Taupō Fishery Focus.
By trout anglers for trout anglers.
Issue 2 – October 2018.
Welcome to Taupo Fishery Focus, the bi-monthly online newsletter for anglers who fish this world class trout fishery.
This edition celebrates the opening of Lake Otamangakau. We reference new angler tracks designed to create more opportunities for bank fishing, provide a view of the lake through a high flying polarised lens, and introduce plans for a new scientific study that aims to gather data about trout survival rates.
October also marks fresh opportunities for fly anglers outside the Taupo region, however recent spawning trap data confirms that large numbers of trout continue to enter our rivers, so anglers may want to stick around for a while! In addition we consider the role of catch and release in the Taupo region, draw attention to an on-going koura project, point to an educational video about the trout hatchery and reflect on a classic story from former All Black winger Graham Thorne.
Finally, the angling community has been processing the implications of the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill. With that in mind we’ve included some information we hope you might find useful. Where concerns still exist, we encourage anglers to participate in the democratic process and make a submission to the Select Committee.
We look forward to developing this e-newsletter over time and welcome your ideas and feedback.
Trout – harvest or ‘catch and release’?
Date: 18 October 2018
Source: Taupo Trout Fishery
New Zealanders have historically gathered wild food to support their families. There is a proud heritage of equality, where everyone has the freedom to hunt and fish in public spaces for wild animals introduced specifically for that purpose.
Data from Taupo angler surveys confirms that trout ‘catch and release’ is gaining popularity in the Taupo region.
So, what is driving this change and which approach is best for the Taupo Fishery?
‘Catch and release’
‘Catch and release’ is often considered an overseas import, brought in by fly-fishermen from Europe and the USA who have been practicing this approach for many years – usually to maintain stocking levels within high pressure premium fisheries.
With New Zealand’s premium waterways also coming under increasing pressure surely it makes sense to adopt a ‘catch and release’ philosophy here? Sounds like a good idea, yet when we consider the experiences from other fisheries we can see things are not so clear cut.
For example, in British Columbia compulsory ‘catch and release’ was implemented to protect lake fisheries close to the main urban centres from overharvest. The result was not what the managers intended. They noticed an increase in pressure on these lakes, driven by angler perception that more fish would be available. They discovered that even ‘catch and release’ fisheries incur significant fish mortality especially if the angling pressure is too high.
Is ‘catch and release’ good for the Taupo fishery?
Taupo benefits from a wealth of highly productive spawning streams, which generate very high numbers of juvenile trout. As the fish get older they move into the lake where they focus on a high protein diet made up mostly of smelt. This relationship between trout and smelt is key to the overall health of the fishery. The smelt population must be sufficiently large to accommodate the demands of hungry trout.
If there are too many trout the smelt population can dramatically decline, leaving trout struggling to find food. In this case the result is smaller, poorly conditioned trout. Therefore, it is essential to control trout numbers to promote a population of larger healthy individuals.
Decades of Taupo fishery statistics confirm that the harvest of trout has declined by approximately 50% over the past two decades – a situation driven by a decline in angler numbers combined with an increase in ‘catch and release’.
The fishery management team has been trying to reverse this trend through the introduction of new regulations in 2017/18 aimed at increasing the number of trout removed from the system.
What if too many fish are harvested?
Some anglers may be concerned that too many fish could be removed, resulting in far fewer fish available to catch. This group might take comfort from the knowledge that harvest pressure is currently far less than during the 1980’s, when angler numbers were double those experienced today.
Angler pressure is a key part of the equation. If the fishery team saw a significant increase in anglers (evidenced through licence sales) and supporting data pointed towards an unsustainable level of harvest, then the bag and size limits would be reviewed.
Anglers are important
From a fishery management perspective, it is important for anglers to understand the key role they play – their actions directly impact on the fishery. For example, the regulation changes introduced for the 2017/18 season will not work if all anglers adopt a ‘catch and release’ approach.
It’s down to anglers to act upon the regulations and in doing so, effect change in the trout population.
As anglers we choose to harvest or release trout depending on a variety of factors – including ethical considerations (which have not been explored here).
Other anglers have responded to the revised regulations and harvest up to 6 legal sized fish, including those that are recovering. Another group of anglers only support ‘catch and release’.
Catch-and-release does have a role to play in New Zealand. It works well when anglers are seeking to protect fragile fish stocks, especially in areas where they target larger solitary fish in backcountry headwaters with limited capacity for recruitment.
This approach simply is not the best default option for Taupo.
Ultimately the Taupo Fishery Management Team is not looking to judge anglers for their choices, rather we look at the overall health of the fishery and seek to encourage anglers to feel confident that harvesting trout from lake Taupo is a good thing to do.
Not only will you benefit from eating great tasting trout, but you will also be contributing to the long-term sustainability of your fishery.
Trout survival study.
Interest has been growing around the potential survival rates of trout that have been released following capture at Lake O. To help clarify the situation the Fishery Management Team plans to carry out a study this summer to gather data.
We will be looking for anglers to support this work by catching trout! So let us know if you might be interested in helping out.