Topic: Taupo trout fishing

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A brief history of trout fishing in and around Lake Taupo.

Turangi, 40 minutes south of Taupo town, is known as the "Trout Fishing Capital of New Zealand" and every year thousands of tourists flock to the Taupo region to get in on the action.Man fishing

But sport fishing on, and in the streams and rivers around, Lake Taupo is an introduced sport. The lake was something of a disappointment to early European settlers, including the Armed Constabulary (AC), because it did not possess a variety of native fish. Instead, there were just koaro and common bully. Fish of both species were comparatively small, though they were used a resource by Maori. There was also freshwater crayfish.

In 1873, Inspector Morrison, in charge of the AC at the time, released golden carp in the lake. While they acclimatised and still remain, they never established a significant presence.

The Golden Carp were followed by Brown Trout, released into the lake in 1885, 1892, and 1894.

Brown trout were released when, not daunted by the lukewarm success of the Golden Carp, the AC’s then commanding officer Major David Scannell (later Judge Scannell) set up a Brown Trout hatchery about 1885, on the outlet from the lake. About the same time, Daniel MacDonald set up a hatchery on his property, on the Napier-Taupo road. Young fish from this hatchery were released to streams Trout fishing from waka on the property, the Rangiteki River and tributaries on the eastern side of the lake.

In addition to these efforts, Wellington sent Brown Trout ova to Taupo in 1894 and '95, which were tended at a new hatchery in Nukuhau.

From here, fish were released to streams feeding into the lake as widely as possible. Sam Crowther, who drove coaches between Taupo and Tokaanu, is said to have released young trout in every stream he passed. These trout took to their new home like, well, fish to water. Within two years trout could be seen in all waters on the lake's eastern side. By 1901 a local hotel was promoting "Splendid Trout Fishing” in the Tongariro River. As the fishing fame of the Lake and its streams and rivers increased, accommodation and associated services sprung up to cater for the visiting anglers, including the now world famous Huka Lodge.

Rainbow Trout followed the introduction of Brown Trout, released into the lake between 1900 and 1906. Common smelt were later introduced as a source of food for the trout when their size and quality began to decline.

Trout fishermen

Lake Taupo remains one of the truly wild fisheries in the world, with no need to replenish the supply with hatchery produced fish. While the Department of Conservation-managed Tongariro Trout Centre does have the capacity to produce large numbers of young trout, it currently only produces a few, mainly for the children's fishing pond at the centre. It has never been used to support or supplement the supply of wild trout in the lake and its tributaries, though fish from the Centre have been used in a series of one-off releases for scientific purposes. However, the hatchery is maintained to be ready to produce large number of trout if needed, if for example a natural disaster or some other event put the wild trout stock in jeopardy.

While trout are classed as sport fish and can't be bought or sold in New Zealand, the money spent on fishing-related products makes up a significant proportion of the hundreds of millions spent by tourists in the Taupo district every year. As much as 80% of Lake Taupo anglers are visitors, not locals.

A licence is necessary to fish for trout in the Taupo region. Even with a licence, there is a three fish limit per person per day with a minimum size of 40cms.

As well as the native fish, and deliberately introduced trout and smelt, there have been goldfish and catfish found in the lake as illegally introduced pests.

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