Mackenzie Country Canals Mid-Winter Fishing – Angler Etiquette

Mackenzie Country Canals Mid-Winter Fishing - Angler Etiquette Mackenzie Country Canals Mid-Winter Fishing. I recently spent several weeks fishing the…

Mackenzie Country Canals Mid-Winter Fishing – Angler Etiquette

A huge rainbow trout is quickly weighed, photographed and released to fight another day.

Mackenzie Country Canals Mid-Winter Fishing. I recently spent several weeks fishing the Twizel Canals during the later part of May. At that time of year in the Mackenzie Country, the days are short and the air temperatures hover around zero for most of the day. During one afternoon, whilst fishing at the Ohau A intake, it actually started snowing. I don’t mind so much fishing when it is very cold but I draw the line when it starts snowing.

Mackenzie Country Canals Mid-Winter Fishing. Big rainbow trout weighed and released in the Ohau A canal.

To stay warm you can’t beat a pair of thick neoprene waders; together with numerous layers of warm clothing. What really makes a difference is keeping your extremities from freezing. Neoprene gloves help a lot. I also wore a balaclava, which keeps the biting cold wind from your neck and face, especially with a beanie over the top. Notwithstanding the freezing conditions, the fishing went very well and I managed to catch and release several very large rainbow trout.

Yes, that white stuff is real snow. Freezing cold conditions at the Ohau A intake. Mackenzie Country Canals Mid-Winter Fishing.

In recent years, the Twizel Canals have become a mecca for thousands of anglers. There are few places in New Zealand, or probably anywhere in the world for that matter, where you can go to catch large trout, of twenty pounds plus, with such a high likelihood of success.

It was interesting to meet up with anglers from all around New Zealand who had travelled to the canals including several from the North Island. I have it on good authority that anglers are also travelling over from Australia too! The chance to fish with the odds stacked in the angler’s favour is understandably a magnet for many; myself included. However, it does take a bit of knowledge to catch these fish consistently.

Zack Reid with a magnificent winter-time rainbow jack in full spawning colours.

I have read many ill-informed comments on the internet that the canals are over-exploited. This is utter nonsense. If too many fish are being caught, which I don’t believe is the case, then it is Central South Island Fish & Game’s responsibility to monitor the situation and lower the bag limits, and improve compliance with the current fishing regulations. If the trout and salmon fishery in the canals was seriously under threat then angler catch rates would have collapsed. News of such a decline would get out immediately. This, in turn, would lead to fewer anglers bothering to fish there.

Despite the obvious cold, there are also many bright sunny days at the Twizel Canals even in mid winter. The fishing is better at this time of year because the canals are more likely to be flowing and many of the rainbows are in spawning colors.

As with any sort of bonanza activity, there are going to be those who are greedy and unwilling to play by the rules. There will always be those who deliberately take more fish than they are permitted, dump their rubbish on the road side, and totally disregard the rights of others.

On the other hand, I know there are many outstanding anglers who return again and again to the canals without keeping a single fish. There are still others who return all trout and only keep a few salmon. There are four salmon farms between the Ohau and Tekapo Canals that are raising hundreds of thousands of salmon for market. The canals are most unlikely to run out of salmon, or trout either for that matter, regardless of how many are being caught by the throng of fishermen and woman lining the banks. If you want to take your fish home to eat that’s perfectly alright too! A couple of years back I climbed up a slope near the fish farm in Ohau A to take a few photographs. I counted 450 rods from that one position alone! There were plenty of salmon around 4lbs being caught so I’m assuming there must have been a big escape from one of the pens.

Don’t touch any of the gear around the fish farms.

Enjoy your fishing in the canals. They are a wonderful fishing resource set amongst some of the most beautiful scenery found anywhere in New Zealand.

Mackenzie Country Canals Mid-Winter Fishing. Let’s look at a few dos and don’t along with some canal fishing etiquette.

  1. Do not interfere with the fish farms, their staff, or their operation in any way.
  2. Do not walk out onto the rafts and fish next to the gates.
  3. Do not block the road to other users – especially the narrow roads beside the Tekapo Canal.
  4. Do not touch any gear that does not belong to you personally.
  5. The roads running beside the canals are private, not public. Respect that fact so locked gates don’t suddenly appear.
  6. Do not use any fish feed pellets you might find either as bait or as ground-bait.
  7. Do not go fishing at the canals unless you have a current Fish & Game Fishing License.
  8. If other anglers are there before you give them space. There is no need to jump into someone’s spot the moment they take a step back. This is appalling behaviour but sadly not that uncommon near the fish farms.
  9. Do not take more fish than you are permitted. This includes releasing all foul hooked fish. You are not permitted to hook a fish and then pass the rod to another angler who has not reached his daily limit.
  10. You are not permitted to fish with more than one rod. There have been reports of anglers bait fishing with one rod and spin fishing with a second – and worse!
  11. When fishing along the top of the Ohau A Wall local etiquette requires that you move along in the line like everyone else so that everybody gets an equal turn at hooking a fish in the whitewater.
  12. Do not leave any rubbish behind at the canals. This includes food wrappers, lengths of fishing line, bottles, and empty cans.
  13. Return unwanted and foul hooked fish quickly to the water.
  14. Keep fish that will be released in the net rather than placing them on the ground.

Allan Burgess

Video: Fishing the Ohau A Canal in the snow.

The Complete Guide to Fishing the Twizel Canals Contains 148 pages, 25,000 words, and 185 photographs. Published 21 January 2018. Details on the new book and where you can get a copy.

This post was last modified on 11/08/2019 5:11 pm


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