Category Archives: news

Passing the Baton at Fish & Game

Martin Taylor (left) to take up the role of Fish & Game NZ Chief Executive following the retirement of Bryce Johnson (right).
Martin Taylor (left) will take up the role of Chief Executive at Fish & Game NZ when Bryce Johnson (right) retires at the end of October.

Fish & Game New Zealand has recently appointed Martin Taylor to take over as Chief Executive from the organisation’s long serving head, Bryce Johnson.

Martin Taylor has wide experience in the corporate sector, including as Chief Executive of the Aged Care Association.  He has also been chair of the Wellington Fish & Game council and is presently working for the Capital Coast DHB as a project manager.

The chair of Fish & Game’s New Zealand Council, Lindsay Lyons, is delighted with Mr Taylor’s appointment. “Martin’s the right person for this demanding role.  He’s highly qualified, an experienced leader and politically astute,” Mr Lyons says.

“He’s also a mad keen angler and loves the outdoors and New Zealand’s wild places, so from our point of view, this is a perfect combination.  We are delighted to have him on board.”

Martin Taylor will take up the role of Chief Executive in November following the retirement of the highly respected Bryce Johnson. Bryce has held the position since Fish & Game was established in 1991, and was previously the first national director of the Acclimatisation Societies (Fish & Game’s predecessor) from 1980.

Lindsay Lyons, says Bryce Johnson’s decision to retire is a significant landmark for the organisation. “Bryce is the face of Fish & Game New Zealand and has been a hugely effective leader and advocate.  He has been in his role since Fish & Game’s inception and his hard work has helped shape it into a widely respected and effective environmental organisation.”

Bryce has placed Fish & Game at the forefront of the battle to protect New Zealand’s waterways and wild places. His passion and tenacity have secured 12 of the 15 Water Conservation Orders that currently provide ‘national park’ levels of protection to high value waterways. He also led the way, challenging the ever increasing intensification of agriculture, especially the rapid expansion of dairying and it’s damaging impact on NZ’s rivers and lakes.

Fish & Game under Bryce’s leadership has spearheaded the debate about declining freshwater quality, bringing the issue into the public domain, where it could play a role influencing the upcoming general election.

While Martin Taylor will have big waders to fill, he will lead an organisation that boasts a strong foundation for protecting the interests of anglers and hunters alike, as well as those with an interest in protecting New Zealand’s wild places.

I look forward to the continuation of Fish & Game’s robust role protecting the environment.



Taupo Regs Change

The 2017/18 season starts today, along with the introduction of new regulations governing trout fishing in the Taupo region.

The Taupo fishery is unique in New Zealand, being the only place where fishing is managed and administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC)- this important role is carried out by Fish & Game NZ in other areas of the country.

The changes introduced this year appear to be aimed at improving the quality of fishing in the future, as well as simplifying and clarifying areas where confusion has previously existed.

It's worth noting that buying a license not only allows you to fish legally but also helps maintain the quality of the fishing we love.
It’s worth noting that buying a license not only allows you to fish legally but also helps maintain the quality of the fishing we love and the environment that supports it.

All anglers will need to be aware of the new regulation changes, especially around harvesting trout. The takable limit has been increased to six fish per angler and the size has been reduced to 350mm. Personally, I don’t tend to take many fish for the smoker, so the harvest changes won’t make a huge difference. However the changes are clearly designed to increase the numbers of trout removed from the system, which in turn will reduce the pressure on their primary food source, smelt. With more smelt to go round we could see bigger and healthier trout in the future… as long as people actually take more fish!

The regulations now offer guidance that includes the maximum leader length, as well as the use of weight. Guidance from DOC is as follows “To help anglers to understand acceptable practice, we’ve amended the definition of fly-fishing. The definition now includes maximum leader length (6 metres), minimum fly line length (3 metres) and the purpose of any introduced weight is to facilitate the sinking of the leader. Items such as swivels and sinkers added to assist casting will no longer be permissible.” They go on to add that the use of split-shot is permissible for assisting the leader to sink. Again nothing here that will change my approach but good to have clarification around the use of split shot.

Other changes relate to boat and spin fishing around river mouths, so will not impact on my winter fishing but may tempt me to make greater use of my pontoon boat in the warmer months.

International anglers will also notice an alignment in the weekly and annual license fees, to tie in with the costs of Fish & Game licenses. According to DOC the additional revenue will be used to “help gain a better understanding of the demands for the Taupo Fishery District.” Given the high cost of accessing quality trout fishing elsewhere in the world I suggest this still represents extraordinary value for money!

For a full account of the changes visit the DOC website>




Science Says Fish Need More Water

Scientists have provided evidence supporting what many anglers have known for years – taking water from rivers has a negative impact on fish quality. The new knowledge, based on 15 years of research led by the Cawthron Institute, has global implications for irrigation and hydro-electric development, and recreational fishing.

Project leader and Cawthron Institute freshwater fisheries scientist Dr John Hayes says a river acts like a conveyor belt delivering drifting food to waiting fish.  “We’ve shown that as flow declines, the diminished power and transport capacity of a river results in less drifting food. A new computer model that our team developed predicts that this translates to fewer, or more slowly growing, fish.”

Dr Hays says the insights from the model are a caution to regional councils and the public to be more careful when allocating water – in New Zealand, regional councils may need to revise minimum flows upward and water allocation limits downward.

Fish & Game’s Chief Executive Bryce Jonson says Cawthron are to be applauded for producing such sound, world-leading scientific research.  Mr Johnson says the government needs to heed the research findings and bring in stronger water management rules and reconsider its support for intensive farming and irrigation. “At the moment, the government is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into irrigation as a subsidy for intensive farming and ignoring the impact this is having on the environment and fish, including native species.”

“It is ludicrous that irrigators now want to take water from rivers and use it to replenish aquifers that have been over exploited. All this has a huge impact on the environment,” says Johnson.

“This report should be a wake-up call for the government. It has huge implications for tourism, farming and hydro-electric development and greater recognition needs to be given to freshwater fisheries,” Johnson concluded.

Neil Deans, technical policy adviser to the Minister for the Environment, says up-to-date technical information is vital for policy development, and such research can help inform water resource management.

“The quality of Dr Hayes’ and his collaborators’ research is internationally recognised, If we are going to set limits, then they should be effective in meeting community aspirations and as up-to-date as they can be.”

“This has implications for both environmental protection and for the allocation of water and its quality,” said Deans.

Go to the Cawthron Institutes’ project specific webpage to find the full story:

Listen to Dr Hayes speaking on Radio NZ:

Cartoonist Al Nisbet illustrates the problem with freshwater management in NZ
Cartoonist Al Nisbet illustrates the problem with freshwater management in NZ

Farming Leaders Have Responsibility to Public’s Rivers too

Tukituki River - Dam Proposal
Tukituki River – Dam Proposal

Farming organisations, self-interest irrigation lobbyists, plus the Minister of Primary Industries are being irresponsible towards the crisis of New Zealand’s depleted and degraded rivers and streams says a national trout fishing advocacy.

President of the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers David Haynes was reacting to a call by Irrigation NZ’s CEO Andrew Curtis over the experimental Hinds/Hekeao Managed Aquifer Recharge project that would deplete the Rangitata River. He also referred to another call by Hawkes Bay Federated Farmers president Will Foley over the controversial Hawkes Bay Ruataniwha scheme for the Tukituki River in which Foley commented that since 196 unidentified farmers had signed up to the currently unapproved scheme, that it was financially viable and must immediately proceed.

“The Hawkes Bay Federated Farmers call ignores that the only people so far identified as contributing to the dam’s costs are the public, i.e. taxpayers and ratepayers.”

David Haynes said the contribution the public would make was tantamount to a giant subsidy for private profit while the public’s river, already under severe environmental stress, would be sacrificed. Federated Farmers claim that the Tukituki catchment area would “enjoy improved environmental outcomes” was that of a “cock-eyed optimist” contradicting all known science about the impact of dams.

David Haynes also singled out the Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy who said it was time the public stopped blaming agriculture for the degraded state of rivers. “Why would the public illogically do that when it’s well documented that intensive agriculture is a major cause of degradation of the public’s waterways?”

He said it was time for government ministers to realise they were fundamentally public servants meant to be serving the general public interest of not only today’s generation but future generations. “How will Messrs Curtis, Foley and Guy explain to their children and grandchildren that they were party to the degradation of rivers that now were unswimmable?”

All New Zealanders, town and country, from politicians to farmers needed to take collective responsibility to have a “land and water ethic” to restore waterways. Many farmers were responsible and practised a sense of stewardship but a significant number failed to do so. Horizons Regional Council, covering southern Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Rangitikei and other rural areas recently revealed that of 482 farms with Sustainable Land Use Plans, exactly half had done nothing to fulfil obligations or had made less than 20 percent of planned progress. The plans, designed to limit the effects of large-scale hill erosion and prevent silt run-off and deposition in rivers, were free to farmers, but cost council ratepayers between $12,0009and $18,000 each to conduct but were voluntary.

David Haynes said the abdication of environmental responsibility by Federated Farmers was graphically illustrated by national Federated Farmers president William Rolleston who claimed on National Radio “we do actually have very clean rivers in New Zealand – there is no doubt.”

“Rolleston’s bizarre claim flew in the face of concerns by the Parliamentary commissioner for the Environment and all the published studies by independent scientists. It’s apparent the deep concerns held by the public over degraded rivers, fails to even rate as an issue for NZ’s agribusiness spokesmen.”

David Haynes said the science underpinning the truly degraded state of the public’s waterways had been very clear for a long time, pin-pointing that agricultural intensification particularly monocultures of mega-sized corporate dairy farms, was usually the major cause.

A ground-breaking report just published by the respected Cawthron Institute and NIWA proved conclusively that the over-allocation of water extracted for intensive agriculture, was directly affecting the ecosystem of public rivers, including vital macro-invertebrate populations that were food sources for native fish and the public’s trout and salmon stocks.

“Denials about the deplorable state of many rivers both in quantity of flow and quality, by agri-business representatives is frustrating since it’s selfish, self-serving and short-sighted.”

David Haynes said fish health was tantamount to the “canary in the coal mine. “Not only are many lowland rivers rated as unfit for swimming but once favoured swimming and fishing rivers, were dry riverbeds, mute testimony to the degradation and at times total destruction. Anglers know because they’re out there, seeing diminished fish size and numbers, and essentially acting as environmental watchdogs for the public” he said.


Source – Scoop Media

Fish & Game Withdraw from Forum

irrigation system
Fish & Game resign from the Land and Water Forum so they can once again independently advocate for freshwater in NZ.

On the back of recent disappointing news about the quality of freshwater in NZ (revealed in the Government’s Environment Aotearoa 2015′ report), fly fishermen now have to face up to the implications of the withdrawal of Fish & Game New Zealand from the most significant collaborative body responsible for driving the process of freshwater reform in this country – The Land and Water Forum.

Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson said changes to the Forum’s rules around membership and restrictions on the ability to speak out had “essentially compelled us to resign”.

“After five years its now clear the Government’s goals all along have been about natural resource development, not about environmental protection. They make the growth strategies, and add on the end the words ‘within environmental limits’.”

“This process is more superficial than substantial. For industry, it’s ideal to have all the environmental groups neatly corralled inside the tent, inside the process,” Johnson observed.

While leaving the Land and Water Forum will now allow Fish & Game to once again independently advocate for our freshwater resources, it must be a serious concern for anyone interested in water quality, that the process responsible for safeguarding our waterways could be so seriously flawed.

Of the 150 recommendations already made by the Forum over the last five years the Government still has not identified an implementation plan. In fact many have accused the Government of simply ‘cherry picking’ recommendations to suit their agenda.

Environment Minister Nick Smith responded saying he was not surprised by Fish and Games’ departure, but he was disappointed. Dr Smith said a ‘good number’ of the forum’s recommendations had been acted on.

“I don’t have the exact list in front of me… what I can say is that simplistically counting off the numbers does not give due respect to the really important recommendations around national policy statements, around the National Objectives Framework, around the funding for cleanups, around putting in place a reporting system around the quality of our freshwater, most of those have been implemented.”

So where to from here for the Forum and the quality of freshwater in New Zealand? The Government really needs to respond positively and deliver substantive practical change that results in improved water quality. It needs to fully embrace the founding principles of the Forum and deliver outcomes that satisfy the long term social, recreational and economic benefits of clean freshwater.

You can hear Fish & Game CEO Bryce Johnson speak about the withdrawal in an interview on Radio New Zealand >

James Barnett

RISE Screened in Hamilton

The Waikato screening of this years RISE Fly Fishing Film Festival was held last night at the Lido Cinema in Hamilton. I went along with friends to soak up the atmosphere and gain inspiration for the upcoming season.

Now in its tenth year this niche film event has built something of a reputation for featuring amazing stories of passionate fly fishermen (and women) targeting a range of species in some incredible places – this year was no exception.  After a relaxed, understated introduction from the event organisers, the focus was put on the amazing films – a series of short films followed by the main feature.

The short films kicked off in dramatic style with ‘Aquasoul’, a story of two passionate fly anglers Brett Wilson and Peter Morse, who’s lives have taken them on very different paths, yet they both find themselves casting together in a fly fisherman’s paradise – the Great Barrier Reef.

“Blue Bastards are one of the most charismatic and enigmatic of fish species… some people could end up going home in a straight jacket because of them!”

We were treated to some incredible fishing, from stalking along white beaches to walking vast shallow flats, from throwing long lines towards big GT’s to casting into holes in the reef for a lucky dip of species… this place really is one of the great wonders of the world. The action was incredible as both anglers connected with a variety of powerful and often colourful fish. The footage of the GT ‘hits’ was simply breathtaking. Underpinning all of this drama was a genuine story of the joys and challenges that faced two fellow fly fishermen.

Another film ‘Yow – Icelandic for Yes’ took us to Iceland to witness a fly fishing trip to this hostile, freezing, volcanic land, where the elements are as much of a challenge as the fish. If you like exploring very wild places in pursuit of salmon and trout, and you also fancy the idea of surfing in a blizzard, this is the film for you!

The third film entitled ‘Those Moments’ took us on a tour with fishing guides on their day off, and included visits to Alaska, the Bahamas and British Columbia. The fourth and final short film ‘Carpland’ headed to the USA and highlighted the often overlooked subject of fly fishing for carp. From a personal perspective I can see exactly why they are overlooked!

After a short break we settled in to view the main feature film of the night, ‘Backcountry – South Island.’ Expectation was high following last year’s highly acclaimed ‘Backcountry – North Island.’

“Backcountry is outside your comfort zone, somewhere a bit special”

The new film included a few familiar faces from last years North Island based film. Mike Kirkpatrick a professional fly fishing guide from Nelson took a few days off from Guiding to take a ‘walk-in’ backcountry trip with an old fishing buddy. The size and quality of the brown trout was amazing. A telling remark from Mike revealed that catching big trout was always welcome but the most important characteristics for him were the quality and beauty of these wild fish. A perspective that I fully agree with. A reality check came towards the end of their trip when Mike’s mate lost the-fish-of-a-lifetime, due to a forgetten landing net. Early on in the battle Mike attempted to land the huge fish by hand, by grasping it above the tail. The big powerful brown wasn’t having a bar of it and threw Mike’s hand off in forceful style. While we all shared the frustration it was comforting to see these things can happen to the best of us!

We also once again saw Andrew Harding, who is developing quite a following on YouTube for his own movie clips. This time, he and Nick Reygaert, the founder of Gin-Clear Media took a multi-day rafting trip down a very remote river, camping as they went. High numbers of naive trout attacked flies with little hesitation, giving both anglers a considerable workout.

Rene Vas was also involved again. As Director and founder of The Manic Tackle Project, Rene is responsible for bringing some of the biggest tackle brands to New Zealand. In this film he reveals that these days the hardships of backcountry camping “are not my scene.” Just as well the jet boat that took him and his buddies up to the headwaters was fully stocked with home comforts!

Another highlight was seeing English fly fishing writer and casting instructor Paul Proctor describe his anxieties as he prepared to cast to a ‘pool master’ brown…  “the 100 ways I could stuff this up!” This part of the film took the viewer through the whole process of fly selection, casting, hooking, playing and the final delight and relief at getting the fish in the net. A sequence that captured the sentiments of many fly fishermen when they encounter a really big fish.

The night was very enjoyable and certainly set the mind thinking about the new season and the fresh challenges that lie ahead. Backcountry here we come.

More about the RISE Fly Fishing Film festival >


James Barnett