The hydro canals provide anglers with the chance to catch a fish of a lifetime – trout in excess of 4.5kg are common, trout between 10-13kg get caught occasionally and in recent years a few have tipped the scales at over 15kg!
As well as large trout, the canals also offer the opportunity to catch size-able salmon that were released or escaped from the various salmon farms. These fish are perfect for the table and make up the majority of the anglers catch and harvest. The canals and power stations they supply source their water from the pristine head water Lakes: Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau and take their name from them. The salmon farms present in each section of canals provide a unique fishery dynamic whereby the trout and salmon in the canals benefit greatly from the additional food sources they provide. For this reason the size and condition of the canal fish is unmatched by any other New Zealand freshwater sports fishery.
The popularity of the canal fishery has increase dramatically since 2008 and is currently the most popular freshwater fishery in New Zealand. Most angling activity occurs in the canals over the summer months and on public holidays. Anglers willing to brave the cold high country environment can find great throughout the cold winter months. The most popular areas tend to be at or within a few hundred metres of the respective salmon farms where trout and salmon are able to find an easy meal, year-round. The dams and intake structures also attract a lot of anglers. Fish can be found throughout the whole canal systems though, and during summer if the water is clear they can often be seen cruising the edges. In winter try targeting the heads of each canal as fish tend to congregate in these areas over the spawning period.
Bait fishing is the most common method used at the canals, with shrimp and huhu grubs popular with both the anglers and the local fish population. Many other concoctions have been tried however some are illegal so be sure to check that your secret weapon and the way it is rigged complies with bait fishing regulations (first schedule in the regulation book). If you are unsure, contact the CSI Fish & Game office (03-615-8400) and they will give you the correct advice so you don’t end up in an awkward situation. Soft baits fished slowly along the bottom are also popular with some large fish succumbing to this method in recent times.
Spin anglers should take a variety or lures and change often if they are having no luck. Try fishing different depths, the canals are very deep and swift so let your lure sink to the bottom. A spin rod rigged with a small weight and a fly fishing fly like a glow bug fly egg imitations can be lethal from late autumn, through winter and into to early spring, particularly on rainbows as they take full advantage of the bounty of spilt fish eggs.
Fly anglers are catered for as well with sight fishing along the canal edges away from the salmon farms. Trout can be spotted on station or cruising around the weed beds and spring creek style fishing can be had albeit on a large scale! Night fishing with a lumo doll fly or large Woolley bugger can be worthwhile too as large fish come into the banks to feed at night.