Waitaki River fishing competition held in 1884

Nelson Bolstead, the weigh-master for the Waitaki Salmon Fishing Contest, checks the stomach cavity of a big salmon during the 1996 event while many other contestants and interested onlookers watch proceedings. Mr Bolstead is a scientist with NIWA and an expert on the life cycle of this species. The years 1996 and 1997 were very good for salmon angling in the Waitaki River. There were plenty of salmon caught by anglers and many of the fish caught weighed in excess of 30 pounds. The 1999/2000 season was a very poor one with most of the few fish that did return from sea being in poor condition. Their thin bodies often being refered to by salmon anglers as

Nelson Bolstead, the weigh-master for a more recent Waitaki River fishing competition, the Waitaki Salmon Fishing Contest, checks the stomach cavity of a big salmon during the 1996 event while many other contestants and interested onlookers watch proceedings. Mr Bolstead is a scientist with NIWA and an expert on the life cycle of this species. The years 1996 and 1997 were very good for salmon angling in the Waitaki River. There were plenty of salmon caught by anglers and many of the fish caught weighed in excess of 30 pounds. The 1999/2000 season was a very poor one with most of the few fish that did return from sea being in poor condition. Their thin bodies often being refered to by salmon anglers as “slabs” or “slabby.”

Waitaki River Fishing Competition

The first recorded fishing competition on the Waitaki river was organised by the Waitaki Branch of the Acclimatisation Society in December 1884. It was followed by a second competition one week later. It wasn’t until after the events in February 1895, that prize money of six pounds for six prize winners was authorised.

In October 1894 Mr Rupert Cameron offered a reward of five pounds to the first bonafide New Zealand salmon caught in New Zealand waters (not ponds) on the condition that he be one of the judges.

There is no record of the reward having been won!

Mr Ayson, manager of the Hakataramea hatchery and Assistant Chief Inspector of Fisheries from 1918 to 1929, in a later report says that prior to the arrival of the “white man” to New Zealand, there was neither trout nor salmon in our waters. There was however one species of salmonidae called the native grayling, called upokororo by the Maori.

A very big Waitaki River salmon taken during one of the fishing contests held on the river.

A very big Waitaki River salmon taken during one of the fishing contests held on the river.

The grayling was the only member of the salmonidae family found in the Southern Hemisphere and is now believed to be extinct.

By 1905 salmon returning to the Waitaki River were observed to be spawning naturally. Since this time salmon have dispersed to other rivers along the South Island’s east coast.

The salmon run of 1929 was reported to be the best in the history of the river. The largest single total of salmon caught for the season was recorded by Constable Berry, who was stationed at Glenavy, who caught 60 fish. Over the season his family, with four rods, took 139 fish.

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- Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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Canterbury Salmon


Anglers fishing for salmon during a fishing contest held in the tidal reaches of the Waimakariri River back in March 2012. Salmon are the premier sports fish in Canterbury. Catching them regularly requires experience and persistence.

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