Landowners threaten ban over spin fishing

By Patrick O'Sullivanpatrick osullivan@hbtoday co nz

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SNAGGED: Davis Canning says he will support calls to ban angler access to the Ruakituri River if spin fishing is allowed. PHOTO/DUNCAN BROWN HBT141647-02
SNAGGED: Davis Canning says he will support calls to ban angler access to the Ruakituri River if spin fishing is allowed. PHOTO/DUNCAN BROWN HBT141647-02

Ruakituri landowners west of Wairoa are threatening to end angler access to the Ruakituri River if Fish and Game allows spin fishing and a 12-month season on 19km of its lower reaches.

The river, inland from Wairoa, is one of the few rivers in the North Island that is reserved for fly fishing only.

That status may change on Wednesday, when Fish and Game considers changing the rules to encourage more anglers.

Ruakituri Residents Association chairman John MacPherson said spin fishers would "wreck something that we have helped to protect" and stray from their 19km stretch.

"We run a homestay and a bit of a lodge down there and it is to our advantage to let spin fishing in because it would mean more people, but it is going to ruin it for the people who are passionate about fly fishing," he said.

"From all over the world they come here and say they just can't believe ... something like this is in the world that is not overfished and they can freely get access through river properties.

"We have a big river access and I have never ever said to fishermen that I did not want them on the farm, because they are genuine people who are there to enjoy the sport."

He said 99 per cent of fly fishermen released their catch, but spin fishermen took it to eat or, if they did release it, the trout died.

"Spinners have a three-pronged hook and, when you pull it out of the mouth, the fish usually dies. With fly fishing, there is only one hook and so they can pull it out - 99 per cent of the fishermen who catch fish here catch and release.

"We have a lot of fishermen stay here and I haven't spoken to one who has supported it."

Local landowner Davis Canning said it was the third time in 14 years the council had tried to make the change.

"The landowners have fought it tooth and nail the other two times and they are fighting tooth and nail now. They are fed up - they just want it left alone and that's where a move to close the river down is coming from. They want it left as fly fishing only - they enjoy it."

He lives in Havelock North and rents out his bach and occasionally guides.

"People come from all over the world - it is well known for having some of the hardest-fighting rainbows in the world.

"I've fished the river my whole life, as my father did before me, and if the landowners want it closed and I can't fish then I'll support them."

"Why can't they just leave it as it is?"

Wairoa Angling Club president Alan Robinson said at Fish and Game's April meeting council chairman Murray Ferris used his casting vote to "push his own motion through" to the final stage of the upcoming District Angler Notice meeting on Wednesday, despite "overwhelming" submissions against the proposal.

Mr Ferris referred Hawke's Bay Today to Eastern Fish and Game regional manager Rob Pitkethley.

"The council has a policy to maintain the sustainability of the fisheries and not restrict opportunity," Mr Pitkethley said.

"It is one of the few rivers in the North Island that is completely fly fishing only from top to bottom. The lower river does not get a lot of pressure so it was suggested that spin fishers be allowed to use it."

He said the change was suggested to Mr Ferris by Gisborne anglers but Mr Robinson said representatives from Gisborne Angling Club, Wairoa Angling Club, professional guides and individual Fish and Game licence holders "were openly there to voice their objections".

"Among written objectors are the Ruakituri Residents Association whose goodwill is essential for river access."

Mr Pitkethley said the council was split on the proposal at the meeting "so Murray Ferris as the chairman used his casting vote, as he is entitled to, to keep the proposal on the table".

He said 90 per cent of fly fishing in New Zealand was done in the upper reaches of rivers.

"In the lower part of the rivers you have spin fishing and even in some cases bait fishing. The Ruakituri is one of the few rivers where you don't have that."

He said the landowners association's submission would be considered before any changes were made to the Fishing Notice.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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