Rivers too low for fishing

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The Kakanui river, Wainakarua and Waihao rivers water levels are very low and anyone wanting to fish them will be out of luck.

Rivers around North Otago are low and this is having an effect on people who regularly fish these waters.

Central South Island Fish and Game officer Graeme Hughes said fishing in these rivers will be tough.

“There may be the odd fish but people shouldn’t get their hopes up.”

Warmer temperatures mean mean warmer waters, which mean less food and unhappy fish so most of them move back to the lakes where there is more food and the waters are colder.

“They all head back to where they came from and it’s unlikely they’ll visit that river again until April or May,” he said.

If the lack of rain continues they may have to start salvaging some fish from rivers, Mr Hughes said.

Irrigators need to carefully manage water because of low river levels caused by persistent dry weather conditions in North Otago, the Otago Regional Council chief executive Peter Bodeker said.

The Kakanui River is low and continues to drop. Yesterday morning the Mill Dam and McCones flow sites were recording flows of 470 l/sec and 352 l/sec respectively.

The minimum flow for both these sites is 250 l/sec.Mr Bodeker said the rivers in North Otago were critical and he advised people to try to not use water for recreational activities.

“That’s the biggest concern is trying to tell people that there isn’t a lot of water around at the moment so we advise them not to clean their car or water the gardens.”

Mr Bodeker said they have been working with the Waitaki District Council to see what things needed to be done.

River levels are low in the whole of the Otago area and conserving water is a must as Mr Bodeker said some rivers could be within minimal levels within 2-3 days if no rain comes.

“Ideally we’d love to have about 50mls of rains a day for a couple of days over a period of about a week to help lift the rivers a bit.

Water allocation from the Kakanui River is managed by the Kakanui Water Allocation Committee which has been advised of the situation in the catchment.

The Waianakarua River at Browns Pump is running at 184 l/sec and some water take consents must now cease operation.

With most rivers around short of water meaning restrictions in many areas, Waitaki is the opposite and is sitting slightly higher than usual.

Rivers haven’t been this low since about 1999-2000 and farmers who were farming in the area back then know what to expect.

Mr Bodeker said dry weather has put several Otago river catchments at or below their minimum flow levels, which means irrigation must stop or be substantially reduced.

“Those irrigators, taking water under deemed permits should manage their water carefully and responsibly, being mindful of community needs and the vulnerable river ecology, given the extent of the low flows,” Mr Bodeker said.

Talks have been held with farmers letting them know what is happening.

Mr Bodeker said council staff would keep farmers informed in advance of any further controls on water use so there would be no surprises.

Meetings to discuss water management options, should dry weather continue, will be held soon.

“Most farmers were accustomed and experienced in dealing with water shortages and have already taken responsible steps to ration water and adjust their farm management to get through this dry spell,” he said.

Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company Ltd chairman Chris Dennison said there is no restrictions in place for the Waitaki.

“It’s water comes from Hydro lakes such as Benmore and Tekapo so it will never be low, it’s just about the most reliable river in the country,” he said

The ORC maintains its water info line on 0800 426 463 and has up-to-date information on its website at: http://water.orc.govt.nz.