The upper half of the world-famous Tekapo Canal fishery (upstream of Sh8) will be closed during the 2021 winter fishing season as a precautionary measure after anglers shared their concerns over the fisheries’ sustainability.

The closure has been put in place by the Central South Island Fish & Game Council for three months, from 1 June to 31 August 2021.

“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,” said Dr Andrew Simpson, chair of the Central South Island Fish & Game Council.

“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.”

Simpson said the closure will enable spawning to occur unaffected by fishing and allow the Council to carry out research into the fishery’s sustainability.

“The immense increase in popularity of fishing in the spawning months has required a re-think of long-held canal management principles,” said Central South Island Fish & Game officer Rhys Adams.

“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.”

Simpson added that the CSI Council recognises that winter fishing is highly valued by anglers but asks anglers to be patient while measures are assessed to manage the long-term sustainability of the 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.”

Adams says that three research projects are currently underway to gain further understanding of the Tekapo Canal fishery.