If your idea of a relaxing holiday includes hooking a few local beauties – trout that is – then head on to Queenstown. With an abundant stock of rainbow and brown trout and Chinook salmon, a pleasant day can be spent at many of the local rivers, lakes, or on a fishing tour. Whether or not you catch your dinner, a day on the local waters amidst the stunning Queenstown scenery has got to be good for the soul.
While enjoying your fishing trip, spare a thought for the colourful history of the local fish. Trout and salmon were introduced to New Zealand during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The successful breeds were rainbow trout, mainly descended from Californian steelheads, European brown trout and Chinook salmon from North America.
Rainbow trout are a beautiful black-speckled silver-coloured fish, with a flash of colour along their sides – hence the name. They are one of New Zealand’s most popular game fish.
Brown trout range from silver to golden-brown, with vivid black speckling. They are more abundant than rainbow trout, but warier and harder to catch (which is probably why there are more of them!).
Our world-famous salmon have an interesting history. The Chinook salmon were imported from the McCloud River in California over 100 years ago, and New Zealand is the only place outside their natural habitat where the fish have flourished. Damming has endangered the original McCloud River salmon population, so in 2010 a group of Winnimem Wintu, a native American tribe with sacred links to the fish, came to New Zealand in the hopes of bringing some of their ancestors home. The delegation was well received, especially by local Māori, and the first shipment of salmon roe should be returning to California in 2017, to a man-made river system which will bypass the dams and take them back to their traditional spawning grounds.
Lake Wakatipu is home to large stocks of both trout and salmon, with good lakeside access in many places. There is good road access to many fishing spots around the lake. Just don’t try to catch the beautiful semi-tame trout at the Queenstown underwater observatory – they are strictly for viewing only! You will need a permit to fish, which can be purchased from Fish and Game NZ, and fishing is not allowed in Queenstown Bay. The Rees, Greenstone and Dart river mouths are considered good fishing spots, and there are numerous quiet hideaways where families can settle in for a picnic while the anglers cast for lunch. Most of the fishing on the West of Lake Wakatipu is accessible only by boat. Boats are available for charter and many tours are available, where the skipper can take you to the best places around. Remember to bring your radio, and tune in to something catchy…