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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84

Twentieth Annual Report

Twentieth Annual Report

Twentieth Annual Report

In presenting this, our Twentieth Annual Report, to yon, before passing on to review the work of the past year, we have to record with deep regret the loss of one of our most active and zealous members. Our late secretary, Mr. William Arthur, died on the 3rd of August last, after an illness of but a few days. The interest Mr. Arthur took in acclimatisation matters is well known to us all, and it is in a great part owing to his untiring zeal that so great a measure of success has attended our operations in recent years, and that the work of this Society, especially in regard to pisciculture, has acquired more than a local reputation.

During the past year our operations have as a matter of necessity been almost entirely confined in piscicultural channels; indeed, for many years to come we fear that any attempts at the propagation of winged game will be futile, owing, in the first place, to the poisoned grain spread over the whole face of the country, and in the second place to the increase of the natural enemies of the rabbit, which are, unfortunately, also the natural enemies of the feathered friends we desire so much to see established among our fields and covers. On this account, therefore, our attention must be almost entirely devoted to the stocking of our waters fresh and salt with the inhabitants suitable to them and valuable to the community. In this direction, however, we have accomplished, and there is still ample room for the expenditure of our energies, for, to speak of nothing else, the salmon and the berring have yet to be numbered among the fishes of New Zealand.

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Opoho Grounds.

At our last Annual Meeting we reported the purchase of nearly five acres of ground on Opoho Creek, and the building of a house there for our Manager. Since then the hatching-house and ponds have been constructed, and the place put in a very efficient state by Mr. Deans. He has made it altogether a very charming place, and those of our friends who have not yet visited the grounds would find an hour or two well spent in going over them.

The unusually dry season we have had has taxed our water supply here to the utmost, especially as we had a much greater number of fry of various kinds in our boxes and ponds than ever before, and it is only due to the constant care of Mr. Deans that we did not lose a large number of our young fish. But in future we do not anticipate anything like the anxiety we have had this season. There is plenty of water for hatching purposes at Opoho, and our new grounds at Waiwera will, when completed, give us ample accomodation and water supply for very extensive operations in the way both of hatching and rearing.

Waiwera Grounds.

Since our last meeting the purchase of these grounds, comprising about forty-three acres, has been completed. The place is eminently suited for the stud farm for the various species of salmonidœ we propose constructing there. It is about two miles this side of Clinton, on Marshall's Creek—a small tributary of the Waiwera. At the height of the dry season there was a beautiful run of water in the stream—more than sufficient to keep sweet a large system of ponds.

We have erected a neat five-roomed cottage on the place, immediately overlooking the site for the ponds, and have installed Ranger Burt as Manager there. He is now busily engaged cutting a race from the creek. This race when complete will be about twenty chains long, and will feed a succession of parallel ponds—five or six, or more—each about 100ft long by 8ft or 10ft wide, and running from 2ft to 5ft deep. In these ponds, when completed, we propose keeping separately our breeding stock of salmon, Loch Leven trout, fontinalis, burn trout, etc.

Treasurer's Report.

Our Treasurer's Report is as usual very satisfactory. Our vested funds have, of course, been very considerably reduced, but we have the equivalent in two valuable properties from which we hope to derive yearly increasing revenues.

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Our chief sources of revenue are the sale of ova and of trout fishing licenses; the sale of shooting licenses having for reasons before stated fallen off during the past two years—about fifty were issued last season. As a set oft" to this falling oft in the shooting it is pleasing to note that each year adds some new members to the discipleship of Walton, and it is especially gratifying to see a gradually increasing number of youths taking to this health-giving recreation. The action of the Council in granting 10s. licenses to boys under sixteen has no doubt contributed in a great measure to this effect.

Last year we issued close on 400 fishing licenses; this season we expect to issue thirty or forty more.

For the encouragement of fly fishing the Council have renewed their grant of a gold medal to the Otago Anglers' Association, to be fished for in the Lee Stream by the members of that body.

Birds and Animals.

As indicated above, we have not a very glowing report to make as regards our game birds. The poisoned grain and natural enemies are doing their work of extermination surely, and our native ducks are suffering severely from the same causes.

Of black game and pintail grouse we have had no reports whatever during the year, and the number of pheasants, partridges, and Californian quail, appear to be sadly reduced. The hares also appear to be succumbing to the seductions of phosphorus, considerable numbers having been found poisoned during the year.

The herds of deer, however, at Bushy Park, Horse Range, Tapanui, and Morven Hills appear to be doing well and increasing considerably in numbers. Mr. A. R. Blackwood, of Messrs. Dalgety and Co., having permission from our Chairman, secured two magnificent heads from the Morven Hills herd. Mr. Blackwood showed his appreciation of the sport he had in stalking these by forwarding his cheque for £20 towards the funds of the Society.

In December Mr. C. Bills arrived from England with a large consignment of birds, etc. Among these were eighty English robins and three hedgehogs—the latter being all that survived of about a hundred taken on board. Of these we purchased forty of the robins and the hedgehogs. The robins were liberated on the property of Mr. James Fulton at West Taieri, and as they were all strong and healthy young birds we hope soon to see these useful and interesting little strangers strongly established page 6 and quite familiar objects about our gardens. The hedgehogs were placed under the care of Mr. G. M. Thomson, who took great pains to secure their comfort by preparing a place in his garden specially for them. Notwithstanding this, the female unfortunately died soon after her arrival, and one of the males has since mysteriously disappeared.

We have again to thank Mr. John Bathgate, of Foochow, for a valuable donation to our Society. In July last he sent us by the "Tamsui " four Japanese deer and twenty-one patridges. The partridges, like the lot he previously sent, unfortunately all died on the voyage; but three of the deer—two stags and a hind—arrived safely, and, after being cared for by the Christchurch Society for some time, were liberated on the Otekaike Estate. From last accounts they appear to have taken kindly to their new home, and are likely to do well.

Some correspondence has taken place in reference to the introduction of Australian snipe; but the experiment promises to be so uncertain in its results, and withal so costly, that we have not deemed it advisable to do anything further in the matter in the meantime.

The Council have also had under consideration the desirability of endeavouring to introduce the chamois, and Dr. Von Haast has been commissioned to make enquiries from the German Government on his projected visit to the Continent as to the cost and probabilities of success of such an experiment.

Acclimatised Fish.

Salmo Salar.—We have as yet no report of the reappearance of salmon in any of our rivers, From time to time rumors have reached us of a fish supposed to be a salmon having been caught; but in no case have we been able to find our wish realised—that such rumor might be true. During the year, however, another important venture has been made towards the establishment of this fish in our waters. Towards the end of 1884 five of the New Zealand Acclimatisation Societies subscribed £250, and this amount was supplemented by the Government by another £250 for the purpose of endeavouring to procure a substantial supply of ova. With this end in view, Mr. Farr, Secretary of the North Canterbury Society, proceeded to England in October of that year. Notwithstanding the lateness of his arrival in England he was successful in procuring about 180,000 eggs. These were packed under Mr. Farr's supervision, and brought out under his personal care in the s.s. " Kaikoura," which arrived here in May, 1885. The following extract from our minutes details the arrival at Dunedin and subsequent bestowal in the Opoho hatching boxes of our portion of this shipment:-" Our box of salmon ova page 7 part of the shipment brought from London in the s.s. " Kaikoura " by Mr. Farr, reached Dunedin by railway from Christchurch on Tuesday night, May 5. Mr. H. Edwards had charge from Christchurch to Oamaru, and Captain Fullarton from Oamaru to Dunedin. Our Chairman. Secretary (Mr. Arthur), and Manager, received the box at the Dunedin railway station, and after seeing that the ova was all right, and had a good supply of ice (the night also being cold), it was deemed best, owing to the darkness, to leave the box in the truck all night. Next morning the box was taken carefully to Opoho, the padlock unlocked, and the trays of ova, which still had an abundance of ice about them, were carefully carried to the old hatching house. The ova were found to be in excellent condition, and looked very healthy, not many bad eggs being present. The Secretary (Mr. Arthur), the Manager, and Mr. Black transferred the eggs to the hatching boxes, about half being laid on glass grills, and the rest on a clean layer of gravel specially prepared. The temperature of the water flowing through the hatching-boxes was 46½ deg, F. On may 7 Mr. Deans reported having counted the ova, and found 3,930 good and 1,171 bad, making a total of 5,101 as our proportion of 180,000 salmon ova reported by Mr. Farr, on February 25, as got by him out of the Tweed. There being five contributing societies, our proportion should have been much larger. So the Secretary wrote to the Christchurch Society, and got a reply from Mr. Farr. This letter states that each box contained when originally packed in the ice-chamber 27,600 ova, and gives the number of bad eggs removed from each during the voyage. Thus our box contained originally 27,648. where of 6,055 died on the voyage, leaving 21,593 good ova in the trays when they left Christchurch for Dunedin." The discrepancy between the number we should have received and the number actually received has never been accounted for and still remains a mystery. Of the 3,930 good eggs reported by Mr. Deans on May 7. nearly all hatched out into strong lively try. In June the Christchurch Society, seeing our disappointment at the small number of ova actually received by us, presented us with 2,500 of the fry which they had hatched out. These reached us safely, but on transportation to our boxes at Opoho, a most alarming mortality prevailed amongst them, probably owing to the quality of our water differing from that in which they had been hatched, and the greater namber of them died. On December 31 we had, altogether, 3,900 healthy try at the ponds, which, with 50 which we had sent to Mr. Pillans, made a total of 3,950 young fish as the result of the " Kaikoura " shipment

As the experiments of Sir James Maitland, at Howietown, and the investigations of Dr. Francis Day appear to point conclusively to the fact that the Salmo salar will breed in confine- page 8 ment—that it is not a physiological necessity that the fish should go to the sea to qualify them for reproduction—we propose keeping a limited number of these in confinement at our ponds in Marshall's Creek. If we succeed in hatching out healthy fry from the ova of these confined parents, the stocking of our waters will be a mere matter of time. With regard to the larger number, however, it is proposed to retain them only until they assume their smolt livery and show signs of desiring to escape to salt water, and then to liberate them under conditions favourable to their reaching the sea. It is thought that if this is done the fish will have a much better chance of escaping their natural enemies, and surviving to return as grilse, than if they were turned into the river while of small size and in the parr state of existence.

Loch Leven Trout.—Of Loch Leven trout on December 31, 1884, we had in our ponds 1,100 healthy yearlings. During the year we have distributed 800, the principal portion going to the Waikawa River. This river was fixed on as there were no trout of any kind in it, and we desired, if possible, to have at least one place where we could be certain of the purity of the stock being maintained. On the 16th June Ranger Burt started with 400 Loch Leven trout from fourteen to sixteen months old to be put in the upper waters of this river near Fortification Station. Owing to the absence of roads during the latter part of the journey, it was late the following night before Mr. Burt, accompanied by Mr. Elliot, reached the homstead. Up to this time only one trout had died. Owing, however, to the absence of any one at the station who in the dark could show the way to the Marinui branch of the Waikawa, and as the fish were getting sickly, it was found necessary to make search for the stream by the aid of a single buggy lamp. This involved so much difficult travelling and the loss Of so much time that 100 trout were lost ere the stream was reached. The balance, about 300 fish, of from three to four inches long, were then all put in. During the recent hot weather three or four of the fish in the Opoho ponds died. Two males, seven and eight inches long repectively were opened by Mr. Deans in the presence of Mr. P. F. Stoddart and the Secretary, and were found to contain milt in a forward state of development. On December 31, 1885, we had 300 fish in the ponds. We propose retaining about fifty of these at Opoho, and sending the rest to the ponds at Marshall's Creek, where, in the spawning season, we confidently expect to get a good supply of ova from them, as by that time many of the fish should be well over a pound in weight.

Salmo Fontinalis.—In September last the Christchurch Society were good enough to present us with 400 young fry of page 9 this hand some Charr (Salmo fontinalis). Ranger Burt brought them down, and arrived at Dunedin Railway Station without the loss of one. On being transferred to the boxes at Opoho a similar mortality to that which had taken place among the salmon set in amongst them—and after two days there were only about twenty left alive, but these are now thriving well. Previously to this we had got fifty fontinalis from Mr. Johnson, of Opawa, in exchange for some Burn trout, and we are pleased to say that these are thriving remarkably well, and in another year they will probably become parent fish.

Burn Trout.—In the belief that the common Scotch burn trout might prove more suitable to some of our streams than the larger variety we already have, we got from Sir James Maitland's Hamilton ponds a box of ova containing about 15,000. These arrived in Wellington on the 20th January, having been brought out under the care of Engineer Purvis, of the s.s. " Ionic." On their arrival in Dunedin they were immediately taken to our hatching boxes, but we regret to say we have not been so successful with them as we could have desired; 1,700 fry were hatched out, but on 31st December we had only 400 left. These, with fifty sent to Mr. Pillans and forty to Mr. Johnson, making in all 490, are all that survived. The principal loss occurred through deficiency in the water supply during the very dry summer. Those we have left are, however, vigorous and healthy, and are sufficient to form a good parent stock, and in the course of a few years we hope to turn out thousands of this game and lively fish into the various streams suitable for their reception.

Brown Trout.—The past year has been one of the most successful we have yet had with our brown trout. During the spawning season Mr. Deans succeeded in collecting, from various streams, about 340,000 ova. This is the largest number yet collected in any one season, and necessitated the making of an additional 90ft of hatching boxes. Of these ova 82,000 have been sent away, chiefly to the Acclimatisation Societies in the North Island. In all cases the shipments reached their destination in the usual satisfactory condition. Mr. Deans has now had so much experience, and exercises so much care in packing, that this satisfactory result is a matter taken for granted. We hatched out about 250,000 fry, of which about 190,000 have been distributed up to the 31st December, and 98,000 are still at the pond awaiting distribution. In addition to those distributed from the Opoho ponds, Mr. Pillans, from his hatchery, liberated 1,000 young trout in the Wash Creek, Clyde vale, near its confluence with the Pomahaka; and 800 in the Kaihiku, below the fall. The additional accommodation we shall now have at Marshall's Creek will put us in a position to supply an almost unlimited demand for ova, as well as to provide most liberally for the requirements of our own streams.

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The fishing season opened as usual on the 1st October, and the fish in the majority of the rivers were in very fair condition and more numerous than in any previous year. The Southern rivers appear still to bear the palm in the production of trout of beautiful shape and fine flavour; the Waipahi, above Arthurton, being, perhaps, in this respect unequalled. During the early part of the season the fishing in all the rivers was exceptionally good, but later the dryness of the season reduced the chances of sport very materially. Many of the smaller streams suffered severely from the drought, and reports reached us of great numbers of trout dying for want of sufficient water. This state of things was also very favourable for the operations of poachers, and we regret to say that poaching is being carried on to a large extent. The Society is desirous, and, indeed, has the right to expect that all anglers and others interested in the stocking of our waters should give their hearty co-operation towards checking the destruction of trout by poachers. It might be well if it were more generally understood that taking fish by illegal means is punishable by a fine which may be as high as £50. Several of the persons indulging in these illegal practices have received a salutary lesson through the watchfulness of our officers, especially of Ranger Burt.

As evidence of the continued success of fish culture in Otago waters, the following, among many other good baskets made during the season, may be worthy of mention:—

In March, last season, Mr. Burt had some capital fishing in the Poma-haka with natural minnow. On the 23rd he killed four fish, weighing 16lb; on the 24th, seven fish, weighing 33lb; on the 26th six fish, weighing 25½lb; on the 30th, eleven fish, weighing 48¾lb; and on the 31st, four fish, weighing 161b.

On the opening day of the current season a number of good baskets were made in the Shag River. Mr. P. Snowden had twenty fish, weighing 221b; Mr. W. Aitken, twentv fish, weighing 20lb; Mr. R. Chisholm. fourteen fish, weighine 16½lb; Mr. W. Carlton eight fish, weighing 12½lb; Mr. J. Wilkie, twenty fish" weighing 301b. On the 2nd Mr. W. Aitken had twenty fish, weighing 25lb; Mr. R. Chisholm. twenty-three fish, weighing 24lb; Mr. Snowden, twenty-two fish, weighing 20½lb: Mr. Wilkie. seventeen fish, weighing 21½lb. In the same river Mr. G. M. Marshall had, on October 8, 9 and 10, fourty-four fish. weighing 58½lb.

On November 11, Mr. J. P. Maitland, in the Waipahi, killed nine fish. weighing 34lb.

On December 8, in the same river, Mr. W. D. Smith killed six fish, 16½lb; Mr. R. Chisholm five fish, 15¼lb; and Mr. W. Carlton, four fish, 10¾lb. On December 7, Mr. W. Carlton, in the same river, killed seven fish weighing 30¼lb, the heaviest being 7¼lb; and Mr. W. You will got four fish, weighing 18lb.

Many other good baskets were made during the season, but these are sufficient to show the capabilities of our waters.

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Sea Fish.

Previous to his death Mr. Arthur liad begun the collection of a series of data from which he hoped to gain some information regarding our sea-fish, and ultimately to arrive at something definite in regard to the nature and habits of some of the most important of them. Since Mr Arthur's death this work has remained in abeyance: but we are pleased to say that Mr. G. M. Thomson, F.L.S., has intimated his intention of continuing the collection and tabulation of these returns and of carrying on these important investigations.

We have again to express our warmest thanks to Sir James Gibson Maitland, of Howietown for the cordial manner in which he has, by gift or otherwise, seconded our efforts in the acclimatisation of salmonidœ to the New Zealand Shipping Company and the Union Steam Shipping Company, for the conveyance of our ova freight free, and for the facilities given towards the proper care of the ova in transit; and also to the railway officials for giving us the same facilities in the distributing season.

The special thanks of the Society are also due to our Manager, Mr Deans, for the active interest be always takes in our work and the success with which he conducts it, and to Rangers Burt and Reilly for their continued efforts to protect our interests.

We have also to thank Mr Job Wain fur the use of his ground for hatching purposes, and Messrs Orbell, Hertslett (of Wai-kouaiti), and Constable M'Kenzie (of Outram) for their kindly assistance in the distribution of young trout.

In conclusion, we desire to say that the state of the law in regard to our acclimatised salmonidœ is not quite what it ought to be, and it is desirable that some joint action by the various societies should be taken to have this somewhat amended.

James Wilkie,

Hon. Secretary.