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About 1% of a first release of 2000 salmon raised in the Waitaki River returned in the past fishing season, boosting breeding in a stream whose water was used to raise them.
The Waitaki Riparian Enhancement Society started hatching salmon at a hatchery next to Welcome Stream and released its first 2000 tagged fish in 2012.
They were due to start returning in the past season, and the first was caught in February.
Society secretary Linn Koevoet said five of those fish were weighed in at a competition and another three were reported caught.
Using a formula established by the Fish and Game organisation, it was estimated a total of 21 fish returned to the river.
There was also a spin-off for Welcome Stream, which flows on the south side of the river just west of the State Highway 1 bridge.
Fish and Game has conducted salmon redd (nest) counts in Welcome Stream for the past four years and an average of three redds have been located.
In this year's survey, 10 were found.
''This was a significant increase in the Welcome Stream population. This bodes well for the future,'' Mr Koevoet said.
Part of the breeding scheme was to have numbers increase naturally.
This year, some of those first fish may return, as may some of the 8000 released the following year.