Brook Trout – Salvelinus-fontinalis
The brook char or brook trout – Salvelinus fontinalis, was first introduced into New Zealand in 1877. The early acclimatisation societies released huge numbers of brook trout throughout New Zealand in the later part of the 19th century. Almost every major catchment on the South Island’s east coast from North Canterbury down to Southland had large numbers of brook trout released into them in the late 1800s.
Oddly the societies were largely unaware of the success of their brook trout liberations as the fish typically swim upriver to become established in the smallest headwaters. These areas are often in tussock country far up into the Southern Alps. The societies often didn’t know where the fish had gone. Sometimes they mistakenly thought the brook char must have gone out to sea when in fact quite the opposite was the case. The reason they head upstream is possibly their dislike of sharing the river or stream with rainbows or brown trout.
Brook char were introduced into New Zealand from ova brought out by ship from the Atlantic east coast of North America. In their native land, some brook trout are known to be sea-migratory or sea-running though this has never been shown to be the case with brook trout released into New Zealand. Brook char can be found in Canterbury’s Lake Emily, a small mountain lake in the Ashburton group. Here the brook trout have the small lake to themselves and for this reason, have done very well. There are some quite big brook trout specimens in Lake Emily up to 3kgs, though hooking them in and around the tussock, while trying not to stir up the muddy bottom, at the same time casting in a howling nor-westerly, will prove quite a challenge and not one to be undertaken lightly by the novice angler.
There are also small populations of brook trout in Lake Dispute and Dingle Lagoon in the Upper Waitaki, and Lake Henry near Te Anau. Southland. In the Rotorua Lakes District, of the central North Island, Lake Tikitapu, perhaps better known as Blue Lake, contains a leftover stock of brook trout.