Low salmon num­bers in Can­ter­bury rivers

The salmon-fish­ing sea­son this year has been a some­what mixed bag. A se­lect few an­glers have had rea­son­ably con­sis­tent re­sults, but the ma­jor­ity has strug­gled, with many sea­soned an­glers putting huge hours in with­out a sin­gle fish for the sea­son.

NZ Fishing News - - Southern Currents -

The gen­eral con­sen­sus has been that the fish­ing was poor, and Fish & Game aerial salmon counts have con­firmed what most South Is­land Salmon an­glers sus­pected af­ter such a slow sea­son. Pre­lim­i­nary counts in the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers showed num­bers around a third of what was ex­pected, with the Rakaia pre­lim­i­nary counts re­veal­ing only around 550 spawn­ing fish. There were, how­ever, a num­ber of car­casses spot­ted, which sug­gests there may have been an ear­lier spawn­ing run that en­tered the river pre-christ­mas, when there was less an­gling pres­sure on the river. A fur­ther count was still to be un­der­taken to en­sure the peak run was en­coun­tered.

Counts of the north­ern rivers were also com­pleted. The Hu­runui count stood at just 80 fish, a re­flec­tion of the very hard fish­ing for most Hu­runui an­glers. The Wa­iau had much bet­ter num­bers, with 390 fish counted. The Wa­iau would have to be the most un­der­rated and un­der­utilised river in the Can­ter­bury re­gion, so this rel­a­tively high fish count would come as lit­tle sur­prise to the few who fish it reg­u­larly. Fish & Game is con­fi­dent that the peak runs were en­coun­tered on both rivers.

The Wa­makariri sur­veys were still to be un­der­taken at the time of writ­ing, as this river’s spawn­ing run is tra­di­tion­ally a cou­ple of weeks later than other rivers in the re­gion. The re­sults should be in­ter­est­ing af­ter a very mixed sea­son on the re­gion’s most heav­ily-fished river. There were def­i­nitely some very quiet pe­ri­ods, with few fish be­ing caught, de­spite the con­sis­tently large num­ber of an­glers present each day. There were, how­ever, some very good runs of fish, with con­sis­tent num­bers be­ing caught through Fe­bru­ary and March.

Fur­ther south, the ma­jor­ity of counts were still to be com­pleted at the time of writ­ing. With three of the five counts in the Ran­gi­tata catch­ment com­pleted, early in­di­ca­tions point to­wards sim­i­lar re­sults, with below-av­er­age num­bers recorded.

While the above all sounds a bit dire for the salmon fish­ery, there are some def­i­nite pos­i­tives to take from this sea­son. The most ob­vi­ous would be the size of the fish, with the fish landed in the North Can­ter­bury rivers typ­i­cally be­ing in the high teens and low 20lb range – sig­nif­i­cantly higher than in the last two sea­sons. The other po­ten­tial pos­i­tive is that his­tor­i­cally some of our best salmon sea­sons have re­sulted from some of our low­est spawn­ing re­turns. The the­ory is that there is less food com­pe­ti­tion for the hatched salmon smolt, so they leave the rivers in bet­ter con­di­tion to tackle the open ocean. Salmon an­glers through­out the re­gion will have their fin­gers crossed that this is the case, and most will be hop­ing for a much im­proved sea­son next year!

An aerial count of salmon by F&G con­firmed low num­bers.

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