Party’s not quite over

Ca­ma­raderie and an­nual con­tests will be rem­i­nisced­when­the tra­di­tional fish­ing sea­son ends to­mor­row, but ev­ery South Is­land re­gion of­fers­somewin­ter fish­ing.

The Press - Escape - - ESCAPE - Peter Shutt

In the ap­proach to au­tumn the river flows are of­ten less than de­sired, and this year saw a huge ef­fort by Fish & Game staff and vol­un­teers to res­cue fish stressed by the drought.

It usu­ally en­cour­ages an­glers in one of two di­rec­tions: an op­por­tu­nity to ei­ther seek out spring-fed streams and cooler lake wa­ters, or to make a spe­cial ef­fort to get some ad­di­tional time on the salmon rivers. Both op­tions of­fer en­joy­able fish­ing – usu­ally in sunny weather that at­tracts good hatches in the high coun­try lakes. There is a cer­tain ur­gency as the sea­son rushes to­wards the end of the tra­di­tional sea­son to­mor­row and hence the comment I have been get­ting re­cently: ‘‘It’s all over for an­other sea­son.’’

But wait. If you check the reg­u­la­tions book­let you re­ceived when buy­ing your li­cence you’ll find that ev­ery re­gion in the South Is­land of­fers a con­tin­u­a­tion of fish­ing plea­sure.

What will an­glers look back on to­mor­row?

The dry reaches of streams and the fish sal­vage will be in the thoughts of those who value the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­pects of fish­ing. And I ex­pect many an­glers will re­call the ca­ma­raderie in con­tests such as the Rakaia River salmon fish­ing com­pe­ti­tion, the Otago salmon an­glers’ har­bour com­pe­ti­tion, the North Can­ter­bury salmon an­glers’ fish­ing com­pe­ti­tion on the Waimakariri River, and sev­eral sur­f­cast­ing com­pe­ti­tions along the South Is­land coast­line.

For many an­glers th­ese are in­deed the sea­son high­lights.

But so, too, has the South Is­land’s lake fish­ing. Canal fish­ing has been ex­tremely pop­u­lar, while the soli­tude one seeks when sight fish­ing for trout around a lake edge has largely been the do­main of nymph or dry fly an­glers de­sirous of undis­turbed wa­ter.

Sur­f­cast­ing com­pe­ti­tions have been around for a long time, but as with salmon com­pe­ti­tions in the past decade seem to in­di­cate a prob­lem of some sort in the marine en­vi­ron­ment; thus the fish size ap­pears to have de­creased.

A pos­i­tive step for­ward is North Can­ter­bury Fish & Game’s plans to re­fine its method of count­ing spawn­ing salmon. Their huge data­base will be fur­ther re­fined by look­ing at new prac­tices, pro­ce­dures, and ex­am­in­ing the var­i­ous the­o­ries that should re­sult from the new fo­cus. I thor­oughly sup­port that ef­fort to gather sci­en­tific data.

Hatch­ery man­ager Dirk Barr says eval­u­a­tion of the num­ber of salmon that need to be in any spawn­ing stream might be among ques­tions asked. ‘‘We need to as­cer­tain how many square me­tres of the stream are nec­es­sary to grow a smolt to 7 grams weight,’’ Barr says.

But un­til North Can­ter­bury Fish & Game staff com­plete the wild ori­gin counts next month it’s en­cour­ag­ing to note that early in­di­ca­tions sug­gest many salmon have re­turned to spawn. This is very en­cour­ag­ing and ap­pears to be be­cause of the re­lease pro­gramme, which is in its third year.

It’s the shar­ing of new ideas and the data col­lected that pro­vide the sci­en­tific ba­sis nec­es­sary for man­ag­ing a sus­tain­able re­source amid huge vari­ables that af­fect the salmon fish­ery. The marine en­vi­ron­ment is the ma­jor vari­able.

The change to the count­ing sys­tem al­lied to the huge ef­fort from Can­ter­bury salmon an­glers in record­ing tagged fish re­turns next sea­son and needs your sup­port.

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