Rare native fish rescued in Gordonton

Netted: Some of the giant kokopu ready for release. Photo: WDC
Netted: Some of the giant kokopu ready for release. Photo: WDC

Hundreds of threatened native fish have been rescued from a Gordonton stream during a drain clearance operation.

All up some 1.3 kilometres of the Komakorau Stream tributary were cleared, and 227 fish were recovered and returned to the main stream. Just over three quarters were giant kokopu, a species listed as at risk by the Department of Conservation. Other than eels they are New Zealand’s largest native freshwater fish, and have been known to grow to more than 2kg.

Other species found in the stream included banded kokopu, longfin and shortfin eels, half a dozen inanga and one common smelt. No introduced fish were found.

Waikato Regional Council freshwater ecologist Mike Lake, who took part in the work, said giant kokopu were one of six native fish species that make up whitebait. “They are found in lowland streams but do not have a very wide distribution compared to other native fish. Interestingly, the Komakorau Stream catchment appears to support good numbers of this unique species,” he said.

“Giant kokopu are known to be very sensitive to the disturbance caused by mechanical excavators taking out sediment. So staff followed behind the excavator scooping the fish out of the stream as they struggled at the surface. After being held for a while in a large tank the fish were then released back into the stream again when the water quality had improved. Eels were not removed because they can tolerate very poor water quality for short periods of time.”

The Gordonton operation followed a fish survey carried out in December which confirmed the presence of giant kokopu and longfin eels, both species listed as at risk.

Local farmer John Riddell was nearby and took the following pics:

Photo of a digger
The digger at work
Giant kokapu search, photo
The fish is breaking the water’s surface just ahead of the net in this action shot
Native fish photo
A fairly large specimen about to be released
Giant kokapu waikato photo
A fish in the hand…
Inanga photo
Inanga – a small relative of the giant kokopu, and the main whitebait species


This story first appeared on May 13 2014

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

2 thoughts on “Rare native fish rescued in Gordonton

  • May 13, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Very interesting about the kokopu, and they don’t mind living in the very murky waters of the Komakarau?

    • May 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      They’re probably happier in the side streams, but will most likely find their way to a new environment up another side stream, says the resident ecologist.


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