Countdown to Rotorua lakes' opening

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GRRR: A tiger trout caught in Lake Rotoma shows off its teeth. Photo supplied/Phil Sinclair.
GRRR: A tiger trout caught in Lake Rotoma shows off its teeth. Photo supplied/Phil Sinclair.

More than 1000 anglers are expected to turn out for the start of the new fishing season on the Rotorua lakes with the season start falling on the weekend this year.

It is the first time in five years the opening of the trout fishing season has fallen on a Saturday, and being in the middle of school holidays, provides "ideal opportunities" for families to get out on the water, says Fish & Game.

Lakes Rotoiti, Tarawera and Okataina, which have been closed to fishing from boats over winter, will open to anglers from 5am on Saturday, October 1.

Fish & Game Officer Matt Osborne said the Eastern Region was again running a Fish for Gold promotion that gave licensed anglers who registered in time the chance to catch a specially tagged fish worth $10,000.

"This sparked a real buzz last year and we're sure it will again. We'll be outlining the details shortly but the promotion will run from Opening Day October 1, to October 9."

Mr Osborne said there were encouraging indicators for the new season, including a total of 1112 fish recorded through Fish & Game's trap on a stream flowing into Lake Tarawera. The trap monitors the spawning season and provides brood stock for the Ngongotaha hatchery production.

"That's 100 fish up on the previous season and showed a ratio of 70 per cent hatchery fish compared to 30 per cent wild ones.

"That ratio is a good result which supports our breeding strategies and fish releases," Mr Osborne said. "It shows the need for hatchery fish to meet the pressure that anglers put on the lake."

Winter fishing on the Rotorua lakes had been steady but not exceptional, he said.

Lake Tarawera saw some big night runs of spawning fish (70-80 on some nights), and while anglers on Lake Rotoiti had not caught fish in huge numbers, some good "double figure" trout had been landed.

Several nice 4kg plus fish had also been caught from Lake Okataina.

"Open year round, trolling on Lake Rotorua has been highly productive in late winter and early spring. One visitor reported multiple double hook-ups trolling and harling in shallow water. "

Lakes Okataina and Rotoiti were again tipped to produce the biggest fish, Mr Osborne said.

Most of the fish caught will be 2-year-old hatchery-bred fish around 49cm to 50cm long, but a lot of larger 3-year-olds are also expected to be caught, around 55cm to 59cm.

"Anglers who manage to hook those fish in particular will certainly be rewarded with a few satisfying and exciting moments."

Lake Tarawera has traditionally drawn the most anglers as it provides good early season catch rates, and it is picturesque with plenty of sheltered spots to fish.

"We are hoping Tarawera will give up its rainbows more willingly this opening after a hard start to the 2015-16 season for many anglers."

Lake Tarawera's trout improved in condition throughout last season following a resurgence in their main food source - smelt.

"Whether this trend continues will again largely be dependent on smelt abundance within the lake."

Fish releases into Tarawera have been adjusted in view of a decline in overall angler pressure as highlighted by a seven-yearly New Zealand-wide angler survey, he said.

For those anglers preferring the solitude provided by river fishing, it is also an exciting time of year. Many rivers and streams that closed at the end of June, also reopen to trout fishing.

The best known of these are the renowned Ruakituri and Waioeka rivers. Both have healthy populations of rainbow and brown trout but experienced bouts of flooding through the winter period.

High water will have cleared algae from the rocks and exposed invertebrates for the fish to feed on. Reports are good for the early season angling.

Fishing tips for boaties

Eastern Fish & Game Officer Mark Sherburn said before the sun got on the water, the fishing was often slow but picked up during the first few hours of daylight.

"Shallow trolling with a 'Tassie' and a smelt fly is a successful way to begin. If it's sunny and there's lots of boat traffic, expect the fish to move a little deeper.

"If they do, adopt a deep trolling method such as lead line, wire or downrigger. It's hard to beat orange as a lure colour early in the season, or something with a touch of red and don't forget to try the tried and true black and gold toby."

Mr Sherburn reminds anglers they should have given their motor a check over and test run before going near one of the launching ramps.

And he suggests anglers should check over their fishing gear too. "Check the line-to-leader connections, dab a little grease on the spindle of your reels, and buy some fresh mono when you go to the tackle store to buy your new licence."

If you plan to hit the water early or stay out late, then make sure the 'nav' lights are working and remember to have lifejackets for everyone, he said.

Mr Sherburn urges anglers seeking new spots - or those who're new to the Eastern region - to call in to the Fish & Game office on Paradise Valley RD for advice from staff, and brochures on the various lakes.

They are available at fishing stores and licence agents, or from the Fish & Game website, http://eastern.fishandgame.org.nz/.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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