Story: Trout and salmon

Page 4. Other salmonids

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In the late 1800s and early 1900s attempts were made to introduce other salmonid species such as whitefish, Atlantic salmon, brook char and mackinaw – but with little success.

Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)

Much effort went into acclimatising this species, native to high-latitude lakes in the northern hemisphere. From 1876 to 1907 nearly 10 million ova were brought in. Some whitefish were hatched and released into lakes, but the species never became established.

Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

The Atlantic salmon is native to rivers draining to the North Atlantic Ocean. Early settlers from Britain were familiar with the fish and eager to establish sea-going salmon populations. Between 1864 and 1910, 24 introductions were attempted involving 5 million ova, but with very little success.

There were local fisheries at Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapōuri and in the Waiau River in the 1920s and 1930s, but the fish were poorly conditioned and did not swim out to sea. They weighed only about 2 kilograms, whereas Atlantic salmon in Britain returning from the sea were typically four times that weight.

The species is considered to be close to extinction in New Zealand, with remnant wild stocks confined to lakes in Southland’s upper Waiau catchment.

Brook char (Salvelinus fontinalis)

Brook char were first introduced in the late 1870s or early 1880s. They were widely released, but it seems they could not compete with brown trout. They still exist in headwaters of some catchments, such as the upper reaches of the Shag River in Otago, but they are usually very small (typically only 150 millimetres).

Lake Emily, inland from Ashburton, is the best fishery, where brook char up to 600 millimetres and 3 kilograms may be caught.

Lake char or mackinaw (Salvelinus namaycush)

The mackinaw is native to northern North American lakes, where it can grow up to 46 kilograms. The only New Zealand population occurs in Lake Pearson, in the headwaters of the Waimakariri River.

The species arrived in 1906 and was destined for Lake Kaniere on the West Coast. But as they were being transported towards Arthur’s Pass, the temperature of the water containing the fish rose too high. Fearing that the mackinaw would die, the acclimatisers dumped them in nearby Lake Pearson and Lake Grassmere. A population still exists in Lake Pearson, but the typical weight of less than 1 kilogram suggests that it is not an ideal habitat. In New Zealand mackinaw are little more than a curiosity.

Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Sockeye were released into the Waitaki River catchment in 1902, after some 500,000 ova were gifted by the Canadian government.

Young that hatched were released in the hope of yielding a returning run, to develop a commercial fishery based on canning salmon. The species established itself in Lake Ōhau but a sea-going population never developed. A remnant population still exists in Lake Ōhau and its tributaries.

How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Trout and salmon - Other salmonids', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 June 2024)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 24 Nov 2008