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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (November 1, 1929)

Salmon Fishing in the South Island Rivers

page 23

Salmon Fishing in the South Island Rivers

Some twenty-five years ago the New Zealand Government decided to introduce Quinnat Salmon into the Dominion. The result of this foresight has indeed proved a success, these fish having now become acclimatised. Their numbers are increasing rapidly in the snow fed rivers of the East coast of the South Island—from the Waiau River to the Waitaki River.

These fish usually commence to run early in February, and runs of salmon continue up to the end of May. After leaving the sea the fish will not forage for food in the rivers, but subsists upon its own substance.

A Fine Specimen. Typical Salmon (weight 35lbs.) caught in a South Island river.

A Fine Specimen.
Typical Salmon (weight 35lbs.) caught in a South Island river.

The female fish usually enters the river first, and, after resting for a few days in a convenient pool at the mouth, makes her way in stages from pool to pool up to the headwaters of the stream, the male fish following up in the same manner some days later.

The goal at the head of the river being reached spawning takes place, after which both the male and female waste away and die.

In due course, the fry being hatched, the small fish make their way down the river to the sea, where they remain for a period of from three to five years. These young fish eventually mature at sea, and it is one of the wonders of migration that, with few exceptions, they find their way back to the river whence they were hatched.

Although the fish do not seek food, they are very savage when making their way upstream, and, whilst resting in the pools, readily attack any small fish that venture near them. But for this peculiarity, the angler would have very poor sport, as the salmon, thinking it to be a small fish, mistakenly attacks the spoon or minnow of the fisherman as it flickers past.

The necessary equipment for the sport of salmon fishing may be purchased at very moderate cost. I have found, from experience, that the best revolving spoon to use is a copper and nickel—the cost of which is two shillings and sixpence. For the information of the novice, I might add that a coil of light piano wire (cost about one shilling and sufficient to supply a season's traces), a green dressed flax line (cost about ten shillings), a four-inch Nottingham reel (cost about twenty shillings), a few leads and a bamboo rod (cost about ten shillings and sixpence) is all the additional outfit required.

In the Rakaia River, providing conditions are favourable, bags of from five up to eight fish per day are frequently caught. On various occasions, while fishing at the riverside, I have chatted with fishermen from overseas. These tourist fishermen have been deeply impressed with the good fishing available at such a moderate cost. One gentleman, in particular, mentioned that, at considerable expense he had visited Norway and secured only three small salmon in the noted rivers of that country. He also remarked upon how fortunate we New Zealanders were in having such splendid facilities for this class of sport, both for professional and amateur anglers. No section of the community, on the score of cost, is debarred from enjoying it.

Within easy distance of Christchurch are the Waimakariri (12 miles) and the Rakaia Rivers (36 miles), both of which may be reached by train from Christchurch within an hour, and enthusiasts would enjoy the fine sport of salmon fishing in these well-stocked rivers.