It appears 1978 was a good year for salmon fishing on the Waitaki River.
Last week, the Oamaru Mailfeatured an article on the 46lb (20.8kg) salmon caught by Oamaru angler Neville Hanson in February 1978.
The fish, which was mounted and is presently on display at Oamaru Sports and Outdoors, is considered to be one of the largest quinnat salmon caught on the Waitaki River.
However, the same year, a Southland farmer by the name of Spencer Richards is believed to have caught a bigger fish on the Waitaki that weighed in at 48lb (21.8kg) – slightly larger than Mr Hanson’s effort.
The claim has been made by Mr Richards’ nephew, Russell, who brought in a photograph that appeared in a local newspaper in 1987, alongside a report of that year’s Waitaki River salmon angling competition.
He was given the clipping by his father, Walter, who told him to “keep it as a souvenir”.
When Russell saw the article about Mr Hanson’s catch, he wanted to share his uncle’s achievement.
He said the fish caught by the late Spencer Richards was, like Mr Hanson’s, mounted.
It was then displayed at either the Waitaki Bridge Hall or Glenavy Hall, Russell said.
He said Spencer used to travel to Waitaki frequently to fish and had a caravan in the Kaik Rd area.
“He had a bike there too. He used to bike down to the river and do his fishing and then bike back to the caravan.
“That was his thing he did to take a break from farming.”
While Russell was not 100% sure the fish pictured was caught on the Waitaki, he thought it was unlikely it would have been caught anywhere else as Spencer almost exclusively fished on the river.
However, given that Russell could not be certain that it was caught locally, he was happy for Mr Hanson to continue to claim his catch was the largest reported salmon landed on the Waitaki.
While Spencer did land a big one regardless of where it was caught, Walter did not have quite as much luck.
“We used to have a crib at Otematata and we used to go fishing up there,” Russell said.
“Dad didn’t really tell me about my uncle’s fish – he sort of kept it pretty low key. But he must have been proud enough of it to have its photo taken.”