A new phase in the Living Water Project got under way recently involving students from Ngahinapouri School in a pilot programme to learn about and catch pest fish from Lake Ngāroto.
Living Water is a partnership between the Department of Conservation and Fonterra who are working together to improve biodiversity and water quality across the country.
Pest fish is one of the concerns Living Water has identified, so DoC has supported Ngahinapouri School in the first pest fishing day at Lake Ngāroto.
Living Water Waikato Peat Lakes project lead Dion Patterson from DoC says the idea for a fishing day with Ngahinapouri School arose because the school already ran a community fishing competition.
One of the target species was eels, but DoC approached the school about changing the focus from a native fish to the pest fish which ruin freshwater streams and lakes for native species.
The school was receptive, and also wanted students to learn more about pest fish and their effect on the environment — and to help rid one of the Waikato's peat lakes of some of those fish.
DoC would like to acknowledge the competitions organising committee and in particular Vicki Krissansen for enthusiastically supporting this initiative.
The pilot day saw 130 children, plus teachers and parents, spend the day at Lake Ngāroto.
Living Water ranger Rose Graham says the day started with a talk from biodiversity ranger Chris Annandale about the nature of pest fish, what they do to the waterways and the best ways to trap or fish for them.
She says from DoC's perspective, reducing the numbers of exotic species like catfish, rudd, goldfish and koi in the lake is great, as they are impacting the habitat of our native freshwater fish.
"This is a great way to get kids interested in conservation," she says.
DoC provided rods for all students and manned a weigh station to track the catch.
Waikato Regional Council, Waipa District Council, Hunting & Fishing NZ and Living Water sponsored a number of prizes.
The students caught 37 pest fish on the day, and the main prizes went to the students with the biggest combined pest fish weights.
The winner was Janaya Honey-Bradley, runner-up Karli Falleni and in third was Zanre van der Merwe.
Ngahinapouri School principal Wayne Asplin thanked DoC and other supporters for making the day possible.
He says the students learnt valuable lessons and skills — and it was a fun day out of the classroom.
Mr Patterson says the success of the pilot day means DoC is looking at running more pest fishing days next year.
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