Salmon magic

Jeremy Burke with a fine Rakaia mouth salmon

On the back of a worse than lacklustre last season, Canterbury’s salmon season this year has been stand out, so four of us from Ballingers Hunting & Fishing in Christchurch decided to capitalise on the opportunity. Hamish Billcliff (the front cover picture) Dave Deakins and Jeremy Burke joined me in the jet boat. I nudged it into the current, gave it a squirt and headed downstream.

By late January, the Rakaia River had twin mouths for a period, doubling the options. We elected to fish the southern mouth so parked up and began fishing at 6.00am. It was a morning high tide but a cold southerly wind was pushing a good swell ahead of it. We are all ‘gear sluts’ and like quality set ups: Loomis rods, Shimano level wind reels and Sufix braid. On this particular day the silver zed spinners were the go.

Simon McMillan of Ballingers Hunting & Fishing is happy to share secrets to salmon success

We were quickly into the action and it soon evolved into a magic session, which proved a double-edged sword; on the one hand its great to get amongst the fish in such spectacular fashion, but it did present us with a dilemma—keep or release. With the new season limit of two fish per angler, you can release as many as you like until that second fish is whacked on the head and then it’s season over Rover!

When the idea of a season limit was first mooted, I thought may be four to six fish per angler would be good—it certainly would’ve worked for our family. However, when only a brace of salmon was permitted, I was in two minds: perhaps a bit light but given that last season was shit house, probably prudent. Now that an unbelievable run has dropped out of nowhere, there is grumbling afoot that the bag limit is a bit miserable. I choose to be a bit more magnanimous— it’s good that Fish & Game reacted to a problem and have taken steps to address it.

During the five hour session, amongst the anglers on the bank, 13 salmon hooked and 10 landed. The Ballingers crew accounted for 10 hooked, eight landed and seven released; Jeremy kept a nice slab of silver for the tucker box. Our fish were all magnificent specimens, tipping the scales between 12—17lb.

The season is by no means over and the Waimak’ is yet to come on stream, as it normally does in March. For those wanting to experience salmon fishing of old, pop into Ballingers Hunting & Fishing in Christchurch. We’ll get you kitted out, point you in the right direction and let you in on the secrets to some salmon magic.

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