A couple of nights ago at our campground in Lake Tekapo, we met a young man, Ranier, from The Netherlands. His passion is fishing and he’d just returned to the campground from a successful day catching trout in the hydro/irrigation canals of the South Island. When I asked if he’d caught any fish he said, “Yes, I’ve had a very good day. As a matter of fact I caught a 28 pound rainbow trout.” That coupled with the other trout he’d caught for the day put him over his limit so he gave some to the local fishermen making them very happy.
I’ve never heard of a 28 pound rainbow trout. Of course, I’ve never caught a fish and don’t know lots of fishermen types, but I do know that 28 pounds is a lot bigger than our son Alex was at six months of age when my biceps were very buff from carrying him. A 28 pound fish seems really big.
“A 28 pound trout!” I exclaimed. “How did you reel it in?”
He commented that he did nothing special. As a matter of fact, he was using a tiny pink fishing rod that his niece leant him for the trip. At first he was embarrassed to fish with the pink pole, but after his recent success, he thinks that pink will be the new “color” for catching NZ trout. He then went on to explain some fishing line sizes and drag numbers which Eric understood but made my eyes glaze over. I was more interested in eating. I was also mesmerized by his camera phone photo showing this trout posing tail on the ground and lips (do fish have lips?) reaching to Ranier’s mid-thigh. It was “this big” as he demonstrated with his outstretched arms.
By now I was salivating over the idea of fresh fish for dinner.
“Did you eat it? How did it taste? I asked.
He said he ate some of the smaller trout and gave away most of the others, but he left the 28 pound porker with a man in a local shop who cut it into fillets (pronounced “fillits” in Dutch) and smoked it for him.
We chatted a big longer and discovered that we would both be at a campground in Omaru the following night near the “magic canal” where the fish are as big as 3rd graders.
“I’ll bring the wine, and you’ll bring the fish,” in my motherly “clean your room…NOW ” type of voice.…
By now you’re probably wondering how a trout can grow so big thus making New Zealand a mecca to trout fishers everywhere. Well, I’ve got the answers. After NZ built their large hydro canals in the late 80’s they added lots of salmon farms. The salmon farmers dole out pre-measured food pellets each day to holding net (about 20 feet wide x 30 feet deep) full of salmon. But some of the pellets (probably LOTS based upon the 28 pounder prize) fall through the nets where the smartest (or the laziest) trout hang out below and scarf down the leftovers.
“Why swim when food is so easy to find?” said the trout to the salmon.
Smart fishermen from all over the world then plop their chairs down stream (but not too far – remember the lazy trout) and haul in the record-breaking rainbow trout.
Then, hungry cycle tourists like myself cleverly beg for food.
And, finally, kind Dutch fishermen lighten their loads and make sure they don’t have to eat smoked rainbow trout for the next 365 days by giving those hungry cyclists a hermitically sealed kilo of smoked trout.