Queenstown’s Mussel Beach

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The rare catch of a freshwater mussel in Lake Wakatipu proves it’s not only trout and salmon which can be lured from the deep.

Visiting Southlander Nadia Wisely reeled in the mussel on her fishing line at Bob’s Cove – 12 kilometres from Queens­town off Glenorchy Road – last Sunday.

Wakatipu High teacher Megan Ide, who was with Wisely at the time, says the pair couldn’t believe it.

“We were fishing off the end of the wharf, just casting lures, and it came in with a piece of weed on the end of the line,” Ide says.

“It was definitely a live mussel. We cooked it and opened it and there was a mussel inside. We tried to eat it but it wasn’t very nice.”

Ide says the sign at the nearby limestone quarry notes that 25 million years ago the sea used to come into Bob’s Cove – shellfish remnants remain.

A local Department of Conser­vation spokesman says part of the reason for mussels in Bob’s Cove could be because it’s on a large, historic faultline.

“It was a big inlet and the fault has turned it on its side and lifted it up. That might provide better conditions for mussels.”

But local DoC area boss Greg Lind says while limestone is a marine deposit, the mussel will be of the “freshwater variety”.

“You can get freshwater mussels – they’re bloody awful but they’re not unusual.”

Lind has seen them in the Mackenzie Country but not in the Wakatipu.

Former longtime southern freshwater fisheries officer Rudi Hoetjes – now Northland’s Fish & Game boss – says freshwater mussels tend to live in shallow areas of Lake Wakatipu.

“I’ve seen them in the lake – I used to dive the lake a lot. They’re in Frankton Arm, they’re in Bob’s Cove, where the lake is a bit shallow.

“Freshwater mussels are not that uncommon and are a great indicator of water quality.”