A trout is netted by Fish & Games Ryton Barr, Steve Terry & Tony Hawker during the salvage of the Amuri Irrigation canals.

A trout is netted by Fish & Games Ryton Barr, Steve Terry & Tony Hawker during the salvage of the Amuri Irrigation canals.

Fish & Game staff and volunteers have spent three days salvaging fish from the Amuri Irrigation scheme canals near Culverden, North Canterbury.

The annual mission is aimed at rescuing fish that have entered the irrigation scheme at its intake on the Waiau River during the course of the year.

Fish & Game Communications Advisor Richard Cosgrove says the team spent many long hours in the freezing waters combing the canal system to ensure that all of the fish were recovered.

A total of 580 fish were rescued, ranging from small fingerlings about a year old to fully grown adult fish.

Left: Fish are counted and then placed in an oxygenated holding tank.

“We’re very grateful to the volunteers for turning out in the cold to give us a hand,” he says.

Most of the fish were trout but a small quantity of salmon were also recovered across the three days, some 60 native eels were also recovered in addition.

The salvage operation is paid for by Amuri Irrigation as part of their resource consent to operate the scheme.

The company stops water entering the canals at this time of the year so they can carry out maintenance on the scheme.

Farmers have generally stopped irrigating around this time of year, so water levels can be lowered to allow the rescue team to access the waterways.

Fish & Game use an electric fishing machine which stuns the fish and draws them out from under the rocks so that staff can net them.

The fish are only stunned while the electric current is running and recover in seconds.

The fish are then placed in an oxygenated holding tank and released into the same river system downstream.