Tigers are on the loose at Lake Rotoma…
Tiger trout, that is. Fish & Game has just released 150 of them into Lake Rotoma – the only one in New Zealand that’s stocked with the unique game fish with stripy markings.
The release is a move to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of acclimatisation societies - set up in the 1800’s - which preceded Fish & Game.
Tiger trout can’t breed – they’re a sterile hybrid, a cross between a brown trout and North American brook char, says Eastern Region Fish & Game Officer Mark Sherburn.
The hatchery began its tiger programme about ten years ago. The aim was to “produce something special, unique to the lakes and from an angler’s point of view, providing a unique challenge,” Mark says.
The programme faded somewhat when Fish & Game stopped getting much feedback on the trout from anglers, Mark says. “But we’ve stepped it up again in the last couple of years in response to a wave of angler support and interest. We were getting a lot of requests from anglers who enjoy chasing the fish. They were saying to us ‘we really like those fish – keep it up.’”
It’s been about four years since the previous release of 200 tigers into Lake Rotoma. Given the level of interest from anglers, Fish & Game plans to continue the programme, releasing another few hundred next year. If the programme ceased, the tigers would simply die out in time.
The fish live for a long time – longer than rainbow trout – and can put on more weight, growing to about 8 kgs (18 lbs) Mark says.
As young trout, the fish appear to behave like their brook char mothers. But when they grow bigger they seem to behave like brown trout, the fathers, mooching around in a similar manner. “They skulk around the bottom of the lake and ambush their food or prey.”
Well known Rotorua trout taxidermist Ray Port has stuffed more than dozen of the fish over the years, mostly three or four pounders but one a magnificent 12.5 lb (5.6 kgs) fish, he recalls.
He’s also seen a general surge of interest from anglers keen to bag a tiger he describes as “a very pretty fish – totally different.”
“I had a lot of fishermen in the shed over the weekend (when the new trout season opened) and they were all talking tigers,” says Ray, “where do I go, and how do I catch one.”
Ray Port says the tigers are caught fly fishing with a size or eight Green Orbit fished very deep.