South Canterbury Fishing Report Apr 2017

  • 30/04/2017

Season round-up

 At one stage mid-summer I was quite fearful that the South Canterbury area was heading inexorably down the path of another drought year - such as experienced a few years back when large parts of some lowland streams ceased to flow and Fish & Game officers were kept busy with the depressing task of rescuing fish. A combination of very little rain and irrigation in full swing was dropping the level of little streams like the Waihao, Pareora and Tengawai at an alarming rate. But then a couple of somewhat unexpected rain events intervened. A lack of really hot days and cloud cover helped balance the equation and literally saved the situation.

The trout fishing in the first few months of the season can only be described as spectacular. Despite few really good hatches the nymph fishing was just about as good as it gets on the streams I fish regularly. An excellent whitebait season may have had quite a lot to do with it. Whilst I saw few fish right at the Opihi river mouth there were plenty in the first few kilometres upstream and gradually these fish populated stretches throughout the system. And what fish! I have rarely encountered such hard fighting, well-conditioned brown trout anywhere.

But it wasn’t going to last as the stream levels diminished and in typical fashion the fishing became challenging to say the least as the browns retreated to deep water and cover during the day. As I write, post cyclone Cook, which did such immense damage further north, streams are dropping to near normal autumn levels. The increased water volumes have been perfectly timed for passage of trout to the spawning grounds.

Despite being rated as a below par salmon season, most of my acquaintances managed to land a few by dint of sheer hard work and persistence. The salmon too must be benefiting from greater water volumes in all the spawning streams. Indeed, it will be interesting to see just how many turn up when the annual surveys are completed. Much soul searching is going into trying to ascertain why the runs have been relatively poor in recent seasons. Many anglers suspect that something is happening in the marine environment that is having drastic effects on the both the quantity of fish returning and their overall size and condition, both of which are down in many instances.

But what of winter fishing prospects? It’s very much a case of looking west. Lake Alexandrina is famous for its limited winter season in June and July and rightfully so. But there is also excellent winter fishing in other lakes in the high country. Trolling on Lakes Tekapo, Ohau or Benmore on a clear, frosty morning amid spectacular scenery is an uplifting experience. Benmore is an amazing fishery but so too is Lake Tekapo on its day. It is easy to dismiss high altitude, glacial-fed lakes but my experiences this season have been one hundred percent positive.

Winter is also a very popular time with hydro canal anglers. While salmon are not particularly numerous at time of writing, some huge trout are being caught on a near daily basis and escapes from the salmon farms can occur at any time. Sadly, a minority of greedy anglers use illegal tactics and some exceed their limits on a regular basis. The writer is aware of a number of anglers routinely using illegal baits. Fish & Game staff have assured me that they are monitoring the situation closely and won’t hesitate to prosecute offenders.

Don’t pack the gear away just yet as there is plenty of fishing action to be had right through the colder months.

Graeme Marshall

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