Jigging Acacia Bay, Lake Taupo
The 2013/14 summer started off warm in November, then temperatures dropped during December and early January, before the heat finally arrived from late January and throughout February.
The busy Christmas period was relatively cold and windy which limited boating opportunities on Lake Taupo.
Overall, 767 anglers were surveyed on Lake Taupo over the last 5 months and had their fishing licences checked.
The overall catch rate for lake anglers this summer was calculated at 0.50 fish per hour (1 legal sized fish every 2 hours).
This continues the increasing trend observed over the past two summers and is the highest summer catch rate out of the last 23 years (Fig.1). It is also well above the summer average of 0.31 fish per hour (1 legal fish every 3.25 hours).
Catch rates were quite high in November at 0.32 fish per hour (1 legal fish every 3 hours) and built to a peak during January at 0.58 fish per hour (1 legal fish every 1.75 hours).
March produced the second highest at 0.52 fish per hour, on par with February.
Figure 1: Catch rate
Jigging produced the highest catch rate out of all the methods this summer with an estimated catch rate of 0.65 fish per hour (1 legal fish every 1.5 hours).
Unsurprisingly, it was the preferred method of fishing the lake this summer and was used by 55% of all anglers interviewed (Fig.2).
Jigging produced fish earlier than expected this summer as a result of the warm weather in November. Cooler temperatures during December and early January kept the trout within the top 20 metres and still within reach of lead lines.
As the lake warmed from late January onwards, the thermo-cline developed and the trout hunted the deeper and cooler waters beyond 20 metres deep.
Jigging remained relatively constant between summers 2005/06 and 2010/11 at approximately 25-30% before steadily increasing to a peak this summer of more than 50%.
The increase in popularity of jigging has seen a decline in the use of harling which is now used by just 11% of all lake anglers interviewed. Lead lines were the second most popular method with just over a quarter of all anglers surveyed using this method despite a relatively average overall catch rate of 0.21 fish per hour (1 legal fish every 4.75 hours) this summer.
Figure 2: Use of jigging
A total of 338 trout were measured and weighed during angler surveys on Lake Taupo this summer including three brown trout. These three browns averaged 612 mm and 2.6 kg (5.7 lb) with an average condition factor of 41.7.
The 335 rainbows kept by anglers averaged 469 mm and 1.21 kg (2.7 lb) with an average condition factor of 41.5 (Fig.3).
In comparison to last summer, these rainbows are on average 14 mm longer but of a similar weight and as a result the average condition factor is down slightly.
The heaviest rainbow weighed on the lake by Rangers this summer was a hen measuring 550 mm and weighing 2.5 kg (5.5lb) with a condition factor of 54.3.
Anglers chose to keep 64% of their legal sized catch which is lower than the 80% kept last summer.
Undersized fish accounted for 37.8% of the total recorded catch this summer which is up slightly on the 32% recorded last summer but down in comparison to more recent years, where it has reached almost 46%.
Jigging often catches small fish and it is not difficult to land large numbers of undersized fish while targeting larger fish.
Care must be taken when handling and releasing small fish to ensure their survival and if possible leave the fish in the water and unhook it without touching the fish itself.
Figure 3: Average length and weight of fish caught
Given the positive feedback from anglers this summer regarding the general state of the Taupo Fishery, it was encouraging to see this reflected in the angler satisfaction scores given by anglers this summer.
Overall, anglers rated the trout that they were catching at 7 out of 10 which is on par with last summer’s 7.2/10 and again higher than previous years.
This mirrors the average size and weight this summer which saw slightly longer fish amongst the catch than last summer but they were of a similar weight hence the slight reduction in overall condition.
Nevertheless, there have been some very nice rainbows caught during late March with a number of them doing exceptionally well feeding on koura this summer. With plenty of smelt around currently, the next 4 months will be important for those fish preparing to spawn this winter.
The fish that ran the rivers last winter did really well over autumn and were in great condition during winter and spring.
It will be interesting to see what the runs are like this winter in terms of size and quality given the large number of trout currently present in the lake.
Anglers were asked to rate how satisfied they were with their catch rate and rated it at 6.9/10 this summer. This is the highest average score out of the last 8 summers and reflects the very high overall catch rate.
Anglers rated their angling enjoyment at 9.5/10 which is up on last summer and again the highest out of the last 8 summers. Good quality fish and plenty of them combined with high catch rates certainly made for an enjoyable summer on Lake Taupo!
Anglers were asked a final question regarding what spoiled their fishing experience while out fishing on Lake Taupo
When asked this question almost 90% of anglers couldn’t cite anything which detracted from their angling enjoyment.
The largest detraction mentioned was bad manners (2.4%) shown by other boats when they pass too close to other boats or pass too fast. This was particularly noticeable when boats were drifting while jigging.
The weather was mentioned by 2% of all anglers surveyed and could relate to the relatively cold and windy start to the summer.
Remember to always Check Clean and Dry your gear before moving water catchments. Protect your waterways.