Salmon Season Report 2021-2022

Jayden Rich with a great condition sea-run salmon from the mighty Rakaia River, January 2022. Salmon Season Report.
Jayden Rich with a great condition sea-run salmon from the mighty Rakaia River, January 2022.

Salmon Season Report 2021-2022 – My not very “scientific” survey!

By Allan Burgess – Report Date 21 January 2020

Over the past week I asked a number of salmon anglers, both directly, by email, and via social media, about how they thought the current salmon season was progressing so far. Specifically, I asked them the following questions. Did they think the current season was about the same as last year? Better? Worse? Are the fish bigger? Smaller, About the same? Condition? Numbers? Is it too early to say? Here is our salmon season report so far.

Their answers were very encouraging. Here is what they said. 

The consensus is that there has been a marked improvement over this time last year. Things appear to have reverted back to the way they were about ten years ago in that the early action has been mostly in the Rangitata and Rakaia Rivers. 

Anglers should note that the salmon season in North Canterbury and Central South Island has now been extended and has returned back to 30 April.   

Anglers, as always, must check their regulation booklet as there are shorter seasons in some tributaries of the main rivers.  

Salmon Season Report So Far 

Rangitata River 

The Rangi has seen a definite improvement over the past few seasons with some nice early salmon being taken. From several accounts the Rangitata salmon have on average have been a bit smaller than those from the Rakaia River. 

Rakaia River 

The mighty Rakaia River has been the pick of the salmon rivers so far this season. Anglers fishing over the Christmas period at the Rakaia Gorge said they haven’t seen so many salmon moving up the river for years. Salmon caught from the Rakaia River so far have been in the 12 to 25 lb range and in excellent condition with numerous solid deep-bodied fish being taken. 

There are currently two mouths exiting the Rakaia Lagoon to the sea. Many anglers are saying that it is the best start to the salmon season in the Rakaia in the past 10 years.

Spawning times in the Rakaia River catchment are still around normal as the water is mostly cooler. 

Simon McMillian from Ballingers Hunting and Fishing with a chunky 8.95kg (19.7lb) Rakiaia River salmon taken during January 2022.
Simon McMillian from Ballingers Hunting and Fishing with a chunky 8.95kg (19.7lb) Rakiaia River salmon taken during January 2022.

Waimakariri River 

To date, there have been about a dozen salmon taken in the lower Waimakariri River. Two of the Waimakariri River fish taken so far have weighed 7 and 8 lbs, with the remainder weighing between 12 to 18 lb, but still early days for this river.  

Last season we had a December run in the Waimakariri River. This seems to happen every 6 or 7 years. This season the run looks to have reverted to the more traditional mid to late March period. 

Larry Burke suspects river water temperature had something to do with last year when water temperatures in the Waimakariri River were very high and would be averaging around 22deg sometimes at 10 or 11 pm at night. Research from North America has shown that high river water temperatures are disastrous for salmon which are cold-water fish. If excessive water is taken for irrigation it causes the remaining water in the rivers to heat up at an even faster rate. 

The salmon run in the Waimakariri River has been getting later. It used to start around the last week of February. Now it is around the 3rd week of March.  

Low land spawning is now in May till around the 10th of June and has increased over the last 3 years. We are now able to stir the shingle in Silver Stream to help with both ECAN and F&G consent. The landowners along the stream have become very protective of the spawning salmon and actually police to stop dogs in the stream and poachers. High country spawning has been going into July with Fish & Game saying about 80% of their Waimakariri River count was around then.  

Hurunui River 

Just starting to get underway with a few fish caught at the mouth. Two of the salmon taken from the Hurunui have been in the 15lb range. Keep an eye on the river flows as the Hurunui River can at times be fishable when the main rivers further south are discoloured following heavy nor-west rain over the Southern Alps. 

The latest word from the Hurunui River mouth is that there have been 6 salmon caught there since 27 December. Thank you, John.

Salmon Season Report Summary

By and large, this salmon season appears to be an improvement over this time last year. However, time will tell if things continue to go well during February and March, which has historically been the best time of year for salmon fishing in Canterbury. 

Special thanks to Larry Burke and Greg Terras for their much-appreciated contributions to this piece. 

As a bit of a side note, here is a really big yellowtail kingfish caught off the Canterbury coast. The fact that these big North Island species are now regularly being caught this far south is a good indication that sea temperatures are warming. This is of course not a good thing for the salmon fishery. We’ll keep you posted as the salmon season develops. If you would like to catch a salmon now is the time to hit the water.

Don’t forget that if you are fishing for salmon there is a season bag limit in place of 2 salmon per angler per season. As soon as you catch a salmon you must fill in the catch card immediately while still at the river. There has been some decent over the salmon season bag limit on social media. It has been put in place as an important conservation measure by Fish and Game to conserve the salmon fishery for future generations. Hopefully, over time fish numbers will improve and the season limit will be able to be increased.

Ballingers Hunting and Fishing

Jeremy Burke from Ballingers Hunting and Fishing in Christchurch caught this big yellowtail kingfish off the Canterbury Coast, during January 2022.
Jeremy Burke from Ballingers Hunting and Fishing in Christchurch caught this big yellowtail kingfish off the Canterbury Coast, during January 2022.

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