Waitaki River Salmon Fishing Contest Winning fish weights since 1984

New Zealand location of waitaki River.Waitaki River Salmon Weights

During the 1990s I spent a good deal of time salmon fishing the lower Waitaki River, the surf in particular. Back then diesel was 50 cents per litre. Most years I would travel down to Glenavy for the annual salmon fishing contest. One thing that always amazed me was the large size of the salmon being landed. It seemed to me that 30 pounds plus salmon were by no means out of the ordinary for the Waitaki River. Note from the weights below that the winning fish in 1994, 1995 and 1996 were all over 16kg or 35 pounds in the old measure.

Gareth Pearce caught this 25lb (11.40kg) salmon near the Waitaki River SH1 Bridge.

Gareth Pearce caught this 25lb (11.40kg) salmon near the Waitaki River SH1 Bridge.

This list of previous winning fish weights makes interesting reading.

You can see that weights dropped away in 1986 and didn’t return to these levels until the mid 90’s. Then dropped away again in the late 90’s. The worst years being 1987 and 2000. As yet the big fish have still not returned.

These results from the Waitaki Salmon Fishing Contest have been seen across the salmon fishery as a whole throughout this period, with the Waimakariri, Rakaia and Rangitata also following a similar curve. Also during the years when the fish are smaller, they are also fewer in number. Waitaki River fish are always the heaviest on average.

Ian Hurst from Ashburton with a salmon from the Waitaki River weighing 15.075kg (33 lb).

Ian Hurst from Ashburton with a salmon from the Waitaki River weighing 15.075kg (33 lb).
Salmon angling in New Zealand’s South Island very much goes in cycles of good and poor years. The full cycle appears to take about eleven years or so.
The difference between the best and worst years for salmon returns and fish size are considerable. In good years there can be many chinook salmon weighing in excess of 30 pounds while in poor years there are less fish and most will not exceed 20 pounds.
During the poor seasons, many believe that the fishery is doomed but after a few years it returns stronger than ever – or at least that has been the case for approximately 100 years. It is widely believed that feeding conditions at sea are the determining factor for both fish numbers and size. Low river flows also contribute to poor returns.
Interestingly even in the very best year’s many anglers still don’t catch any fish at all from year to year – or catch perhaps only one every few years. While some anglers catch dozens of salmon every year regardless of the size of the run. Knowledge and experience are the main factors that contribute to the success of the individual angler.

Previous Contest Waitaki Salmon Fishing Contest Winners and Fish Weights

1984 D McLeod 16.43kg

1985 R. McDiarmid 15.60kg

1986 R Goodsir 10.69kg

1987 N. Adamson 7.19kg

1988 A. Johnson 10.94kg

1989 S. Thomson 12.59kg

1990 D. Cleverley 11.69kg

1991 Mrs P McFelin 7.17kg

1992 A. Hamilton 9.35kg

1993 K. Wright 11.79kg

1994 C. Wilson 16.04kg

1995 M. McVie 16.78kg

1996 I. Hurst 16.12kg

1997 R. Giles 14.005kg 1998 Cancelled (Heavy rain, flood, river unfishable and dangerous)

1999 M. Taylor 11.016kg

2000 S. Gregory 7.636kg 2001 H. Alloo 9.79kg

Michael McVie was the winner of the 1995 Waitaki River Salmon Fishing Contest. With his fish weighing 16.78 kg.

Michael McVie was the winner of the 1995 Waitaki River Salmon Fishing Contest. With his fish weighing 16.78 kg.

This is a fiberglass replica of the winning fish from the 2000 salmon competition.

This is a fibreglass replica of the winning fish from the 2000 salmon competition. This fish was very thin. It is widely believed that feeding conditions at sea were very poor that year. Fish numbers were well done in the 1999-2000 season and many of the fish that did return were under-weight like this one.

Casting for salmon near the Waitaki River mouth.

Casting for salmon near the Waitaki River mouth.

Salmon anglers clean their catch on a shingle bar at the mouth of the Waitaki River. The Waitaki is a big river often flowing at 500 cumecs or more. Access to the best salmon fishing is improved enormously with a jet boat. However they do take knowledge, skill and experience to handle safely. Almost every year at least one jet boat is lost to the river.

Salmon anglers clean their catch on a shingle bar at the mouth of the Waitaki River. The Waitaki is a big river often flowing at 500 cumecs or more. Access to the best salmon fishing is improved enormously with a jet boat. However, they do take knowledge, skill and experience to handle safely. Almost every year at least one jet boat is lost to the river.

About the Author

- Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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