North Canterbury Fishing Report 20th April 2018

Dear Anglers, conditions for fishing have not been good the past week with the main upper river catchments receiving large amounts of rain.

On top of that, very strong winds have made fishing in the high country almost impossible.

These conditions are forecast to continue into Friday and Saturday. The Rakaia river peaked at around 850 cumecs this week and even without further rain will not be fishable this weekend.

Above: Chief Caleen Sisk and Michael Preston from the Winnemem Wintu release salmon smolt at Whiskey Creek.

Sunday's forecast for the Canterbury high country is for the winds to be light at around 6kms. This could be a good option for Lake anglers. 

Lake Coleridge has been producing some nice rainbow trout recently.

This often happens at this time of year if conditions allow.

Cast into the deep drop-off and wait for your lure to sink for a few seconds before retrieving.

Try silver or black tobies, soft baits or something heavy enough to get down deep.

Landlocked salmon in this lake are exceptionally silver looking.

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The Rakaia River in high flow on Tuesday.

They are also very prone to scale loss when handled, so if you intend releasing your catch, keep handling to a minimum to avoid this.  

Fish early before the sun hits the water, or around dusk as it sets.

There are times up there when this doesn’t matter and the fish will bite at any time.

The problem is only the fish know when that is! Salmon will be starting to congregate around the inflowing streams now, these will be the areas to target.

Prior to the latest fresh, there were a good number of salmon caught in the mid reaches of the Waimakariri.

There was a handful caught in the lower reaches also.

The Rakaia has tapered right off now with only the odd fish being caught the past two weeks. The best chance of a salmon, when it is fishable next, will be in the Waimakariri.

Staff are looking to undertake the first aerial spawn counts of the season as soon as the weather allows.

Strong winds prevented this during the week.

Reports from the CSI region have indicated an early spawn this season and this has prompted NC to investigate asap also.

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The Winnemem Wintu visit the Rakaia River

On Saturday a delegation of three from the tribe and also their fisheries biologist arrived in Christchurch from California.

They were officially welcomed at the airport by Ngai Tahu and a large contingent of Fish and Game staff and council from CSI and the NC region.

It was clear that the Winnemem tribe were overwhelmed by the support shown by locals.

This trip was made in order to meet all of the NZ team, from multiple sectors, with the main objective of bringing together complex plans for the coming project. 

It will start in June with a focus on trapping late-running salmon which may be of winter run genetics.

In the McCloud River, which was originally a direct tributary to the Sacramento River before the Shasta dam was built in the 1950s, Chinook salmon ran thick.

This dam severed the run completely. The salmon were taken from the people! The McCloud had three main runs of salmon prior to this. spring, fall, and winter run Chinook. 

50 years before the dam was built in the early 1900s, salmon ova was nurtured by Winnemem people who worked at the Baird Hatchery run by the United States Fisheries Commission, led by Livingston Stone.

This ova was supplied to many US States and shipped to 13 counties including New Zealand. 

At present there is a mandate in California to “get Chinook above the rim dams.” Which fish to use is the key question.

Although the Winnemem people had all three runs of Chinook, funds have only been made available at this stage for winter run Chinook.

This is because it has been officially classified as “ endangered”. So a search for suitable  genetics will begin here in June for a period of 12 weeks.

The reality is that the Winnemem Wintu had all three runs before the dam, and they just want their lost Chinook back - spring, fall, winter or all three.

We have the direct descendants of their lost Chinook here, but it is not as simple as it seems.

Fisheries politics are very abundant in the US, so firstly we must look for winter run.

Ultimately we just want to repay the magnificent gift of Chinook, by giving them back to the Winnemem people, and their river of origin the McCloud.

This process would involve firstly identifying winter run, then capturing a small amount of samples in order to create a captively-reared stock, from which ova would be collected. 

The Winnemem people have fought hard for their lost Chinook and there's still a very long way to go.

Ironically we are fighting hard for what we have here too! 

During their six day visit here they have shared their story with many.

They have showed NZ their strength and passion for the protection of water and nature, and of course the mighty Chinook.

They had an amazing day with CSI staff  and visited the original release site of Chinook here on the Hakataramea.

They have prayed for their lost Chinook, and blessed the release of 5,000 smolts into the Rakaia.

They have spawned returning adult Chinook here, the progeny of the McCloud, and fertilised the ova in our hatchery, as their ancestors did on the McCloud 150 years ago.

Now their 6 day visit is nearly up, and we will miss their amazing talks about the Chinook. They have been overwhelmed by the level of support shown by the NZ people!

Thank you to everyone who did so much for the Winnemem during their stay. 

Tight lines,

Dirk Barr, Hatchery Manager