated salmon enhancement team all of the priorities listed above have been completed with one exception. The returning adult brood stock trap pad is in place, but the trap itself will be completed in March 2017. 
There will in no doubt be constant adjustments being made to improve the basic infrastructure of the raceway kit out, and no doubt some unforeseen problems initially also.
With the priority plan being mainly complete the team will now focus on the completion of Stage 1, organising the construction of the utility building. This is something that will be of huge benefit to the team up there, especially in the winter months when so much of the work occurs.
We are Ready!
As 1st December 2016 we can finally announce with confidence the official opening day at Whiskey Creek is Saturday 17th December. Trust Power, Local Landowners and Lake Coleridge residents have been invited to attend and share with Fish and Game and the dedicated volunteers, the celebration of the first arrivals of Chinook salmon at the site at 11am that day.
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For the first time in 30 years, these raceways now inhabit Chinook Salmon. This time the purpose will be, the enhancement of not only the Rakaia river Chinook salmon fishery, but other North Canterbury salmon rivers as well.
In Conclusion:
After years of planning, and months of hard labour by staff and volunteers, we have now officially welcomed 30,000 Chinook salmon smolt back to this site.
These smolt will be ready for release into the Rakaia river, directly from the site, in July 2017. This will be a huge boost to salmon stocks in the Rakaia river.
It is hoped that the returning adult brood stocks from these initial releases, will ensure the harvest of ova, for the enhancement of future runs of Chinook salmon in our region for years to come.
North Canterbury Fish and Game would especially like to thank all volunteers for their dedicated support with this project. 
Any Salmon Around?
Yes they are moving now! There are more and more salmon stories being told daily now. It seems the Waiau and Hurunui rivers are producing some fish when fishable, and the Rakaia is also revealing a few. The Waimakariri has had a handful of salmon taken to date but the former 3 are the pick at present. It seems that they are mostly not very big at this stage with the average fish weighing around 10 pounds. This up coming period of fishability should prove the best to date for accessing just how many are about, keeping in mind that rivers have not been fishable very often so far.
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This 10 pound salmon was 1 of 3 caught by angler Scott Turner in the Rakaia river late December before the last fresh.
Get out there this weekend while conditions are on the anglers side for a change! 

For 2016 reports click here>>>

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