Foreign fishing guide tensions mount

A fisherman tries to find a fishing spot at Sailors Cutting near Otematata. Photo by ODT.
A fisherman tries to find a fishing spot at Sailors Cutting near Otematata. Photo by ODT.

More foreign fishing guides are taking advantage of New Zealand's unregulated industry and "dominating'' Southern rivers for financial gain, Fish & Game Otago says.

But an Australian guiding company says it respects the fishery and follows etiquette, unlike "some locals''.

Otago Fish & Game councillor Adrian McIntyre, of Gore, said more foreign fishing guides, including from Australia and China, were bringing foreign clients to catch trout in Otago and Southland.

New Zealand fishers often walked hours to target a remote river and a foreign guide and their clients would arrive by helicopter and fish upstream.

'There are some real arrogant guys out there.''

Otago councillor Ian Cole, of Wanaka, said he knew of New Zealand fishers having their day ruined by a helicopter arrival.

"A helicopter pitches straight in front of them, with some rich overseas people and the guide says ‘I'm fishing up here' - you can't do that.''

Mr Cole began guiding between Fairlie and Lumsden in 1992 and the number of guides had increased dramatically.

"For the last two years, I've seen unprecedented growth.''

Foreign guides continually targeted "trophy'' trout in the upper Oreti River on consecutive days and robbed New Zealand fishers of the chance to land a fish.

"It's a very limited resource and those special places are not abundant.''

A responsible guide would spread their impact and never dominate a body of water.

Foreigners trout fishing in New Zealand was not the issue; the issue was foreign guides making money from the fishery and sending the profits offshore.

"It's bad enough when a New Zealand guide is using it [the fishery] for commercial gain but it's even worse when some overseas people are doing it and nothing goes back. The fishery is there for New Zealanders and people legally entitled to be there.''

Otago chief executive Niall Watson, of Dunedin, said Fish & Game Otago often received complaints about foreign guides "dominating'' the use of huts and rivers.

"We had reports of Scandinavian guides fishing all the back-country waters in Otago on successive weeks and spending days in those valleys before moving on to the next and exerting much more pressure than you might expect from resident New Zealand anglers.''

Many of the foreign guides lacked the understanding of fishing etiquette in New Zealand and how the fishery worked.

Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre director Antony Boliancu, of Thornton, said the centre, which was based near Melbourne, respected the New Zealand fishery.

The centre had guides and clients fishing for 134 days in New Zealand last summer, including 67 days in Southland.

The centre had several access points to rivers within an hour's drive of its operations base near Mossburn.

The centre fished the Waikaia River for nine days during summer.

"There is not one occasion where we fished the Waikaia on consecutive days; but on the days that we did fish it, we had two guides on it.''

When fishing the Waikaia, the guides would cover up to 4km of water a day, a "tiny percentage'' of the 60km of fishable river available.

"The fishing can be technical, the fish plentiful, and it's easy to spend several hours on a single pool.''

A large number of people ignored the etiquette of fishing South Island rivers or were ignorant of it, he said.

"They will jump you, or not leave you enough room or, even worse, walk downriver from an access point above into the beat below.

"This is my pet hate and some locals are the worst for it ... walking all day and not seeing fish, only to find out at 4pm that you were following someone that jumped you and caused you to waste a blue sky day is a terrible feeling. Then when you are told to ‘get f..... Aussie, Yank, or Jap' when you finally catch up to the person is even worse.''

Mr Boliancu wants a fishing etiquette education campaign to target fishers at New Zealand airports, similar to the didymo campaign.

As part of a campaign, everyone who bought a fishing licence should be given information on etiquette.

People who bought fishing licences online would be forced to pass a test on etiquette before the purchase could be finalised.

"I believe it is crucial for this to happen to ensure that the quality of experience of fishing in New Zealand is maintained.''

To be a Department of Conservation concession holder in the Southland region, the centre had to keep detailed records of rivers accessed and fish landed.

"For us they are an indispensable record that has helped us to better understand the big picture of the fishery,'' Mr Boliancu said.

Mr Watson said Fish & Game was "tightening up'' on foreign guides operating in New Zealand without Doc concessions.

Fish & Game was working on creating a mandatory guides licence.

"It's taken considerable time to agree on how it should be implemented but I think that process is beginning to free up and I'm not aware of any particular objection by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.''

A spokesman for Ms Barry said Fish & Game had told her it was working on a licence for guides but the proposal had not been given to her, or to Doc, for consideration.

Mr Cole said a licence was needed because the fishery needed to be managed better.

Mr McIntyre said the industry was "totally unregulated'' and a licence was needed to limit the profit foreign guides made from a resource for New Zealanders.

"The fish are everybody's.''

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