King Salmon, A Stranger in a Strange Stream, Caught This Morning – In New Zealand

by Owen James Burke


A king, or chinook salmon, a stranger in a strange stream. Caught this morning from a river mouth on New Zealand’s South Island. Photo: Owen James Burke

The king (chinook) salmon was brought live to New Zealand by ship over 100 years ago from the United States. It is the only recorded successful transplant population of the species in the world. This particular stream-caught fish was just on its way in from the ocean because it still bore sea lice on its belly. That may sound utterly unappetizing to you, but to me, it was a sure sign that I would be dining on ocean-fresh sashimi for breakfast.


In my wetsuit, with the first salmon of my angling life. No, I didn’t spear it; I was diving to retrieve lost tackle and took a couple of casts before dove in and I spooked the pool – and got very lucky. When I finally did dive in, there were around 20 salmon swimming around me. Wish I’d had my spear at that point. (Selfie: Owen James Burke)


I’m currently testing fishing reels for the Wirecutter. This Penn Spinfisher V had not the slightest bit of trouble bringing in this 20-pound king (chinook) salmon. The powerful fish did however, give me a run for my money.

Salmon haven’t done quite as well as the trout in New Zealand (another non-native species popular with sport fishermen here), and the seasonal runs are nothing like those along their indigenous waters along the northwest coast of North America. In fact, some say that much of the population here actually stems from fish that manage to break free from the “farms” or nets offshore.

But this fish had been roaming free in the ocean, he was strong, and fought a good fight. During the fall season there is a constant trickle of these wild specimens migrating into the many river systems of the South Island to spawn, giving the patient and diligent angler an odd chance. Today, with all her graciousness, fortuna spun my way. — OJB

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