Dairy farmers are getting praise from unlikely quarters after the most salmon in 40 years have been seen spawning in a small stream in the middle of dairying country.
After identifying good salmon catches in the area during the angling season and higher spawning rates in lowland streams than normal, fishery officers did a spot check at the spring-fed Waikuku Stream, expecting to see little salmon activity.
In a small stretch of the stream which feeds into the Ashley River they found about 35 salmon and as many nests - redds - containing thousands of eggs.
Among other theories for the high salmon count, Fish & Game New Zealand think the main reason is the work of dairy farmers to fence, plant and protect the stream.
South Island spokesman Andrew Currie said it was pure chance they found so many salmon spawning in the stream and farmers deserve the credit.
"In a 200-metre stretch I walked there were at least 25 to 35 redds and that augurs well for the fishery because each one of these nests contains 3000 to 4000 eggs and we can see the day when the Ashley River returns to a good run.
"What was particularly pleasing by the find was that the stream was in the heart of a dairy farm."
Currie said the "textbook" spawning site had free-running water, nice overhangs, little weed and an exposed shingle bed and was an example of top riparian planting by farmers.
"I think a lot more farms in Canterbury could have the same in their backyard if they had similar plantings and fencing.
"This is proof that dairy farming and Fish & Game can co-exist.
"It's really heartening, especially as a lot of the lowland streams are being silted up due to intensive agriculture, but here we have a good example of what can be achieved with a bit of work."
Dairy farmer Alastair Robinson bought the farm next to the stream a few years ago. The previous owner had stock-proofed it and planted native shrubs and trees. He has maintained it since.
Currie said anglers would hope the salmon return to the local fishery in three to four years and it was good to see the work of previous farmers being carried on by Robinson.
- The Press