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The hard work of many fishermen has finally paid off with the first significant return of salmon to Dunedin's Water of Leith.
A group of about 17 salmon was spotted in the waterway yesterday and about 50 people watched as fishermen wrangled them into a tank.
A great cheer went up when the first was netted, followed quickly by a second and third.
Dunedin Community Salmon Trust chairman Brett Bensemann said salmon smolt had been released further up the Leith and it was the first time the fish had returned "in the numbers that we've observed".
"It's absolutely fantastic. The salmon have been running since September, but in the last couple of months it's been phenomenal in the harbour - the best it's ever been - and now this really is going to be salmon city, simple as that.
"It's great that the fish are acknowledging the environment that we've released them in.
"With all the hard work that's gone into re-establishing the Sawyers Bay hatchery, and all the work from both the supporters club of the salmon trust, and the Otago salmon anglers and fishing clubs, we have now established a source of recreational benefit for families in the Dunedin and Otago region."
The salmon were taken to the Sawyers Bay hatchery where they would be used for breeding.
Otago Fish and Game ranger Steve Dixon said the fish would be kept for a month and have their eggs stripped before being returned to the Leith in May.
He believed the fish were about two or three years old, but said research could be carried out to determine where they were bred and where they had been.
"It is possible some of them are the first release here, but they could be naturally spawned salmon."