150 years of brown trout
October 2017 marks 150 years since brown trout were first introduced to New Zealand.
The highly-valued sports fish survived the long trip by sailing ship from Britain to become established as not only a culturally valuable species, but also the basis of a multi-million dollar tourism industry.
Alannah Meechang holds up a brown in its prime at Eyre Creek in Southland.
Brown trout are native to Europe and were first introduced into New Zealand in 1867 from British stock which had been established in Tasmania only three years earlier.
The delicate cargo of trout and salmon eggs had been brought by ship from England in 1864, delicately packed in boxes with moss and ice as reliable shipboard refrigeration machines would not be developed until 1877.
Only the trout eggs survived the perilous three-month journey to the other side of the world, with all the salmon eggs dying during the voyage.
Once in Tasmania, the trout eggs were taken to a hatchery north of Hobart where they hatched a few weeks after they arrived. The trout were then released into the nearby Plenty River, and Tasmania's highland lakes.
With a finhold now established in the southern hemisphere, brown trout were bred and then sent to Victoria, New Zealand and South Africa, spawning a new pastime for thousands.
In New Zealand, the first live trout to hatch here was a brown in Christchurch on October 10, 1867.
It was one of 1200 ova that the curator of the Canterbury Acclimatisation Society, Andrew Johnson, brought back from Tasmania.
The fish was hatched in a small wooden box, at the Society’s grounds in Hagley Park, Christchurch, according to Jack Kos who has researched the introduction of brown trout for his Phd.
The lone trout’s hatch was followed a few days later by a further two. “Just three trout in total but New Zealand had brown trout nonetheless,” Jack Kos says.
A year later in August 1868, the Otago Acclimatisation Society, sent their curator to Hobart to procure a supply of trout ova.
“Returning on the Free Trader, Charles Clifford brought with him 800 ova, of which 724 hatched.
“In many ways it was this introduction that assured the presence of trout in New Zealand, as the Otago Acclimatisation Society now had a sufficient population from which to establish a breeding supply and remove the reliance on Tasmania,” Jack Kos says.
The Nelson and Southland acclimatisation societies also secured trout ova that year.
“There is no doubt that the South Island acclimatisation societies, and in particular Canterbury and Otago, were the driving force behind the introduction of trout to New Zealand.”
In the years that followed the initial introductions, these societies grew their populations of trout, both through further importations from Tasmania and natural reproduction, and began to distribute the fish throughout their regions.
Brown trout are now esteemed by New Zealand anglers and the fishery here is rated as one of the best in the world, attracting high-spending international anglers here every year.
To read Jack Kos full article from the latest issue of Fish & Game’s special fishing issue 45, click on the link here.