Ruakituri River Fish Killers

Would A World Class Fishery Be Managed Like This Elsewhere?

A recent 3 day trip Ruakituri River fishing trip provided some great action in beautiful surroundings, but also the opportunity to reflect first hand on some of our fisheries management practices and the attitudes of some anglers toward conservation. The simple question is would anywhere else in the world allow a ‘trophy’ trout fishery to be managed as the Ruakituri is currently, a two fish daily kill limit per day and just last year the attempts by the Eastern Fish & Game Council to provide for spin fishing – where there is naturally a higher kill rate and less catch and release – to “provide more opportunities for anglers”? The answer is simply “No”, we just don’t understand what we have or how to protect it.

Each day I would hook a fish for about every 45 minutes effort, which is of course quality fishing. But having fly fished for 30 years all over NZ and in a few other countries you get the feeling when a fishery is being picked over. Each likely looking spot would yield usually at best one take and often that fish was small. While the average size was about 2.5lb the biggest fish was about 4.5lb. Experience told me that there was a fair degree of fish killing going on and sure enough on the last morning as i drove out I encountered two separate groups of anglers wandering across fields in top of the line expensive kit with what appeared from a distance to be at least 2 fish per angler.

On the upper 4km section of river I fished there were over those days about 8-10 anglers. So at potentially 2 fish per day the outcome is not going to be pretty. Seriously who needs two dead river trout a day and for what purpose? This is completely unnecessary and environmentally unsustainable. These fisheries need to be managed for what they are – self sustaining trophy fisheries, in fragile and heavily modified ecosystems that provide unique experiences and economic benefits from these recreation opportunities to the region.

Sure some anglers choose to not take their limit – and although personally I killed nothing I do not oppose the odd fish being killed – this places all the responsibility back on the angler. Some are more aware of the particular environment they are in and the conservation issues so differentiate on catch and release  between fisheries, some don’t know any better and of course some just don’t care. Of course only having a bag limit as a management tool means nothing; for some its a target and for others they just take what they want regardless of the limit.

There is a saying that there “ain’t no fixing stupid” but I would suggest closer attention to the daily bag limit for Ruakituri River fishing, the size of fish which are allowed to be taken and especially some better educational material on the Fish & Game website, access pamphlets and signs about the nature of the fishery which suggests some restraint would be a good start.

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