Otago Harbour Salmon Fishing Competition
Following the recent success of the Otago Harbour Salmon Fishing Competition, convener John Highton tells about the event and background to this splendid harbour fishery.
The purpose of the competition and a lot of our other activities is to raise funds to maintain this put and take fishery. Of course, it would be desirable to have this on a sustainable basis. One approach to this which we have taken is financial in that we have established a trust fund. We need some big corporate donations to this to yield sufficient funds to sustain the fishery: around $30,000 per year for 60,000 smolts.
Another approach would be biological e.g. a spawning runs up the Leith River. This has not been achievable under present regulations but various possibilities exist. In the meantime, it falls upon a few shoulders in the Otago Branch of the New Zealand Salmon Anglers Association (on Facebook) to get together funds for the fishery. So far we have been quite successful and have managed to release around 60,000 salmon smolt each year. This year, however, we are very short of funds and will be struggling to raise funds for the 20,000 smolts we have ordered.
In many ways, this is a critical year for us. If we do not get in a significant amount of money this year we will not be able to sustain our release programme. On the positive side it is turning out to be a good season and we hope this will translate into increased donations from successful anglers and our supporters.
A series of good seasons from 1985-1989 got this fishery off to a good start. However subsequent
seasons saw less fish returning and much smaller fish. This seemed to fit a pattern of poor returns to East Coast rivers. This season has been better. There has been a steady catch of salmon mostly in the range of 10-15lbs, and in excellent conditions. It has not been uncommon for up to twenty fish per day to
come out of the harbour basin this season and some individual anglers have built up very large
tallies. At the same time, there has been less barracouta in the harbour, and fewer seals in evidence, though a significant number of salmon caught show teeth marks and large wounds. The fish which took third prize in the competition at 6.3kg did so despite some weight missing in the form of a large chunk out of one ﬂank. Something of substantial size must have been responsible, presumably a seal.
Prior to the competition, we had a period of prolonged north easterlies, this is an unpleasant wind
on Dunedin harbour as it drives straight down its length. It was, therefore, a wonderful surprise to find
a misty dawn lift to reveal a flat calm on the Sunday morning of the competition. The northeasterly
was back by evening and was strong on Sunday which probably reduced the catch on the second
Twenty-three fish were weighed in on Saturday and seventeen on Sunday for a total of 40 fish. We
had thought that catches prior to the competition would indicate a higher catch but we were very
happy with the size and condition of the fish.
The heaviest fish of 7.22kg was caught by Bill Brown from the wharf on a sprat. It narrowly beat a
beautifully conditioned fish of 7.21kg caught from a boat by one of our committee members, Brian
Dungey. The winning margin was therefore only 10 grams. The same slim margin separated
third place getter Bill Hamilton’s 6.34 fish from fourth place by Natasha Mason at 6.31kg.
A number of lucky anglers weighed-in two fish including one junior angler who carried off two
prizes. Fish fell to sprats fished beneath floats from the wharf or drifted from boats, trolling with
paravanes, either with a spinner or a sprat in a minnow teaser. About half the fish were caught from
shore and half from boats. The largest proportion came from the upper harbour.
A series of excellent prizes were provided by our sponsors. South City Marine and Kiwicraft offered a four-metre Kiwicraft complete with motor and trailer for a ﬁsh over 15kg. Other fish capable of capturing this prize have been caught in the harbour this year according to a rumour. Mr Brown won an Ansett weekend for two in association with Brooker Travel, $500 spending money and a Kilwell rod and reel. Second prize was from Ullrich Aluminium who have always supported us. In the past, they have donated a 12-foot aluminium dinghy and on this occasion, second prize was an $800 security package. Third prize was a charter of the game ﬁshing boat ‘Samara,’ fourth prize a rod, reel, and tackle box from Alexto and fifth a barbecue set from Dominion Breweries.
One feature of this competition was the incorporation of ‘Take A Kid Fishing.” For each adult competitor, one junior entry came free. We had 350 entries as well as 67 children under T.A.K.F. and 37 Children entered as individuals. Each child was entitled to a T.A.K.F. certificate, a chocolate fish and a fishing lure in addition to winning major prizes. The best prize to a junior angler was fifth to Glen Puna for a fish of 6.2kg. This won Glen the barbecue set.
Overall the competition was very successful and should result in a significant contribution to our smolt fund.
Please note this article originally appeared in Southern Fishing and Boating magazine in 1993. I’m sure many will find it interesting all the same.