Reel Life April 2024 - Central South Island

  • Central South Island
  • 26/04/2024

Reel Life April 2024 - Central South Island

Raymond Bransgrove got in touch last week with a successful report from Lake Benmore.

Ray and his five sons spent a weekend camping at Haldon Arm and fishing from an inflatable boat and a kayak.

He says “Though it was raining, we had a great weekend and landed eight trout.”  Black and gold tobys, green toby, and green and black slice were the successful lures.

While they did get hits trolling, he says most fish caught were by casting from the boats.

Above: Jamison Bransgrove kept this 3.5lb Benmore rainbow caught while spin fishing with his dad and brothers’ Photo credit Raymond Bransgrove.

Winter Opportunities

The summer fishing season closes next Tuesday the 30th of April but a selection of our lakes, rivers and canals are open during the winter and offer a variety of fishing opportunities.

Check your 2023/2024 regulation guide and familiarise yourself with the CSI region’s “all-year” and “winter season” fisheries.

Lake Benmore is a great fishery and is open all year, as are the rest of the Waitaki Valley hydro lakes.

Lake Alexandrina is closed for the month of May but has a winter fishing season in June and July. There is a daily bag of two sports fish excluding brown trout in the winter season. Brown trout must be released in June and July at Lake Alexandrina.

Target rainbow trout in lakes as per usual in May, they don’t spawn for another few months yet.

If you’re on a boat, try trolling drop offs and river mouth deltas. In shallow areas a lead line may be too weighty for trolling, so an alternative would be to use a standard spinning rod with a small sinker about 1.5 metres in front of a Parsons Glory or Mrs Simpson fly.

If you’re fishing from the shore, expect brown trout to be congregating around river mouths in May and early June ready to head up to spawn. An evening or night-time fish can be productive if you strike the timing right.

Some rain to raise the flow in tributary streams will help. Be sure to only fish the lake, as streams and rivers are closed. Flies like your trusty woolly buggers and spinners like black and gold tobies will get results.

For mid-winter river options, the Waitaki, Ōpihi, and Rangitata/Rakitata Rivers have a winter season where you’re permitted to spin or fly fish downstream of State Highway 1 in June, July, and August only.

For access options in the region click here to find our handy access map.

Winter at the canals

Morgan Bathgate fishes Pūkaki Canal taking advantage of the all-year open season– Photo Nikki Dellaway

Most of the Mackenzie Hydro Canals are open year round.

Try out a canal special, “Egg rolling”, if you haven’t already, by rigging up an artificial egg and drifting it along the canal bed, find YouTube videos here to give you an idea.

Be sure to be respectful of others using the space and be prepared to move to a less popular fishing area if there are anglers using stationary fishing methods in your favourite drifting spot.

If you haven’t checked out our Hydro Canal guide, then click here. The guide has advice on important canal fishing etiquette issues and a simple access map.

The upper part of the Tekapo Canal will be closed for the three months, 1 June to 31 August 2024.         

The closure only applies to the upper half of the Tekapo Canal, upstream of the State Highway 8 Bridge to the Tekapo A Powerhouse. This includes the Magic Carpet.

The closure is a conservation-minded approach to managing the intensive fishing pressure experienced at the upper part of the Tekapo Canal during the peak of the winter fishing period and rainbow trout spawning season.

The closure does not apply to the lower part of the Tekapo Canal meaning the “fishbowl” on the Tekapo Canal and any other part of the Pūkaki and Ōhau Canals are still open for fishing. 

The upper part of the Tekapo Canal upstream of SH8 Bridge, including the Magic Carpet (pictured), will be closed from 1 June to 31 August 2024-Photo by Rhys Adams

Sea-run salmon surveying underway

It’s spawning time in the headwaters of the Rangitata / Rakitata. My colleague Hamish has completed two out of five aerial live salmon spawning surveys so far.

The second count of 99 adult salmon spawners was low.

Based on 30 years of annual monitoring, the recent counts indicate that the 2024 Rangitata/Rakitata salmon spawning run is on track to be one of the smallest on record.

If you have already achieved your season bag limit or have finished fishing for sea-run salmon this season please click here to be linked to the online salmon season bag return form.

Alternatively, post or call into your local CSI or North Canterbury office, or phone us with the details.

Thank you to those who have already returned their season bag cards.

Catch and Release

Catch and Release is becoming popular at all our fisheries, especially at the canals during the trout spawning period from May through September.

Make your decision early on whether it’s a keeper and if you decide to let it go it is critical that you handle your fish with the utmost of care to comply with the release regulations (Note 1.5 on page 36 in your regulation book).

Here’s our ‘Quick 5’ tips for handling fish with care: 

  • Cool your hands and landing net by wetting them before touching the fish.
  • Keep the fish in the water while removing the hook.
  • Do not squeeze the fish and never touch the gills.
  • Photograph the fish in or over the water and make it quick - the fish should not be out of the water for more than 5 seconds.
  • Revive the fish facing into the current long enough for it to regain its swimming strength.

In the unfortunate instance that a fish you intended to release does end up bleeding from the gills, so long as you can legally take that fish, you should keep it as part of your bag limit and utilise it. 

Click here for a great video demonstrating proper fish handling skills.

Tight Lines

Nikki Dellaway, Central South Island Fish & Game Officer


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