Published On: Wed, Mar 23rd, 2016

Closure of the Winter Eastern Zone NCF&G 1 May 2016

Closure of the Winter Eastern Zone NCF&G 1 May 2016

by Allan Burgess

Closure of the Winter Eastern Zone I’m not in favour of reducing angling opportunities through fishery closures. However, I do understand the rationale for its intended purpose. The stated objective for the urgent closure of the winter fishery in North Canterbury Fish & Game’s Eastern Zone is to highlight environmental problems and hopefully get something done to reverse them by the powers that be.
Allan Burgess on the lower Waimakariri River. Closure of the Winter Eastern Zone NCF&G 1 May 2016

The author at his favorite haunt: the tidal zone below the bridges on the Waimakariri River. I have fished this section for sea-run brown trout almost every spring for 30 years. Although there is always some fluctuation in fish numbers from year to year, for the most part, the fishing there has always been very good. Being so close to Christchurch the lower Waimakariri River has always been popular as an “after work fishery.” It is probably the most highly fished river in New Zealand.

The decline in the sea-run trout fishery in Canterbury has little to do with angling pressure. Winter closure on its own will have little impact in bringing about an improvement in fish numbers.

How have we come to this state of affairs? The real cause of the fisheries decline is political. Too many consents being granted resulting in water being drawn from Canterbury’s rivers and aquifers to the point of un-sustainability. Added to that the ever increasing toll from pollution caused by sewage, storm water and agricultural run-off making our rivers unfit for swimming without becoming ill. When fishing the lower Waimakariri River anglers must be careful to avoid getting even a small amount of water in their mouths!

Environment Canterbury (ECan) was replaced by a commissioner, Dame Margaret Bazley, and other government-appointed commissioners, in 2010. You can read about it here in Rod Oram’s Sacked ECan Board was no Damp Squib. The reason the ECan Councillors were replaced is not hard to work out. It’s difficult to see real change happening there anytime soon!

The Once Mighty Lake Ellesmere Brown Trout Fishery 

If we take a look at the shocking demise of the once incredibly productive Lake Ellesmere brown trout fishery you get an idea of how things can go badly wrong. The North Canterbury Acclimatisation Society (the predecessor of Fish & Game New Zealand) back in the 1940s, estimated the spawning population of the Selwyn River at around 65,000 trout. At that time the entire Lake Ellesmere brown trout fishery could possibly have numbered 100,000-200,000 adult fish – many of which were double figure trout. Back in its heyday prior to the 1950’s, Lake Ellesmere and its tributaries, most notably the Selwyn, were regarded as the best brown trout fishery in the dominion. The Lake Ellesmere fishery is still good, with some large browns being caught, it just isn’t a patch on what it once was.

Closure of the Winter Eastern Zone NCF&G 1 May 2016

The author with a silver sea-run brown trout.

Although there is no single cause for the dramatic decline man-made environmental factors have taken their toll. You can read more about the once magnificent Lake Ellesmere Brown Trout Fishery – the full excerpt is here: TE WAIHORA/LAKE ELLESMERE State of the Lake and Future Management. Edited by KENNETH F.D. HUGHEY and KENNETH J.W. TAYLOR. Lincoln University, 2008. Ross Millichamp on the Brown Trout Fishery.

Fishingmag has more on Selwyn River Brown Trout

Some Questions for Licence Holders Answered

Yesterday, (Tuesday 22 March 2016) I put the following questions to Rod Cullinane, General Manager of North Canterbury Fish & Game Council, concerning the urgent closure of the Eastern Zone below SH1, on 1 May 2016.

1. Is this closure now a certainty? No – the Conservation Act 1987 stipulates that the Director General of Doc needs to agree to it.  An application to approve has been lodged.

2. Will those who have purchased a Full Season licence receive a partial refund – in particular, those who have purchased a whole season licence recently? Unfortunately no. S26ZL(1)(c)  of the Conservation Act 1987 provides for the Director-General of Doc (at the request of Fish & Game s 26ZL(2)) to prohibit or restrict any waters or part thereof at any time.  There is no requirement to make refunds.

3. How will licence holders be notified about the closure? By public notification in the newspaper and by email to all current licence holders.

4. What methods will be employed to monitor the health of the sea-run trout fishery going forward?  Our Council has several ways it is considering doing this and will apportion resources both internally and externally to ensure that these waters are monitored so that this decision to close (or to re-open) the waterways concerned can be reviewed in the future.

We will keep you posted of further developments regarding the closure of the Winter Eastern Zone NCF&G 1 May 2016.

About the Author

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Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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Have Your Say
  1. Several subscribers have contacted me asking, “do Fish & Game check licences at McIntosh’s.” I’m told they have been checking them there almost every day this season. I did see them myself checking licences several times this month at McIntosh’s. I’m not sure they go down the bait anglers end though.
    I gave a talk some years ago at the Canterbury Anglers Club to about 70 members. I asked for a show of hands to the question; “how many of you fish over winter?” Only about three people put their hands up!

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