North Canterbury Reel Life February 2019
Prospects for autumn
The weather over recent weeks has been very settled and very warm.
At time of writing, there hasn't been much rain in either the foothills or the main divide.
As a result our rivers are now getting very low.
Above Right: North Canterbury Fish & Game staff after a successful drift dive.
It is likely that rivers will continue to drop heading into March.
Currently, the Ashley has gone dry below the Rangiora bridge.
It has left a series of disconnected pools that contain some trout.
Fish & Game staff are monitoring these pools and undertaking salvages when needed.
Trout throughout the rest of the Ashley are also under stress due to the warmer water temperatures.
Hopefully as we head further into March we will experience some cooler temperatures.
The catchment needs a decent fresh to clean out the periphyton growth that has accumulated during February.
Anglers who are practicing catch and release really need to watch the water temperaturesm as trout don't survive well after being released into water temperatures that are 20oC and above.
Backcountry rivers are becoming very low and clear.
This is great for anglers wanting to spot fish and traverse more challenging gorge areas.
However, deceiving trout in these conditions can be very challenging.
The backcountry has received a lot of angling pressure during the good weather in the last couple of months.
Fly anglers may have to try smaller and more subtle patterns rather than the big attracter-type flies.
Sometimes even just fishing smaller nymph sizes can be the difference in success.
Spin anglers need to apply similar tactics.
Light line and gear is going to be needed during the day.
Small realistic-looking lures will be the way to go.
Fish should be targeted during the change of light at both ends of the day.
March is usually a good month for salmon fishing.
There have been a number of salmon caught in the Rakaia but the other rivers have been quiet.
The Hurunui and Waiau rivers are getting very low to the point where fish passage for salmon could be an issue.
The Waimakariri has had some very warm temperatures so it's not surprising that salmon are reluctant to enter the river.
March is always the most productive month for salmon fishing in the Waimakariri River.
Given the salmon are turning up in the Rakaia and river temperatures will be dropping the outlook is still positive for the other rivers.
Backcountry drift dives
Fish & Game have completed the drift dive fish counting programme for this year.
The programme included drift dives on the Upper Waiau, Hope, Boyle and Hurunui rivers.
Numbers were down in the Waiau, Boyle and Hope rivers.
All three rivers had changed significantly in the drift dives reaches.
Trout holding water was reduced and this was reflected in the fish numbers.
However, trout condition was very good and as usual, some very large fish were observed.
The Hurunui drift dives showed a significant drop in trout numbers.
Didymo had less coverage during this dive and it looked as if the river had a recent flush that scoured out some areas.
Not only was the didymo scoured out, but also the healthy algae and invertebrates that trout rely on.
Not surprisingly both numbers and condition of the fish were lacking this year.
Drifts dives are a snapshot of a particular part of the river at a certain time.
Although the results weren't great it's long term trends that are important to monitor.
Often the timing and number of floods are the biggest factor when there's a downturn in numbers.
Funding nearly halfway
Help us create sustainable fishing for future generations.
And help create healthier waterways for the future.
At North Canterbury Fish & Game, we're greatly involved in recreating and regenerating habitat in our waterways.
Currently, we're focused on a tributary of the Selwyn, to improve water quality and improve spawning sites for our trout.
The major obstacle we're facing is funding.
By May 2019, we are aiming to reach the halfway milestone in our donations, and we’re almost there, but we need your help!
The project is already in the making.
The planting milestone we are hoping to reach is a 450 metre stretch along the Silverstream.
This area is in desperate need of forest cover.
If we reach this milestone the Student Volunteer Army from Christchurch will help us to get 1000 plants in the ground.
The trees, shrubs and grasses will help to shade the stream to rid weeds and eventually create a self-sustaining habitat for aquatic life in the stream.
Tony Hawker, North Canterbury Fish & Game Officer
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