Marlborough angler’s alluring catch gives council salmon to talk about

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A council ranger has been rewarded with a case of beer after helping an angler reel in a large salmon in Marlborough.

Alex Kole, pictured, landed a quinnat or chinook salmon after help from a passing Marlborough District Council reserves ranger.

Alex Kole, pictured, landed a quinnat or chinook salmon after help from a passing Marlborough District Council reserves ranger. Photo: Supplied / Marlborough District Council

Retiree and fisherman Alex Kole thought his second cast on the morning of 12 February had become tangled in the Wairau River, north of Renwick, when “zing, across the river it went”.

“I thought, ‘I know what this is,’ but I was using a six-pound trout line. I knew if I pulled too hard the fish would be history,” Kole said.

It took him 35 minutes to coax the salmon into a groyne – a rock wall built by the Marlborough District Council to protect the river bank from eroding – on his side of the stream, when he heard a car.

“I yelled out to the guy, who happened to be a [council reserves] ranger, to pop into the boot of my car and get my landing net because I’d just caught a salmon and I needed a hand to land it.”

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Two minutes later, about 10am, reserves ranger Ross Laybourn towed a 6.35kg quinnat, or chinook, salmon from the water.

“I had this odd feeling that it was going to be a good day when I woke up that morning, and it was. Everything went right,” Kole said.

“It was such a thrill … most salmon are caught after 20 to 40 hours of dedicated fishing. It’s especially rare to catch one in the river here.”

Kole had left home expecting to reel in a trout, and was even sporting his “lucky trout hat”, but was not surprised his favourite silver and blue Abu Garcia lure had captured the eye of a salmon.

The salmon, caught off Pauls Rd, weighed 6.35 kilograms.

The salmon, caught off Pauls Rd, weighed 6.35 kilograms. Photo: Supplied / Alex Cole

“The salmon had just come from the sea, where there are silver-coloured herrings and other bait fish, which it would have fed on.”

Salmon travelled up the Wairau River from the river’s mouth or the Wairau Diversion between February and April to spawn their eggs.

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Kole said salmon liked to rest on the river bed. His lure had been “fluttering along” the river’s bottom when he caught the salmon.

He smoked it and thanked Laybourn with a case of beer.

Two days later, Kole returned to the same spot and caught two more salmon – one he released, and another he cut into cutlets.

The “positive” incident was detailed at a council committee meeting this month. The salmon was described as “large”.

Councillor Cynthia Brook asked staff to tell her where it was landed.

Laybourn could not be reached for comment.

Salmon fishing on the Wairau River is allowed downstream of the State Highway 63 Wash Bridge with a NZ Fish and Game licence.

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