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Plenty of opportunities . . . Fish & Game Central South Island officer Rhys Adams holds a brown trout caught in the Waitaki River near Grassy Hill. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The new sports fishing season opens next week – and the timing is great for families looking for school holiday activities, Fish & Game field officer Rhys Adams says.

The new season starts on October 1 and Mr Adams is encouraging experienced anglers to make the time to teach a young person how to fish.

“Opportunities abound for school holiday activities licences for kids under 12 are free,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to be stressful. Just dig a worm out of the garden and put that on a hook with a small sinker and pop it out into one of the Waitaki lakes or Bortons Pond fishing spot.

“It’s a good family fun activity and you can bring home dinner for the family, too, hopefully.”

Licences for the 2020-21 season, required from October 1, are available now and Mr Adams expected good sales this year.

Winter fishing in the canals around Twizel had been very popular in 2020, he said.

“They are immensely popular winter fisheries anyway, the canals, but we’re wondering if that’s been boosted by domestic tourism [after lockdown],” he said.

“So people from Auckland, instead of going to the Gold Coast, are now coming down and going to Twizel and going fishing. We had a pretty impressive surge in licence sales in the middle of winter, which would show that there was an increase in use.”

This year, a special “spring season” was introduced at the upper Ohau River, near Twizel, for September and October.

“It’s a unique opportunity where we’re actually allowing people to target the tail-end of the spawning run, which isn’t a traditional way of managing fisheries.

“That would normally open in what we call high country opening in November. But we’re doing some intensive managing of that fishery, with the help of Meridian, to allow people to catch huge fish from the canals in the river, which is a super unique experience – it’s sort of a one-of-a-kind experience where you can regularly catch fish over 10 pounds [4.5kg] in a river.”

Some people had reported catches of up to 14.5kg.

“We’re monitoring its success and angler catch and doing quite an intensive survey to see how that fishery is developing.”

The Central South Island Fish & Game region, which incorporated North Otago, South Canterbury and the Mackenzie Basin, had some of the most popular places for freshwater fishing in New Zealand, Mr Adams said.

“We’ve got a pretty good resource on our doorstep, especially all the large hydro lakes.

“We’ve sort of got options everywhere you look.”

The Waitaki River was usually one of the most popular fishing spots on opening day, he said.

A recent Fish & Game survey estimated about 13,000 fish were caught in the Waitaki River each year.

“The Waitaki River holds a huge population of brown and rainbow trout and when the flows are right the fishing can be outstanding.

“Around the township of Kurow is a great place to fish, with several signposted river access points.”

Licences for the 2020-21 season can be bought from local fishing and sports shops or online at fishandgame.org.nz.

Mr Adams reminded anglers to familiarise themselves with the new 2020-21 regulation guide before fishing.