Precautionary Closure to Upper Tekapo Canal Trout Fishery
- Richie Cosgrove
Angler concern over the sustainability of one of the world’s best “trophy” trout fisheries will lead to a precautionary closure during the 2021 winter fishing season.
The Central South Island Fish and Game Council has put in place a closure on the upper half of the world famous Tekapo Canal fishery (upstream of SH8) for three-months next winter, 1st June to 31st August 2021.
Dr Andrew Simpson, Chair of the Central South Island Fish & Game Council says, “over the last four fishing seasons there has been a dramatic rise in the use of the Tekapo Canal in wintertime by anglers targeting the rainbow trout spawning run.”
Above Right: Anglers fish a popular stretch of the upper Tekapo Canal known as the Magic Carpet - July 2020 - Credit Rhys Adams
Simpson says, “The Council has taken a conservation-minded approach toward anglers’ concern that there is too much pressure on the spawning population and a diminished fishing experience.”
“The winter spawning season closure of the upper part of the Tekapo Canal will enable spawning to occur unaffected by fishing and allow the Council to continue to carry out research into the canal fishery’s sustainability and its value to anglers”.
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer Rhys Adams says, “the immense increase in popularity of fishing in the spawning months has required a re-think of long-held canal management principles.”
“Since the commissioning of the canals it has always been understood that spawning in the canal is not a major contributor to the canals’ trout populations and that the fishery is primary supported by significant numbers of trout that migrate downstream into the canals from the headwater lakes, Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau through the control gates and power stations.”
“In the face of uncertainty and increased angling usage, we can’t rule-out that spawning within the canal could now make a meaningful contribution to trout recruitment in the canal”.
Dr Simpson says, “The CSI Council recognises that winter fishing in the upper Tekapo Canal is highly valued by anglers and for many will be their favourite type of fishing.” He asks anglers to be patient while measures are assessed that manage the long-term sustainability of this fishery.
It should be noted that the lower part of Tekapo Canal (below SH8), as well as all other Mackenzie Basin canals remain open year-round”.
Mr Adams says that three research projects are currently underway to gain further understanding of the Tekapo Canal fishery.
“We are currently undertaking a survey of angler use and catch that will be compared to the survey undertaken during the 2019 winter. We are assessing the age and growth of angler-caught canal trout and those that migrate from Lake Tekapo, and we have a tagging project underway.”
“We have recently released over 400 tagged trout into the canal to assess how trout that migrate through from Lake Tekapo contribute to the canal fishery.”
“We are especially interested to see, in years to come, if these fish grow to the trophy sizes the canals are famous for.”
“Anglers who catch these tagged trout are to contact Central South Island Fish & Game to provide the unique four-digit number, whether it was kept or released, capture location and an estimate of its size – phone 03 6158400 or email email@example.com
Tekapo trout tagging project video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjSsy9j7ZDY
Upper Tekapo Canal angler use and catch report 2019: https://fishandgame.org.nz/dmsdocument/1647