No getting off the hook on fishy tale

Controversy over who needs a licence to fish at the mouth of the Taieri River has been clarified after a meeting between recreational fishermen and Fish and Game Otago.

Some anglers had questioned Fish and Game Otago's right to prosecute people for fishing for trout and salmon without a licence in the area below the Taieri Mouth bridge, citing an agreement made decades ago allowing them to do so.

Fish and Game said whatever ''folklore'' was around, the council was charged with upholding the law which clearly stated the area was freshwater, so people needed a licence to fish for trout and salmon.

Otago recreational fishing representative Warren Lewis said in the 1980s a gentlemen's agreement between the former Otago Recreational Fishers and Fish and Game was made to allow families and children to fish for non-sports fish such as flounder below the Henley Ferry bridge without a licence.

''It was a one-off case, a privilege,'' Mr Lewis saidTo fish for those species people would be using a rig for flounder, not a trout rod or lures, he said.

However, it appeared some people were using that agreement as a defence for fishing for sports fish without a licence.

''They should know better than to try it on. A lot of people get enjoyment out of this without the odd person upsetting the apple cart.''

Fish and Game Otago operations manager Ian Hadland said the council had always maintained it was not after children fishing off the wharf for flounder, only those anglers with spinning gear more suited to catching trout or salmon.

The gentlemen's agreement was old and the latest generation did not know its provision, or stretched its intent, so it was important anglers realised they could not fish for sports fish in fresh water unless they had a licence.

If they accidentally caught a sports fish they needed to return it to the river unhurt, he said.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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