Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Fishing for the Big One- Ohau Canal

Fishing was the main reason for a stop-over at the Ohau B campsite.  During summer the canal banks are dotted with many day-trippers fishing for salmon and trout. I’ve heard that our piece of real estate- the canal bank opposite the High Country Salmon farm- is bumper to bumper RVs jostling for space during the season. There’s a five night maximum stay which helps elevate the problem of people hogging a spot and parking up for weeks on end.

Now, as winter approaches, there are just a few hardy souls coming and going during the day along with a few movanners at the tail end of their holidays or full-timers like ourselves.

Having never been salmon fishing before, or fished a canal (if you don’t count the UK canals that he once fished as a kid) David had numerous rods and gear to trial- he’s carrying a small Hunting & Fishing store around with us!

David came home with high hopes after a local business owner showed him what he had in his freezer- a very large, extremely grotesque looking brown trout (photo taken with his camera phone). It was caught near the salmon farm last year and put on ice, ready to be mounted. But unfortunately it’s passed it’s "stuff by date" and is now well and truly, well, stuffed. Left abandoned in the freezer- not worthy of anything other perhaps a little bit of glory everytime the freezer door is opened.

As mentioned in the previous post, the wild salmon and trout that live in the canal around the salmon farms can grow to a horrendous size as they feed on the excess food that escapes the farm nets. These fish are usually more wily though, as they live under the nets or near the edges, out of reach of most baited rigs or flies. At this size they’d be no good to eat I would think.

No, I think we’ll settle for a more manageable sized fish from the canal, the ones that just stop by for an occasional snack, it’s just a matter of catching them on their way to the dinner table. And while you’re waiting for them, there’s nothing but to sit in the sunshine and watch the world go by….

…and the neighbours catch a fish.

I spoke to this guy to see if he’d had any luck, he hadn’t but was going to carry on fishing until it got too dark. He was on a motorcycle tour and his friends had continued onto Kurow for the night. Such is the lure of a big one.

And David fished on, tucking himself behind the van to soak up some warmth from the weak sunshine. And even though the canal looks silky smooth, there’s a large amount of water flowing down the canal under that smooth exterior, dragging the lines constantly downstream. There was extra trouble controlling the lines after a particularly cold day in the North Island when the water passed by at a fair rate of knots all day; the power stations must have been operating at full capacity generating all that extra electricity to warm the wimps up north

Another day, another neighbour fishing and not catching anything. If you look carefully there are more fishermen down towards the bridge and over on the far bank. The section between the bridge and the farm is a prime possie, I believe it’s thought that the fish cruise by near the bank, moving between the pens on the other side of the bridge down to the ones across from us. I didn’t see anyone catch one from there though.

Across the canal a carload of day-trippers tried their hand at the same spot two days running, they also had no luck, one of the girls eventually getting totally bored with this fishing malarkey.

You’d think this guy had enough of his own fish without trying to catch ours! He even has one mounted on the top of his car. It looks like he was taking water samples downstream of the farm.

And still my man fished on, morning, noon & evening through frosting mornings, sunny days and chilly evenings. David has decided he’s not a fan of this type of fishing, he prefers to stalk his fish or work the rod not just sit and wait with a prawn on the end….….(you know what’s coming don’t you? Get out the violin)

He got so fed up with fishing one day we went for a drive and found a short walk to the Ben Ohau Wetland; we thought we’d blow the cobwebs away, stretch our legs and find some birds. Looking at the photos it’s hard to believe how cold it is but if you look very carefully at the bottom photo you’ll notice two things that are odd…….the pond is on it’s way to being frozen over and those are decoy ducks and geese! A pointless walk that was. Now, just three weeks later, this area is under at least half a metre of snow and those decoys have their comeuppance.

After the walk we drove on up the Ohau A canal towards Lake Ohau, passing another salmon farm along the way and then, after driving for about 10 or so kilometres and seeing nobody, being surprised by the number of vehicles and fishermen at the dam. This is the inlet to the Ohau canal system, the big dark mountain on the right hand side is Ben Ohau.

We thought the word must have been sent out that there were fish at the dam wall- well it would make sense because they were spawning and this is as far as they can go up the canal. A number of our neighbours were here for the day too.

There were fisherman along the top of the dam and down both sides jockeying for a good position. I think the guy on that big flat rock had it sussed. Once we got talking to a few of them David realised that this was a group who were on a ‘soft bait’ course and he’d met the tutor the day before at our canal. They’d had the theory lesson back at a Twizel hotel and were now putting it into practice. They’d had no luck so far, that was until I saw someone on the bank pulling in a fish. When I mentioned the catch to the guy I was standing by, he told me the fisherman wasn’t part of their group! Maybe the group needed to take lessons from him.

Maybe David needs to take………no, don’t say that Shellie.

While David fished on I went looking for birds to shoot (camera shoot of course). I was headed to Wairepo Arm, the body of water that is south of the salmon farm, it must have been part of the Lake Ruataniwha system before the hydro scheme was built.

That was when I came across Cody who was fishing in close to the farm and calling to his mate for a net. He had a salmon on the line. His fourth fish for the day and his bag limit.

It was then that I looked down to see his other fish; two huge trout and another salmon.

Two very large trout indeed. Caught beside the salmon nets by a very skilled fisherman- not skilled in catching fish(although of course he was) but skilled in his accurate placement of the lure. He had to avoid overhead lines and the guide wires holding the farm to the bank and to the barrels, he was a mean shot, placing the bait right beside the net- too far and it landed inside the net or hung up on the side, too short and it was too shallow or too far away from the big boys swimming around under the net.

I got talking to Cody- he’s a local and spends his free days fishing at the canal. He said this was a usual catch. I also found out that he works for DOC and not only that but he works with the endangered Black Stilts/Kakī and has offered to show us through the aviaries the next time we are passing through. The breeding aviaries are just over the back of the hill behind us at the camp, on the old Ohau River terraces. We’ll certainly be taking him up on that.

And still David fished on…..but he's decided he’s not a fan of salmon fishing.

And we may not have had salmon or trout for dinner but we had a packet of prawns that were going spare...


  1. Now that you have the "Cody" knowledge, maybe David's luck will change, your luck re birds also 2 good to be true.....hoar frosts reported on our TV from down south. Ciao J

    1. Maybe Jimu, but I suspect David won't be quite as accurate as Cody and then he'll get frustrated losing his gear :)
      On the hunt for a hoar frost as we speak but I'm afraid it's mostly gone now.

  2. Great pics of the snow Shellie - go easy on my mate David's fishing abilities 😉
    The diesel heater will have been great I think. Barb and I are experiencing winters best weather at a spot called Cape Leveque WA - going fishing today

    1. Hey there you two! Great to hear from you, yes the heaters are getting a good work out and performing really well , although David is getting fed up with having to go to the service station to fill the tank all the time. I think your have the better deal, fishing in Aussie would certainly beat the dreary day we have in Winton today with snow still thick on the ground and no sun shining. David's dreaming of his next fishing spot....trouble is he doesn't know where it will be. Safe travels and I hope you catch dinner. est regards to you both.

  3. Brown trout are extremely good eating irrespective of size and are of the Salmonidae family/genus. Very delicate fish and need to be properly de-boned and prepared.

    1. Really? You are a fountain of knowledge! :) Thanks for the info.


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