Reel Life September 2021

Spring Angling

With the weather starting to warm, trout activity will be on the rise and the fishing should pick up.

Springtime angling is exciting any year but coming out of lockdown makes it especially exciting to get outdoors.

Checking out the lower reaches of your local river is productive with the spring bait fish runs beginning.

On top of all of this, the new season begins in October, further creating opportunities.

Fishing change of light at the first set of rapids in the river is typically very productive, with the trout using the current to their advantage when ambushing prey.

A searun trout recently caught

A trout recently caught in the lower reaches of a West Coast river.

The evening fish after work, therefore, is a great option and is a good way to unwind.

The extra current fishing slightly upstream aids in improving lure action of most common lures, enticing takes.

In the slower water, bait fishing is a great option that can be done well by anglers of all experience levels.

A small hook through the bottom jaw of baitfish is deadly and accounts for a lot of sea runners caught.

Check out the West Coast Estuarine Trout Fishing video for more advice. 

If your are unsure if you have to wait till October to fish a spot, refer back to the regulations – here is the link to the regulations page.

Come the first of October the new season starts and a 2021/22 licence is required.

The new season licence is on sale now and can be obtained by going to this link.

With all water bodies opening up (other than MacDonalds Creek which is closed year-round) in October and trout being both naïve and hungry in spring, it’s definitely a highlight of the fishing calendar.

I’ll cover options for early season opportunities in September’s reel life so stay posted.

Spawning Counts

Salmon spawning in the Taramakau River May 2021

Salmon spawning in the Taramakau River, May 2021.

Spawning counts are a great opportunity to assess the adult population of salmon and trout.

With known spawning sites counted annually, it provides a gage on whether a fishery is improving or declining.

Due to fluctuations in timing and location of spawning, our counts only reflect the run, rather than an actual measure of the run.

The Windbag and MacDonalds Creek were both below average, with peak counts of 89 and 84 live salmon.

The Taramakau and the Hokitika were also below average with zero to seven salmon seen in each of its spawning streams but on par with recent years.

The full Sports Fish Spawning Surveys 2020-2021 report can be viewed here.

That being said last year counts in The Windbag and MacDonalds Creek were both around the long-term average of 175, so there is no reason to say that we won’t experience a solid run this season.

As for trout, high numbers have been seen spawning across the Coast.

Reports of schools of up to 400 trout have been reported so it will be exciting to see how many juveniles are about when we electric fish in November.

Trout captured electric fishing in April 2021

Trout captured electric fishing in April 2021.

Last year was also a very productive recruitment year with high numbers observed right up to our last electric fish in April.

We expect to see these fish during our drift dives this year, but anglers should also expect to encounter good numbers of small fish - a great opportunity for kids to catch their first trout!

Regulations for the 2021/22 season

The minimum size limit for salmon has been increased to 450mm for the South Westland lakes and the minimum size limit was removed for trout.

This was to align with other regions and improve the sea-run component of the Salmon fishery.

Recent aging and microchemical analysis of Salmon Otoliths indicates that fish as big as 350mm may not have completed the ocean-going part of the life history and these fish need to be given that opportunity to obtain the sizes anglers desire.

Due to there being a difference in size limit, as well as bag limits and season duration for trout and salmon in the lakes its important anglers can distinguish between the two.

Check out Reel life November 2020 for some helpful tips.

Hope to see you out there!

Baylee Kersten, West Coast Fish & Game Officer.