‘Turbulent Times’ – a fly fishing guides viewpoint.
The Taupo Fishery like any wild fishery is susceptible to changes such as the influence of weather, resulting floods, destruction of spawning grounds and concentrations of food, namely smelt in the lake. It is an ever changing scene of highs and lows that reflect on the trout either limiting or favouring their existence in the fishery.
So what of the present scene and the fluctuations that have lead up to the Taupo fishery as it is today?
To help answer some of this you have to turn back the clock and view the fishery as it was possibly seven or eight years ago and observe some of the data the Dept of Conservation has obtained on fish trapping operations and angler surveys. Rainbow numbers may have been stable with good numbers of fish reaching their spawning beds but out there on the great lake something was brewing.
Glen Maclean, former DOC employee, and Michael Dual, DOC’s scientist, wrote in ‘Target Taupo’ of the
effects of a mild spring, lack of wind and the resulting insufficient turnover of the lakes waters, namely the lack of breakdown of the thermocline layer. Photo-plankton, zoo-plankton and then the smelt didn’t flourish ultimately disrupting the food chain for the trout. As a result the young class of rainbows entering the lake from the spawning rivers suffered and average weights of the rainbows dropped dramatically over the next few seasons. The resulting runs of fish entering the rivers as three year olds reflected the trend in the fishery and angler participation began to decrease.
Anglers turned away from the Taupo fishery particularly boat anglers on the lake and headed for greener pastures or so they hoped. DOC responded during that period by reducing the harvest size limit from forty five cm to forty cm to increase the harvest on smaller fish in the ecosystem and also allow boat anglers to take fish that had not reached over forty five cm during the busy summer fishing period on the lake. Where is all this leading you may be thinking? Well, as one of the regions fly fishing guides I observed it at the coalface you could say, out there on the rivers.
I kept my faith in the fishery, faith in its management and had read of these times in its past.
Taupo trout are resilient creatures and have a great ability to bounce back that’s part of their wild genetic make up.
So back to the present day Taupo, well, over the last three or four winters and a few more, but I kept that quiet, after all I’m a fisherman, the fishing has indeed taken a turn for the better. Spawning runs I believe, have steadily been on the improve especially in the fish quality department. Maiden rainbows have again averaged closer to 3 or 3 1/2 pound and boat fisherman on the lake reported some great fishing this summer particularly over the last two months of March and April. Smelt numbers have been up and here’s hoping that the boat fisherman continue to return. Out on the rivers early indications look good for this coming winters spawning runs. Rainbows early season from the Hinemaiaia and Waitahanui Rivers have once again been up on weight and quality with several jacks and hens reaching the five to six pound range. Foul weather over the last few weeks produced some early season runs and happy anglers on the water.
This improvement in the fishery will continue to have a ripple effect, overseas anglers will return and yes, some doubting Kiwis will return to the fishery. Successful anglers talk, tackle shops talk, fishing lodge guests talk.
‘ Watch this Space’, those dedicated anglers will return, licence sales will increase and this all combined with our current increase in tourist numbers can only benefit our local economy. As I write this I have recently returned from a guiding trip on the Tongariro, guiding Tony Horvath and son from Wellington. The smile on the face of both dad and young angler as he landed his first Tongariro rainbow was priceless.
This evening the phone rang as a return customer to the region raved of the fishing both him and his son had received on the Tauranga-Taupo River, indeed good signs.
As members of the Tongariro National Trout Centre Society, I believe we are all in a unique position to both foster and promote a unique fishery,’ Wild, Unique Taupo Fishery.’
Peter Wilton. email@example.com (originally posted in the TNTCS autumn newsletter)