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Rock Snot, Big Fish, and Hungry Guides

It seems that all of the reports about Didymo (aka Rock Snot, an invasive algae which eventually takes over streams and rivers) in New Zealand have started scaring away anglers. All of the fishing guides I've talked do down here say that business is down and existing reservations are canceling because people believe the fishing has gone down hill.

What I've seen so far on this trip is a lot of very good fishing. Yes, Didymo seems to be found in another river every other week, and yes you do need to carefully clean all of your gear between waters, but the fishing is still very good. Some rivers such as the Lower Waiau have been closed and other such as the Mararoa should be closed, but for the most part most water is still open for fishing. Rivers such as the Oreti and Buller are infected yet I saw very little impact from the algae. Part of that I'm sure is due to the heavy rains New Zealand has been receiving for the last month (since I got here) which probably flushed a lot of the systems. It can't last forever, but right now the fishing is still pretty good.

It's a shame that New Zealand Fish and Game, or the Department of Conservation, or whoever didn't quarantine the initial rivers and streams when the infection was first found several years ago. Since then, anglers have spread this minor plague to more and more waters. This year I've finally seen a lot of signs up on just about every stream and river telling fishermen they need to take proper care not so spread Didymo, but I imagine very few people follow the guidelines exactly and I've heard about outfitters and lodges not cleaning their customers' gear at all. Eventually there is bound to be a major impact from the destructive algae, but everything possible should be done to slow down its spread.

It's also a shame that the guides down here are feeling the brunt of this. In my experience the fishing guides in New Zealand are almost a necessity for visiting anglers. I've found them to be quite knowledgeable, and a hard working lot. It's really too bad that some of them may need to find other employment if the number of visiting fishermen continues to decline.

What's the future? There are some reports that copper based solutions have been found which can control Didymo without harming stream life. Maybe that will help. But I don't see any way Didymo could be totally eliminated here; it is in New Zealand to stay. That means that over the years there will be fewer and fewer uninfected waterways. The fishing will probably never again be as good as it is right now. So get down here and give it a try!

Posted by Bruce on November 17, 2006 2:29 PM

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