New Fishing Season Looms For ‘Freshwater Fishing Nirvana’
With the new trout fishing season less than a fortnight away on October 1, Fish & Game is reminding Kiwis and visitors to New Zealand to start getting ready now to enjoy the country’s reputation as “freshwater fishing nirvana.”
New Zealand offers world class fishing, in our lakes, rivers and streams – from the shoreline, riverbank or boats, says Fish & Game New Zealand Communications Manager Don Rood.
“And the number of overseas anglers who view us as a fishing mecca provides solid evidence of this.
Top right: An angler’s El Dorado? Fishing the Tekapo canals has challenged many an angler in their quest for one of the wily monsters.
“In the year ending 31 August, 2016, Fish & Game sold more than 5,600 licences to non-residents – up around 20 percent from the previous year,” he says.
“Most of these anglers came from Australia, followed by the U.S. and Britain, but others came from Germany, France and Japan – more than 70 countries in all.
“That’s some vote of confidence in New Zealand’s freshwater fishing resources and an injection of tourist dollars,” he adds.
“The fact that thousands of anglers travel to New Zealand for all over the world is a reminder to local anglers of just what terrific salmon and trout fishing their backyard has on offer.”
Mr Rood says the latest reports from around the organisation’s 12 regions hint at some great sports fishing on the way as we move from spring into summer.
There are plenty of options in the Auckland / Waikato region – including hydro lakes of the south Waikato such as Karapiro and Arapuni.
The Waipa River is another good prospect, which can produce trophy trout, along with the Whanganui and Whakapapa Rivers. The Waikato River is open to anglers year round and early season is the time to target large browns in the Lower River.
There were reports in late winter of large fish being caught in the spring creeks – most likely post-spawning fish still in the upper reaches of rivers, Mr Rood says.
He urges anglers to sample the legendary Rotorua lakes if they haven’t done so – 13 no less – packed with fishing opportunities.
More than a thousand anglers are expected to turn out for the start of the new fishing season on the region’s lakes, with the season start falling on the weekend this year.
It is the first time in five years the opening of the trout fishing season has fallen on a Saturday, and being in the middle of school holidays, provides lots of opportunities for families to get on the water, says Rotorua-based Fish & Game Officer Matt Osborne.
He says that adding to the fun and excitement, Eastern Region is again running a Fish for Gold promotion that gives licensed anglers who register in time the chance to catch a specially tagged fish worth $10,000.
“This sparked a real buzz last year and we’re sure it will again. We’ll be announced details of the promotion and how to enter in about a week’s time.”
Lakes Rotoiti, Tarawera and Okataina, which have been closed to fishing from boats over winter to rest the fishery, will open to anglers from 5am on Saturday, October 1.
Mr Osborne says there are encouraging indicators for the new season, including a total of 1112 fish recorded through Fish & Game’s trap on a stream flowing into Lake Tarawera. The trap monitors the spawning season and provides brood stock for the Ngongotaha hatchery production.
“That’s 100 fish up on the previous season and showed a ratio of 70 percent hatchery fish compared to 30 percent wild ones.
“That ratio is a good result which supports our breeding strategies and fish releases,” Mr Osborne says. “It shows the need for hatchery fish to meet the pressure that anglers put on the lake.”
Winter fishing on the Rotorua lakes has been steady but not exceptional, he says.
Lake Tarawera saw some big night runs of spawning fish (70-80 on some nights), and while anglers on Lake Rotoiti had not caught fish in huge numbers, some good “double figure” trout had been landed.
Several nice 4kg plus fish had also been caught from Lake Okataina.
“Open year round, trolling on Lake Rotorua has been highly productive in late winter and early spring. One visitor reported multiple double hook-ups trolling and harling in shallow water. ”
Lakes Okataina and Rotoiti are again tipped to produce the biggest fish, Mr Osborne says.
Out east, Lake Waikaremoana fishing has reportedly been “quite exceptional” this winter for anglers who’ve found the right trolling speed.
For those anglers preferring the solitude provided by river fishing, it is also an exciting time of year. Many rivers and streams in the Rotorua district that closed at the end of June, also reopen to trout fishing.
Mr Rood says that elsewhere in the North Island, Hawkes Bay is a region that offers very good early season fishing for both brown and rainbow trout.
“Taranaki and Wellington also have great fishing on offer, with many trout streams in both regions receiving little angling pressure, he adds.
“As is the case in all regions, it pays to explore less well known waterways because many offer surprisingly good fishing.”
Fishing will hot up in the South Island in Nelson Marlborough and on the West Coast as the whitebait start to migrate upstream, says South Island Communications Advisor Richard Cosgrove.
“And of course, if you like your fish jumbo size, be quick to make the most of the Mc Kenzie country hydro canals as they do fish better in the cooler months.”
And new back country fishing opportunities are available in the West Coast and Nelson Marlborough, “so if you are keen for a bit of adventure, check them out.”
The new backcountry fisheries are the Goulter and Travers rivers and Mr Cosgrove advises that this means anglers who want to fish these rivers must hold a full licence, then apply for a Backcountry Endorsement on the Fish & Game website.
In the Nelson / Marlborough Region, spring heralds longer days, warmer temperatures, and the arrival of whitebait, “a seasonal favourite for trout and humans alike.”
Whitebait will be turning up at river mouths, and now’s a good time to swing a translucent lure or suitable imitation “in anticipation of a heart-stopping strike.”
But don’t just focus on the river mouths, Mr Cosgrove says. Trout activity should be increasing for several kilometres upstream too, and on fine days observant anglers should be plying their trade in ripples and broken water, probing likely looking runs with nymphs or lures, much as one does in summer.
“Trout also love to eat the larger estuarine fish, particularly smelt, that congregate in shoals with the arrival of whitebait.
“Imitating smelt calls for bigger lures and sometimes trout will seek these over whitebait, much like when a cicada takes precedence over a willow grub. Once the whitebait season has passed, these larger lures work great on kahawai.”
On the West Coast, the lower reaches of the larger rivers, sea run trout activity should increase in the coming weeks as whitebait begin to move in.
Sea runs can arrive almost overnight when the food is there for them, so keep an eye on these lower river reaches during the month ahead, Mr Cosgrove says.
Check your regulation guide for the region’s lakes and lower river reaches that have stayed open over winter and into spring, he urges.
Open lakes such as Brunner and Ianthe are a good bet. Mr Cosgrove points out that anglers need to be aware that the daily bag limit for brown trout has been reduced from four fish per day down to two in all waters. ,
Mr Cosgrove says anglers in the South Island are asked to keep their eyes open for some tagged trout.
“Around 2000 brown trout are being released into the lower Rakaia following some habitat restoration in some spawning streams near the mouth. We need anglers to pass on the details of any such catches.”
Fish & Game says that unfortunately space makes to impossible to touch on the many opportunities in other regions around the country.
Anglers and “wannabe fishers” are urged to start reading up their region. You’ll find loads of information on access, fishing tips and much more. Staff say don’t hesitate to call their regional officers for up to the minute tips and information.
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If you're not a fan of the interweb, you can still buy your licence from your favourite fish store or nearest Fish & Game retail agent where staff can process the licence order for you. At the same time you can stock up on waterproof gear, line, flies and lures.
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