Work to restore the site has started at the hatchery with Robert working with an excavator on hire from Oliver Bros. In 90 minutes he has successfully filled and leveled a large hole the river scoured out by the hatching shed. See photos. More work to be done yet.
These photos show the amount of water in the vicinity of the hatchery due to a major flood event in the Rangitata river over the weekend of 7th December. The flow down the south branch meant that we could not get to the hatchery for several days. Damage was limited to scouring around hatchery and the loss of several young fish from the shed tanks and some adults from the fish race. Mud was everywhere and there is a large amount of work to be done to get it back to what it was. We consider we got off pretty lightly.
June to November have been quite busy at the hatchery with upgrades on shed water filters, fin clipping flumeing, fish feeders and fish trap completed. The fish in the shed are growing well and thanks to Raylene Clarke the tanks are kept extremely clean.
Another project under way is the removal of trapped salmon fry from the RDR (Irrigation Intake area) and releasing them to a tank at the hatchery for growing out and releasing at a later date. This is an initiative of Fish & Game and RDR Management.
The few adult fish that returned continue to be stripped and the eggs incubated. Sever thousand are under incubation at present and still the odd fish are returning to the trap. Our loyal band of volunteers are beavering away every second day, checking fish and processing those ready. Once again a big "thank you" to them for their efforts!
To make sure the hatchery is compliant with the relevant consent conditions, we had to put a concrete structure in place in the water supply by-pass to measure the water flow into the hatchery. The structure was built on site and installed with the help of Fish & Game and "Oliver's" digger driven by our own expert Robert.
A team from the hatchery spent Sunday morning riparian planting at the spring headwaters of McKinnons creek on the farm of Henry Bolt. The team supplied some plants (Carex Sectors) and helped with the work which will ultimately be of benefit to water quality in the creek itself.
The lack of male fish returning to the hatchery this season has resulted in the hunt for a couple of men fish from the headwaters to help out down stream at McKinnons creek. Some Fish & Game staff and hatchery helpers travelled to Mt Potts area on the hunt however only one male fish was secured. He was brought back to the hatchery and has already been put to good use. A couple of fish have been stripped and their fertilized eggs are in the incubator.
Xmas has come and gone and we have lived in hope of a better adult return to the hatchery this year. So far it is slightly improved from last season in that we have 7 female and 1 male fish in the trap. This is 100% better than previous and will give us around 18,000 eggs all things being equal.
The 300 or so brood stock we kept back are doing well and are on track for being used to some degree or other next year as brood stock.
Teams have been looking after these fish each weekend and some work has continued at the hatchery on most days. The focus at present is getting the incubators cleaned out and operating and tanks and other equipment sterilized
The recent 1000m3 flood in the Rangitata did not bring any Rangitata water into the hatchery. McKinnons Creek access to fish has had to be enhanced a couple of times with some excavation to clean it out and divert some water closer. It will always be a challenge due to the changing nature of the braided river.
From our own counts,70 fish were taken in the lower reaches on the South side with 20 on the North side of the Rangitata. Long term counts of redds will be completed in earl June however early indications are that it might be on a parr with last year..
Possible new plans for hatcheries such as ours!
One of the proposals being discussed at a high level, is for brood stock to be obtained as juvenile wild salmon in each fishery, then raised for 3 years in a central hatchery location. At maturity each river’s brood stock would be stripped and fertilised and ova returned to the on-river hatcheries for raising through to release on-site. This process relieves hatcheries of the need to trap returning adults and fertilise and incubate ova. In theory all returning adults should be available for anglers to catch and regulation could be introduced that encourage catch or hatchery origin over wild fish. Watch this space.
In November the Rangitata had a massive clean out with flows getting up to 2000 m/3.
Results at the hatchery as follows. No major damage thankfully.
The nursery door has been opened and all the children have gone. On Monday 23rd, all 55,000 fry at the hatchery were released back into McKinnon's creek starting them on their journey to sea and subsequently back to the Rangitata river in 2 years time (hopefully). We did keep around 200 back which may become locally kept broodstock for the future depending on where we can keep them. They are fine at the moment in one of the raceways. A big thanks to all those involved in their care including the weekend cleaning teams. The cleaning roster for the rest of the year has now been cancelled.