Climbing out of our warm climate controlled 4×4 truck at Lake Selfe for this year’s Canterbury High Country Opening Weekend was a bit of a shock. It was freezing cold. So cold that light snow was falling as we pitched our tent. The weather forecast may well have convinced some anglers to give it a miss this year. But not us. After all Lake Coleridge is in the Southern Alps. There was already plenty of snow still on the high tops. When travelling to the mountains it pays to be prepared for whatever the elements through at you! All you need is heaps of blankets and a hot-water bottle.
The following morning we awoke to a minus 3 degrees C frost. Icicles formed in our rod guides which reduced casting distance for the first few hours until the sun rose above the mountain on the far side of Lake Selfe. However, the sky was clearing and we would see no more rain.
There are so many good fishing options in the Coleridge group of fishing lakes that it can be difficult to decide where to start. Lake Selfe is probably your best bet if you want to catch a bigger fish. This is a very pretty little lake with easy access around most of the shoreline. A dinghy or kayak is a big help as it allows you to fish deeper water either spin fishing or trolling. You are only allowed to troll from a non-motorized craft – paddle power only.
Lake Coleridge Salmon
You will likely find it easier to catch a salmon in nearby Lake Coleridge. The salmon will readily take almost any lure. If casting from shore your best bet is a silver Toby or silver ticer weighing 17g. I have found a strip of blue prism tape and a small red plastic tag helps to make the lure more attractive. The reason for the small ticer is so you can get good casting distance and have the lure sink down quickly to fishing depth. I fish with 6-pound monofilament which is all you need either from shore or boat.
Lake Coleridge is quite a deep lake and the quinnat salmon tend to swim around in schools of similar sized fish most of which are about two pounds or so (1.1kg). Just cast straight out at the mouth of the Harper River, Ryton River or the Picket Fence to catch a salmon. Just keep casting and retrieving as a school of salmon are sure to pass your spot sooner or later.
Change of light in the morning is the best time to fish. On Opening Weekend on the first Saturday in November the best time to fish will be from 5.00am to 7.00am before the sun shines on the lake surface. Most of the salmon are caught during this time. Indeed the best anglers will have caught their limit of four salmon within this two hour period.
The mouth of the Harper River offers better casting into deep water without snagging your line around large stones that you get at the Picket Fence where experienced anglers know to wind faster as the lure nears the lake’s edge. Also, there is a good chance of a tailwind blowing down the lake when fishing at the Harper end. Then it is a simple matter of casting high and letting the wind carry your lure a long distance from shore. The second most likely catch in Lake Coleridge is rainbow trout. Whilst brown trout tend to be a distant third and are much harder to catch, though usually larger in size than the salmon.
Many of the rainbow trout taken in Lake Coleridge are almost indistinguishable from the quinnat salmon. The rainbows can be bright silver in colour but have spots on the tail whereas the salmon do not.
If trolling from a boat you will find that Rapala style bibbed minnows are the most productive fishing lure. As with shore fishing trolling will be far more productive early in the morning before the sun hits the lake’s surface. Trolling can be good throughout the day if it is raining or wind is rippling the lake’s surface. Early starts are a must if you are to fish the most productive time of day.
Fish and Game 2011 Canterbury High Country Fishing Contest
This is the fourth year running North Canterbury Fish and Game have hosted a fishing contest with free entry for fishing license holders wishing to fish the surrounding lakes. The weigh station and prize-giving are at Ryton Bay with close-off for entries at 3.00pm on Saturday. Fish and Game together with their sponsors: Hamill Sports, Composite Developments, Okuma, and Silstar do an excellent job running this event and always have plenty of great prizes to give away. The compare for the prize-giving is Daryl Crimp who does a tremendous job of entertaining the large crowd of competition entrants.
Although it is a fishing contest it is also an excellent opportunity for Fish and Game to gain valuable information on the fishery. Fish and Game rangers measure and weigh all the trout and salmon entered which allows them to determine the condition factor of each fish. This information can be compared to previous data collected to gauge the overall health of the fishery.
Keep in mind that the salmon in Lake Coleridge are released into the lake by Fish and Game. The salmon do not breed after release. If Fish and Game did not continue to release salmon into Lake Coleridge within a couple of years they would all die out. Fish and Game also release juvenile brown and rainbow trout into these lakes as well. Some of the smaller waters such as Lake Georgina hold quite good sized rainbow trout. I would say that the biggest brown trout are in Lake Selfe where they can reach 3kg.
For the record, the heaviest fish caught on the day were as follows: Heaviest Brown Trout by an adult, JD Parker 2.0kg. Heaviest Rainbow Trout by an adult, Howard 2.4kg. Heaviest Salmon J.P. Watson 1.4kg. Heaviest fish caught by a Junior Angler, H.Harris with a brown trout weighing 2.1kg.
Canterbury High Country Opening Weekend is a tradition in this part of the country with hundreds of anglers making the trip each year!. There are many who have gone up to these lakes, on the first Saturday in November, for as long as they can remember. It is a chance to catch up with old mates, experience camping in wilderness conditions, and catch some good fish at the same time.