To keep or release small trout often becomes a perplexing question for TRM inmates at this time of the year as, naturally, they only want to keep the big ones to take home. This is encouraged of course by TRM as we have an enviable reputation to maintain.
There seems to be too many trout caught around the minimum legal size – 40 cm (15 3/4 inches in English) just lately and anglers have been returning them in anticipation and waiting anxiously for the 4-5 pounders to strike. Then, after returning without anything to show for it, they were wondering whether they should have kept the smaller trout after all? The small ‘silver bullets’ are excellent eating quality after all and often better – more tender and tasty and ‘moorish’ than a larger mending slab.
So SWMBO was asked about their compromise – such as grading them at the end of the day and throwing the small ones back? We suggested they ask DOC. But they had been reading the old fishing books in the units and I knew somewhere there was something about the good ol’ days (i.e. pre DOC era) when they solved this problem in a no-nonsense practical way.
In 1981 Peter Gould published the Complete Taupo Fishing Guide. First the sales pitch… Page 75 – quote:
“There are few fishing rivers in the world as renowned as the Tongariro. It has been well documented in angling history by such famous devotees as Zane Grey etc….. Much of its fame stems from the magnificent runs of trout that pour up every spawning season, although there are many who also attest to the great natural beauty of the river.”
(end of commercial until page 78 where he remarks:)
“In these early days some anglers measured their season’s catches in tonnes. One such was A. D. Shielson who, in the 1911 season, took 6 tonnes, 608 kg. from the delta and lower reaches of the river. There are many early photographs that show the anglers literally dwarfed by their catches. Those being the days before refrigeration, the fish were either given away or left on the bank for the wild pigs to eat. Few anglers, it seemed, adopted the habit of releasing trout. There were so many that such an action must have seemed pointless…. In those golden years a guide made the rounds of the pools on horseback, collecting the caught fish in panniers. A common yardstick was sometimes adopted at pools like the Hut; any fish under 4.54 kg was thrown back…..
etc.” (and he goes on to comment:)
“….. The raising of the lake level in 1941 changed the lower reaches, as did the lava and ash eruption of Ruapehu in 1945. This caused heavy silting in the lower reaches. Man-created activities have had their effect on the river too…..”
(etc. I added that for those wise old men representing the Council who still argue the lake has never been raised. But I digress…)
So some ‘anon’ anglers argued the merits and historical precedents and legality (?) that they should keep all their small ones alive in a small riverside man-made pool and decide at the end of the day which ones were keepers and which were to be released. (For West Islanders: the reference to ‘small’ are those around 40-45 cm)
All anglers know the reality is that any ‘released’ by the end of the day would die anyway. These anglers convinced themselves and insisted they should all be taken out as there is sufficient evidence there from the good ol’ days when they took everything that the remaining fish would grow much bigger. Any surplus to their three maximum were used to feed the koura. You can understand they felt they were only trying to help and improve the health of the fishery.
It might not be quite legal by the regulations but you understand that at TRM the customer is always right….