Aotearoa's awa (waterways) host some amazing creatures (tuna, koura... taniwha!). Most of them only come out at night, so: grab your gummies and torches and come on a night fish mish!
What to do
Your mission is:
1. FRESHWATER FOR LIFE!
New Zealand has 425,000 kilometres of rivers and streams, and 4,000 lakes. They provide the water we need for living, for our economy, and if they're healthy they are home to dozens of amazing creatures, only found here in NZ.
They include eels (tuna, pictured), freshwater crayfish (koura), and kokopu. Many are nocturnal. To meet them we need to go on a night fish mish!
2. STREAMS COME TRUE
During the day, scout out a good stream to explore during your night time adventure.
Look for one that is less than knee-deep, safe, and easy to access. Near a car park might be handy!
3. HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND
When the sun goes down, gear up and get ready to go! Get your gummies on, grab your torches, wrap up warm, collect your adult, and head back to the spot you found earlier!
4. NIGHT VISION
Turn on your torch and get exploring! Gently lift up the stones and rocks and see what you find underneath. Stand still and look carefully. Your torchlight will attract curious critters.
What might you find?
- Koura (freshwater crayfish) – look for their red eyes.
- Macro-invertebrates – bugs and small creatures under the rocks.
- Glow in the dark limpits (tiny!)
- Freshwater species like tuna (eels) and bullies.
5. TREMENDOUS TUNA!
No not that sort of tuna: 'tuna' is the Māori name for eel. And they're one of our most amazing awa creatures. Long-finned eel can live to over 100 years old and grow to over 2m long: take that taniwha!
After 25+ years of growing, that big one could be just about ready to start its 1,500 km journey to breed: to a mysterious deep-sea location off Tonga. Then they die and their spawn float all the way back to NZ, maybe to a stream near you. Epic eh?
6. O-FISH-ALL I.D.
Take photos of what you spot (like this beautiful Little Akatarawa koura), see if you can I.D. the critter, and upload the photo to Wild Eyes.
Don’t forget to sanitise your hands afterwards!
BECOME AN AWA KAITIAKI
What can you do to help? Get inspired by the Brandon Intermediate crew and become a kaitiaki of your local awa. Get to know your stream mates: they are the taonga (treasure) of the waterways and a measure of their health.
Plant riverbanks with natives, install 'fish-friendly' culverts (for migrating fish to climb up: yup fish fins ain't just for swimming), keep cows out of waterways, think about what you put down the sink (it ends up in the tums of our fish!), and take only enough eels and whitebait that you need for a feed: overfishing means whitebait fritters off the menu... forever!