Sep 6th, 2012
Salmon Species Found in Chile:
In Chilean waters today exist several species de salmonids that were introduced to the country beginning over a century ago and like New Zealand, Argentina and elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, none of these fish are native (all imported from North America and Europe). Due to their extraordinary power of adaption combined with the excellent water quality in Chile, trout and salmon have since establish prolific self-sustaining wild populations throughout the country.
Objetives of Early Salmon Introductions to Chile:
According to historic accounts, the first introductions of trout and salmon to Chile were by private citizens in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, primarily european estancia owners in the central and south of the country who longed to develop sport fishing opportunities like those found back in their homeland. Later on the Chilean government implemented further introductions in an effort to establish a self-sustaining protein source for colonists settling the remote southern areas of the country. A third objective, referring namely to King Salmon introductions in the 70’s, was in an attempt to establish commercially fishable runs based on the “salmon ranching” concept. An idea that was later abandoned after the boom of large scale “net pen” salmon farming in the 80’s.
From the 1950’s through the 70’s Chile began to receive international attention for the size and quality of the trout being caught in the beautiful “Lakes District” of the country. Even members of the British Royals came to sample the world class fishing during this time. However, the dream was short lived due to the rapid growth of towns in the south, a total lack of control and, more importantly, the introduction of mono-filament line, factors which soon led to the demise of many of the Lake District’s world–class fisheries.
Fortunately, the low population density and excellent water quality found further south in Chilean Patagonia allowed introduced trout and salmon there to continue to flourish. Today this area of Chile, especially the region of Aysen, has become firmly established as among the premier trout fishing destinations on the planet.
Native Fish Species in Chile:
Apart from introduce salmon, several native fresh and saltwater fish species in Chile are now attracting popularity as sport fishing targets. Among these are the Chilean Silverside (Pejerrey), Perch Trout (Perca Trucha), Flounder (Lenguado) and the Chilean Drum (Corvina). Perhaps most notable for fly anglers visiting Patagonia is the Patagonian Blenny or “Robalo”. These fish are found in the shallow flats areas near the mouths of many coastal rivers, often cruising in pursuit of their favorite food of small crabs. Robalo can get quite large reaching up to 15lbs and 30+ inches in length, can be be quite spooky but, often move aggressively to a well presented fly. Due to their similar habits and because it sounds more sexy, some guides in Chile have begun to call these the “Chilean Red Fish”. Caught fresh their delicate white meat can provide excellent eating.
Predation vs Conservation
In Chile, as most elsewhere, there is a continuing fight between those who practice predation and those who promote conservation through the practice of “catch and release”. Most guides in Chile now consider “catch and release” as simply the only way to fish (unless you’re fishing for Robalo!). Additionally, pioneering efforts in recent years have established a few select “catch and release” areas, with regular enforcement by fisheries inspectors, that have shown positive results and in the region of Aysen, a new extended fishing season has just been put in place for “catch and release” only. Although Chile still has a long ways to go when it comes protecting it’s world class fisheries, the mentality has begun to turn the corner and things now appear well on tract for keeping its trout and salmon fisheries healthy for generations to come.
Adapted from article by: Sergio Basulto del Campo; C. Correa y MR Gross; S. Bravo Uach; Dpto. Genética U de los Lagos – Chile. Courtesy of: Gonzalo Cortez, Chucao Lodges – Chile.