Eastern Fish & Game Officers are tipping better prospects for catching some hefty fish on opening day, compared with the start of the trout fishing season last year.
The most popular spots in the Eastern Region will be lakes Tarawera, Rotoiti and Okataina – all lakes where the fish have had a three-month rest from any boat fishing pressure.
Lake Tarawera can draw as many as 500 anglers on Opening Day. The trout there are already of a good size and condition thanks to a late summer and early autumn abundance of smelt, says Fish & Game Officer Matt Osborne.
“This provided plenty of feed and there was a huge improvement in fish quality going into the winter.
“Data we’ve collected from competitions allows us to calculate the size of two-year old hatchery fish – those most likely to be caught by anglers come Opening Day.”
We expect the fish which were released in May 2010 for example, now two years-old, to reach 541 mm – that’s 21 mm longer than last opening, Matt says.
Fish caught in our trap at Te Wairoa stream near The Landing, during the spawning runs this winter, have turned up slightly shorter than last year, but heavier and in better condition. (Average length 577mm and weight 2.51kg)
Matt Osborne says pleasing results came from several drift dives Fish & Game Officers carried out at the Tarawera Outlet to count fish this winter. They observed above average numbers of spawning trout – so the future looks bright for anglers into future seasons, he says.
Trout in Lake Rotoiti also look to be of a good size, again going by competition data from July. The two year old trout liberated in September 2010 should be slightly longer this year compared to the last opening.
The size of hatchery-bred fish in Lake Rotoiti should be up in general, Matt says. “In response to the strong angler pressure the lake has come under in the last few years, we now liberate 28,500 fish in Rotoiti annually.”
The Ohau Channel connecting Lake Rotoiti to Lake Rotorua is always a busy place on opening, and I’m pretty confident the district’s largest fish will come from here, Matt says – large brown trout and well-conditioned rainbows, but bear in mind fly fishing only is permitted in the channel.
“If a smelt run happens in the channel leading up to opening, then it will be brilliant. Watch out for shags and seagulls hanging around feeding as this will tell you if the smelt are there!”
Like Tarawera, Lake Rotorua also experienced healthy autumn smelt numbers, and fish responded with an improvement in their condition – after a couple of seasons where a lack of smelt meant trout size and condition was generally disappointing.
Fish & Game officers have taken some quite nicely conditioned rainbows from their fish trap at Ngongotaha – fish which are making spawning runs from Lake Rotorua, and anglers have also caught some good fish. “Remember to check the regulations before fishing Rotorua streams as the upper reaches of some remain closed on October 1,” Matt says.
Lake Okataina comes under less pressure with the opening of the season because of its remote location, reached via a narrow bush road. It also has a long narrow boat launching ramp that puts a few people off Matt says. “It is a beautiful lake which has produced a number of great-conditioned fish over the past few years.
To generalise, the most productive way to catch fish on the lakes on and around the October opening will be harling (shallow trolling) early in the morning and in the evening in low light conditions. Deeper trolling using methods such as lead line, wire, and downriggers are a good bet for the middle of the day when fish are found deeper. “Lots of boat traffic which is typical at the start of the season can force fish deeper.”
Jigging is generally more productive from around December when the water warms and a strong thermocline forms, up until about the end of May. On deep inland lakes, water temperatures tend to settle into horizontal layers of warm water and cold water separated by a moderating layer known as the ‘thermocline,’ which is the most active feeding zone. Some anglers go jigging from opening however, even though there isn’t a thermocline present. It simply means the fish are harder to target and fishers need to work the depths a little more.
There have been no changes to Eastern Fish & Game Region’s angling regulations for the new 2010-2011 season. The area of Ruato Bay on Lake Rotoiti which has been closed will be open from October 1. But please note that it will be off limits again from 1 April until the end of the season on September 30, Matt says. The annual closure period is an Eastern Region trial to see whether winter shoreline catch rates can be improved by stopping the boat harvest of fish within a particular area of the lake. It’s thought that trout congregate in Ruato Bay before they make their run toward beach areas to try and spawn.
The October 1 Opening Day falls on a Saturday so Fish & Game expects a strong turnout of fishers, especially if the weather plays ball. “Our officers and helpers will be out in force as usual”, Matt says, “and we traditionally talk to around 1000 anglers on the three most popular lakes in particular - Tarawera, Rotoiti and Okataina”. Fish & Game officers and honoraries will be patrolling in two boats and on foot at the ramps on selected Rotorua lakes. Honorary rangers will be working further afield.
“We’ll be checking licences, carrying out angler surveys and seeing how many fish have been caught. We will also be collecting as many fish stats as possible, including the length, weight and age of fish, to understand their growth. We know the age either from the fins clipped in a certain pattern or from a tag. We can compare all this data with the same information from other years.”
Fish & Game notes that while these are the most popular lakes, a number of other rivers and streams around the region open for fishing on October 1, and canny anglers who want to get away on their own will head to these areas. But all fishers are reminded to check the regulations to be sure which areas are open.
Fish & Game brochures with tips and access information are available from fishing stores, and outlets where licence are sold (Don't forget to buy your licence – you stand a very good chance of being asked to produce it!). Separate pamphlets are available with details of the regulations.