Fish fights kiwi anglers compete with tourists for prime spots on our waterways prawn biryani recipe sanjeev kapoor

There have been heated exchanges on riverbanks as kiwi anglers compete with tourists, some of whom are ignorant or dismissive of local fishing etiquette.

Tourism new zealand’s website describes heli-fishing as "a magic carpet" for anglers, but locals don’t appreciate being "jumped" on the river after walking all day to reach a favourite trout pool.

There are complaints of pushy guides aggressively demanding priority for clients paying upwards of $700 a day to experience the so-called "mt everest" of fly fishing.

Using surveys of fishers and data from the national institute of water and atmospheric research (NIWA), the federation of fresh water anglers has mapped more than 100 "dying" rivers that are now deemed un-fishable, or in serious decline.

How to arrest, and if possible reverse the damage, has been hotly debated on the pages of new zealand fishing magazines and in angling chat rooms.Fish game

Freshwater sports fisheries are managed under the conservation act by 12 elected fish and game (F&G) councils that cover all but the taupo fishery.

The later comes under the department of conservation’s wing because of the crown’s relationship with local iwi ngati tuwharetoa, and DOC also manages commercial concessions allowing guides to run trips on its estate.

Critics point out there is an obvious tension between the department’s role in protecting indigenous fish, while at the same time managing introduced brown trout that are known to eat them, and earning income from angling concessions.

About 7000 of the more than 138,000 fresh water fishing licences issued last year went to overseas visitors, a number that has steadily increased since the separate non-resident category was introduced in 2013.Anglers compete

DOC admits the true number may be significantly higher because it does not collect residency data for the 10,000-plus day licences issued annually.

F&G uses back country licence endorsements to monitor and manage pressure on 15 back country rivers, and it also operates booking systems on popular fisheries such as otago’s highly regarded greenstone river.

Over the past three seasons non-resident anglers accounted for more than half the 7800 back country endorsements and snapped up 60 to 70 per cent of the 180 bookings available annually on the greenstone.

Southland F&G manager zane​ moss notes growing resentment from kiwis who can only fish at weekends and arrive to find the banks clogged with tourists.

Last october marked the 150th anniversary of the introduction of brown trout to new zealand, a species that thrived in southland’s mataura river and is celebrated by the giant fibreglass trout in gore’s main street.Anglers compete

Kiwi anglers first convenor david linklater says trout and salmon were brought here with the goal of creating a democratically-owned fishery belonging to all new zealanders, in contrast to europe where access was the preserve of privileged landowners.

"No waterway, however small or formerly obscure, is now secure from the tourist influx. There’s been no consideration for the resident anglers at all, it’s just been a free for all."

Professional fishing guide nick king came across three young french men who had flown into a remote back country hut for a three week angling stint, complete with suitcases and tens of dozens of beer.

As well as disregarding the convention of limiting hut stays to two nights, the french party did not have hut passes or back country endorsements on their fishing licences, the latter a breach carrying a maximum fine of $5000 and potential confiscation of their gear.Back country endorsements

"They don’t realise that our fishery is exceptionally fragile and on certain rivers, eating one trout is like eating 1 per cent of the fishery, " says king.

"They have no idea they’re stomping all over our culture. The worst offenders are the europeans and they’ve now been labelled euro-trash on our rivers because they’re that badly behaved."

Under the conservation act it is illegal to sell trout, but their commercial exploitation occurs through sales of fishing gear and dvds, professional guiding and fishing lodge accommodation.

The fly fishing films and videos made by te anau-based gin clear media get millions of views on youtube. Each year its RISE fly fishing film festival screenings attract 15,000 movie-goers in 16 countries.

TNZ could not put a value on earnings generated by fly fishing but in 2011 DOC estimated the taupo fishery alone was worth about $70m annually, and F&G says the total for the country is probably at least $250m.Back country endorsements

Despite its official newzealand.Com website carrying more than 40 articles on angling, a TNZ spokesman says they stopped "actively" promoting fly fishing several years ago, instead targeting "high net worth individuals" who stay in lodges.

Carl mcneil co-owns the swift fly fishing company in wanaka, a boutique producer of handcrafted fly rods, and he says the big spending anglers are mostly americans, with a growing number of russians, and a sprinkling of aussies.

Montana-based yellow dog fly fishing adventures sends thousands of anglers around the world and programme director bessie hudgens​ says new zealand is on their "bucket list" once they’ve cut their teeth on less challenging south american rivers.

Although she won’t reveal numbers, since adding new zealand to itineraries in 2015, bookings here have grown significantly and her clients find our rivers refreshingly uncrowded.Anglers compete

"Honestly, compared to some of our rivers out in the western US where a single boat ramp can see up to 50-plus groups on a hot summer day, new zealand feels truly primeval to most anglers."

However, she acknowledges our rivers also contain far fewer fish per kilometre, so it doesn’t take as many anglers to create pressure, and the fisheries therefore require a more sensitive approach.

Russell still reckons new zealand offers the best trout fishing on the planet, but he warns we need to be proactive in protecting our fishery as it gets more crowded.

"I think the fishing outdoor culture is slowly being lost because the unguided foreign anglers are unaware of the unspoken etiquette that maintains the experience for everyone."

"We’d rather we have one person coming spending $10,000 than 10 trout bums coming spending $1000 each.Back country it’s earning the same amount for the country but has 10 times the footprint."

Having researched canadian attempts to resuscitate threatened trout fisheries, king’s solution is to call time on unfettered access for foreigners and commercial interests.

Options could include residents-only fishing at weekends, guides banned from some stretches of water, and tourists allowed into certain areas only if they were guided.

He suggests visitor licences be limited to three weeks on a catch and release basis, and a premium charge $1500 for wider access in line with what occurs in parts of north america.

"This is about the long game, if we want to have something to be proud of in 50 years time, we need to make a move now and it has to be dramatic."

F&G does not have a central database and when stuff/ asked for statistics on fishing offences it took weeks to pull together figures held by its regions.Back country

Of 149 offences detected last season, 29 were prosecuted, and a spokesman emphasised that warnings were given for minor infringements and court action was reserved for serious offences.

"The rot is now very far advanced," according to linklater. "We need a totally new system to control tourist angling because it’s just completely broken."

He says DOC and F&G have failed to handle the increasing commercialisation of the fishery through an explosion in guiding and tourism, and change is imperative.

Sydney-sider simon milne has fished here regularly for 25 years and in a letter to fish & game new zealand magazine he urged against going down the protectionist route and pointed out bad behaviour was by no means peculiar to foreign anglers.

"Treating [them] as pests at the bottom of the totem pole and discriminating against them in a range of ways as proposed will put them off coming.Anglers compete strict, fair and well enforced regulation will not."

Chris russell, on the other hand, would happily pay three or four times the current licence fee, which he says worked out to be a small percentage of the total trip cost.

New fish & game chief executive martin taylor agrees the trout fishery is in a fragile state, and because of the degradation of water quality throughout the country, some anglers had to travel further to get the same experience they enjoyed a decade ago.

He is satisfied with the service provided by the organisation’s 274 mostly volunteer rangers, and while he does not favour increasing licence fees for overseas visitors or limiting their fishing, that could change.

He says access is being limited as more property owners charge fees for fishing parties wanting to cross their land, do exclusive deals with guides, or halt access altogether.Back country

In his view F&G lacks political clout and the current structure is too fragmented with 12 autonomous regions reporting separately to the minister of conservation.

He concedes that kiwis accustomed to having remote areas to themselves are noticing increased use of conservation land by both new zealanders and internationals.

King and angling groups have a beef with the fact that the 130 members of the new zealand professional fishing guides association (PFGA) automatically come under a single DOC concession.

On the grounds it was commercially sensitive, DOC refused to reveal what the association paid for the bulk concession that covers up to 180 guides, and allows them to run trips for three days per river catchment at hundreds of locations nationwide.

King, who is not an association member and holds his own individual concessions, says the bulk agreement is like "letting the weasel run the hen house," and argues that other tourism operators, such as helicopter companies, do not enjoy such wide access to the conservation estate.Fish game

The guides’ association conservatively estimates up to 400 guides are working here, including overseas operators who quietly nip into the country and work illegally without appropriate visas or DOC concessions.

Over the last two years DOC has received just four formal complaints about illegal fishing guides but there wasn’t sufficient information to take further action.

In january immigration new zealand refused entry to an individual who had previously worked illegally as a fishing guide, but has not taken any prosecutions.

Bonnafoux​ says some overseas guides skirt the rules by pretending to be members of fishing parties, which is unfair on kiwi guides who have to pay tax and meet certain standards.

Association members must be new zealand residents, have a current first aid certificate, an audited health and safety plan, and public liability insurance.Back country

They carry an emergency locator beacon and take a maximum of two clients per guide to avoid losing them in the wilderness (as has happened in the past).

New zealand’s weather and geography can prove challenging for those unfamiliar with it, and lack of knowledge about local fishing conditions can also damage our reputation if clients return home dissatisfied.

Angler peter ryan recalls an approach from an overseas guide whose client hadn’t touched a fish all day, despite being festooned with $5000 worth of american fishing gear.

"This guy was having trouble with the wind, they were tricky conditions. He saw me catch a fish and basically marched up and said ‘how did you do that?’"