15000 escaped salmon certainly attracts anglers! Iza and I went to fish the Tekapo canals near the salmon farms recently. The weather was perfect and there were anglers everywhere. We found our spot in the picket fence on Saturday morning but the fish did not come easy! Bait fishermen were catching a few. Iza’s softbait was not getting much attention and I had to pick my cast with the fly. We walked some of the the canal and got away from the masses. There were clearly a few hot-spots but we chose to have a bit of room to fish freely instead of fighting for position. Just up-stream of the cages there was not an angler to be seen. I walked and stalked from time to time and always saw a few fish, including some of the monsters up to 20lbs but these were never too far from their main food source . The smaller browns, the ones not thriving on fish-farm pellets, were the ones I most enjoyed targeting. They were tough. Bright sun, glass calm and uniform canal edges meant anything out of the ordinary was noticed by my quarry. There were decent numbers of these 2to 4 lb browns and I have a feeling that this is a virtually unused NZ fishery. I know people fish near the cages for escapees and the pigs of trout that eat pellets, but who walks the edges to sight fish? I’m sure a few do. I will again that’s for sure.
The highlight of the trip was hearing a loud call from Iza, I turned around thinking (and hoping!) that it was a “I have a fish” call and not a “I’m snagged” call. She was hooked up alright. I ran to her side to help her land whatever she was hooked into. The 5.5 lb salmon jumped repeatedly and fought hard but Iza kept the pressure on and before too long the fish was safely in my net. She has caught a few little fish and lost a big brown at her feet on the Waiau, but this was her first big fish hooked and landed by herself. A great and memorable moment for any angler. Its also some pressure off me!
It needs to be mentioned that these salmon farms are different to those in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and BC. They are contained in inland, man made waterways and do not appear to have any negative impact on wild trout at all. Quite the opposite in fact. Can a lesson be learned here?