Reel Life January 2021

It was a wet and wild holiday period and many of our rivers and streams got a flood or a flush and that has set them up well for some iconic summer fishing action in February.

If we get some more rain and the river flows rise-up take that opportunity to spin and worm fish our local rivers while flows are retreating and water clarity is still a bit hazy.

February is the best time of year for dry fly fishing for aggressive trout eating big flies.

Right: Quick tip - take it easy while bait fishing on a beach at scenic glacial Waitaki lake.

If you are new to fly fishing then do not miss this opportunity to try cicada fishing on a high-country stream or lake.

If they are rising under the willows it may not be cicadas they are eating but instead tiny little willow grubs and unlike cicada fishing you will need some finesse to land them right on the trout’s nose.

Now is the time to try for a sea-run salmon with the season end fast approaching on 31 March.

The Rangitata and Waitaki rivers are our favoured fisheries but the mouth of the Opihi and Orari rivers can also produce the goods.

RL CSI JAN 4 sunrise salmon fishing at the Opihi River mouth credit Hamish Stevens

Sunrise salmon fishing at the Opihi River mouth-credit Hamish Stevens

Boaties trolling on our big lakes should be fishing the shallows early morning and the deeper drop-offs for the rest of the day.

Be sure to fish in cooler waters in the afternoon and evening by going deeper with a downrigger, lead line or diving lures.

Inflowing river mouths with cooler waters are a hot spot too.

An observation from rangers active on the Waitaki lakes this summer was that many anglers are trolling their lures too fast and too close to the surface.

So remember to slow down and that snagging the bottom occasionally shows you that you are fishing in the ‘fishy zone’.

RL Jan CSI 6 shrimp bait threaded on the hook all ready to go

shrimp bait threaded on the hook all ready to go

Three quick fishing ideas for February

  1. Try night fishing – scout out the area and research the water levels, snags and hazards beforehand. For rainbows and canal salmon try luminescent lures, for brown trout try dark lures.
  2. Try fishing for sockeye salmon on Lake Benmore – here a video showing you how-to troll, spinning and fly angler should fish the deltas of the lower Ohau River and Tekapo River on Lake Benmore’s Haldon Arm.
  3. Take it easy - get a deck chair and park up on a beach at Lake Benmore, Pukaki or Tekapo with a shrimp for bait and await a bite from you next ‘dinner-date’.

Care for your catch

Lakes, rivers, streams, or canals… no matter where you fish these days, there seems to be a growing trend towards practicing catch and release.

All anglers – from newbies to life-long fishers – need to be aware, though, that how they handle the fish is critical to its survival after being released back into the water.

This is especially true in summer as warmer water temperatures and lower oxygen levels make recovery harder for released fish.

Remember that you not only have an ethical obligation to handle your catch with care, but you also have a legal obligation. In the CSI region, any licence holder who lands a sports fish that will not be kept shall immediately return it with as little injury as possible.

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 five 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 or cannot maintain itself upright, so long as you can legally take that fish, we recommend you should keep it as part of your bag limit and utilise it. 

Here’s a video that shows good catch and release technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fke7Mqw7R2w

Sea-run salmon fishing

RL CSI 2 Jan 2021check your sea run salmon for fin clips

Check your sea-run salmon for fin clips

It has been a quiet start to the sea-run salmon season with only about 18 reported catches from the Rangitata mouth area up until the 20th of January. 

One positive about this years run though is that the fish are in excellent condition.

If you haven’t made it out for a salmon yet, February is a great month to give it a try.

And if you are lucky, be sure to identify if it is ‘fin clipped’.

Fin clipped fish are hatchery reared fish that have had their adipose fin remove to differentiate them from wild salmon.

Our end of season sea-run salmon harvest survey is used to identify how many salmon were caught and how many of those were fin clipped.      

Tagged Tekapo Canal Trout

RL Jan CSI 5 Tagged rainbow trout with the yellow tag shown in the red circle

Tagged rainbow trout with the yellow tag shown in the red circle.

Just prior to Christmas we released 250 tagged trout to the Tekapo Canal. 

This boosts the number of tagged trout released in the canal to around 650 since July 2020. 

If you catch a tagged trout please get in touch and let us know the unique four-digit tag number, location caught, whether it was kept or release and an estimate of size. 

Contact options – email csi@fishandgame.org.nz, phone 036158400

Click here to check out this video that explains the project.

Ranging and Compliance summary

Click here to read-up on how many licences CSI rangers checks and what offences were processed.  

Tight lines

Rhys Adams, Fish & Game Officer