Contains brown trout and redfin perch
Lake Forsyth has been plagued by periodic toxic algal blooms over recent warm summers. These algal blooms arrear a bright green colour and are so poisonous that the water can kill sheep, dogs, eels and fish. The lake is shallow with a maximum depth of only two metres meaning the water can heat up over the hot summer months. These algal blooms are not new. They have been reported as far back as 1907. My recommendation is that you avoid Lake Forsyth altogether.
Situated about an hour’s drive from central Christchurch, Lake Forsyth/ Wairewa has the advantage of being fishable when most other low-land Canterbury waters are dirty following rain. I mean clear in a relative sense, for Lake Forsyth is always a bit discoloured as a result of run-off from neighbouring farmland. Lake Forsyth is only a few meters deep so the bottom is easily stirred up by a strong wind.
Over the past decade, Lake Forsyth has suffered from potentially toxic blue-green algae blooms (planktonic cyanobacteria) prompting official warnings not to swim in or eat fish from the lake. At the very least fish should be gutted and cleaned well in fresh water and cooked through before eating. It is important not to allow your children to swim in Lake Forsyth.
Canine pets are also very susceptible to poisoning from the toxic blue-green algae blooms. The Canterbury District Health Board issues warnings about when the lake should be avoided and you can find these warnings on their website. These algal blooms mostly occur during the warmest months of the year.
The area around Little River, at the head of the lake, was once rich in native timber. A sawmill at Little River cut timber that was hauled back to Christchurch by a railway built for the purpose. The rail line has long since gone – the last tram ran in the early fifties – but the bank along which it ran is still a feature along the northwestern shoreline.
Lake Forsyth a vivid green, labelled toxic once more
The Maori have long regarded Lake Forsyth as a valuable source of food. Eels are still caught by local Maori in channels dug in the stones at the southwest end of the lake near Birdlings Flat.
As a trout fishery, Lake Forsyth can be surprisingly good at times. This is especially so if fresh sea-run brown trout have managed to enter the lake when it has been opened to the sea.
The Takiritawai River (Little River) flows in at the head of Lake Forsyth. A few hundred metres upstream it is joined by the Okuiti and Okana Rivers. The lower reaches of these streams are sluggish but are favoured by some anglers.
Lake Forsyth is almost 8 km long by around 1.5km wide. Its length can extend inland further following seasonal rain. When the level of the lake becomes too high, a channel is cut by bulldozing a cutting through the shingle spit, opening the lake to the sea. The opening soon closes on the next tide though natural seepage continues to drain the lake to some degree. When the lake has been opened sea-run brown trout are known to ride the breakers and enter the lake.
The best fishing spots seem to be either the mouth of the Takiritawai River or the shallows at the opposite end of the lake behind the rubbish tip. I have on occasion counted several dozen trout anglers fishing in a line where the lake narrows at the southern end. It is a somewhat strange site to see anglers standing in line out in the middle of the lake. The water is shallow so by the time they have wadded out to waist depth they are some distance from shore! I have also seen birds diving after silveries. Brown trout also herd the silveries toward the shallows.
Brown Trout Tea Rooms at Little River
The preferred fishing method is a sunk feathered lure which can either be fished on a fly rod or spinning gear with the use of a small lead weight. Popular lures are Parsons Glory, Yellow Rabbits and Hopes Silvery. Change over to a darker lure such as a Black Rabbit or Black Phantom as the sun sets.
The best trout fishing takes place when Lake Forsyth has recently been opened to the sea and fresh sea-run brown trout and silveries have entered through the cutting. If this coincides with a period when the Rakaia River, and other Canterbury rivers, are in flood then there can be a sudden burst of angler activity on this otherwise forgotten lake. However, it is generally not recommended as a trout fishing destination due to its poor water quality.
Lake Forsyth with Peter Langlands
Silver trout, murky water. Being a coastal lake, Forsyth opens on the 1st of October. The lake is known to fish extremely well in the early season until mid-December. After then, the lake’s waters warm up considerably and trout fishing becomes difficult because of algae growths which tend to infuriatingly clog up on your fish gear.
Lure fishing the shallows with smelt-type lures, or spinning with a black and gold Toby are successful methods. The best part of the lake for fishing is the southern end of the lake and along the channel leading to the lake’s outlet at Birdlings Flat. Fishing is undoubtedly best at dusk and for several hours into the night, if using black marabou or streamer-type lures. Do not be put off by the lake’s murky waters, the trout have sharp eyesight and will voraciously have a whack at your lure!
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