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First catch: New fishing season begins

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Fishing season 2022

Lenard Luke of Ashburton has fished the Waitaki River opening day for more than 50 seasons. Photo: Rhys Adams | Fish & Game

October marks the beginning of the new fishing season – the perfect opportunity to get back on the water after the cold winter. And around New Zealand, hundreds of anglers headed to the water for their first catch of the season.

The Rotorua lakes offer some of the best fishing in the country and the season traditionally has always kicked off with hundreds of fishers at Lakes Rotoiti, Tarawera, and Okataina.

“The lakes close over winter and that gives the fish a bit of a rest period. Opening Day usually produces some good fishing as the rested fish tend to be a little more naïve,” said Fish & Game’s Matt Osborne.

This year, the Opening Day coincided with the first day of school holidays and it fell on a Saturday, making it popular among families.

“Getting out for the start of the fishing season is a long-held tradition for many Kiwis but normally lots of people have to wait until a weekend if opening falls on a workday,” said Fish & Game chief executive Corina Jordan.

Fish & Game rangers were out checking compliance and reported lots of anglers from the top of the Lewis Pass down to the Waitaki River.

With the weather great for fishing in the Canterbury region, many anglers travelled to fish their favourite spots, said Fish & Game Canterbury.

Canterbury angler Neil Goldie makes his first cast of the new fishing season at the Waimakariri River Mouth on Saturday (1 October) morning. Photo: Richard Cosgrove | Fish & Game

Trying for a sea-run salmon was Canterbury angler Neil Goldie.

“It’s a little bit early for a salmon, but with warmer temperatures at sea in summer, there’s a chance of a salmon taking advantage of the cooler waters now to make a run.

“With it being the second year of the sea-run salmon season bag limit and the harvest card, you have to selectively harvest your salmon, so fishing in cooler waters will be great for the fish if you need to release it.

“The sea-run salmon fishery has moved to more of a sports fishery than a harvest fishery as anglers do their bit to help the recovery of the fishery.”

Trout anglers in the Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere area were also out in numbers.

The scenic Harts creek was popular as the day progressed, with many anglers from across the city trying to tempt the elusive fish inhabiting this creek.

Fish & Game ranger, Chris Aldous (left) checks the licences of Warren Mackie, Russell Mackay, and Neil Goldie at Harts Creek in the Selwyn District.

With Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere open to the sea at the moment, the Halswell, L2, Selwyn Rivers and Harts Creek are pretty enticing for many sea-run trout that have entered the lake, making the area a popular spot for anglers.

Further south, Central South Island Fish & Game officer Nicola Dellaway spent her first day on the job with colleagues checking licences on Lake Opuha.

Forty anglers were checked, mostly boat anglers but a few shore-based.

The fishing was excellent, with most anglers catching two or three brown or rainbow trout for the dinner table.

Below State Highway One at the Opihi River, father and son anglers, Stephen and Alfie (15) Henly, went out on a father-son opening day mission.

Despite the frosty start, they had both had luck, catching and releasing some trout caught on soft-bait lures.

Jet boat-based fishing is a tradition on the Waitaki River for opening, and there were at least 18 boats on the river in the morning.

Shore-based anglers near Kurow were also successful, mainly on rainbow trout around one to two pounds.

Anglers head out onto Lake Tarawera. Photo: Fish & Game Eastern

Other popular spots in the Waitaki area were Bells and Borton’s ponds, with most anglers there catching a fish by lunchtime.

With fishing proving to have both mental and physical benefits, Fish & Game says they are promoting family inclusion with a licence specifically for that. The family licence can include a partner to the primary licence holder and up to four children or grandchildren under the age of 18. Licences are on sale now, and anglers are encouraged to check out the many categories available to ensure they get the most suitable and best value licence for their needs.

“The last two or three years have been tough for many New Zealanders; it was great to see an increase in angling activity following the lockdowns – people made the connection that outdoor pursuits help improve wellbeing,” said Jordan.

Around 100,000 licences are expected to sell this season, of which around 10% will be non-residents.

“This is good news for the wider economy – research shows international anglers are big spenders, among the highest value tourists the country receives.

“Many guides are also back to being well booked by overseas clients this season after several years of no tourism, which is great for their businesses and the flow-on economic effects for the regional communities where many are based.”

Fish & Game is also reminding anglers and other lake users of the Check, Clean and Dry message as summer rolls in.

“Ensuring we keep local waterways pest free is critical to our continued enjoyment of the resource and everyone needs to do their part.”

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