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Slippery getaway for eels

Sam Ludden working with Hadley and Lincoln Paku to rescue eels stranded near Henley Lake. PHOTOS/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

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A group of Masterton residents have spent this week rescuing eels left stranded in a muddy pond by Henley Lake after water levels dropped.

Water levels in the lake have dropped due to low flows in the Ruamahanga River, severely depleting surrounding wetlands.

Paikea Te Whare, from Masterton, said he had noticed the eels when out walking with his niece and nephew earlier in the week.

“I was walking around the lake and saw them all in there.”

He contacted Greater Wellington Regional Council to borrow nets to place in the pond overnight.

Some of the captured longfin eels.

Te Whare estimated he had caught more than 170 eels over four trips.

Masterton ceramicist and sculptor Sam Ludden spent Wednesday morning rescuing stranded eels with the help of brothers Hadley and Lincoln Paku.

Ludden has great love for Wairarapa eels, and they regularly feature in his artworks.

“We grew up around eels. It’s great to see [the Pakus] involved in conservation.”

He said it was a “perfect day” to catch the eels because it was nice and cool.

Ludden estimated they captured about 35 to 40 longfin and shortfin eels and a large carp weighing more than five kilograms.

“We got most of the big eels out,” he said.

“This is the beginning of a creek that feeds into the wetlands. The eels hide right up in the banks.”

The eels were released into the Ruamahanga River.

Ludden said the remaining 80 or more eels looked “quite healthy” and would likely be fine in the creek, provided water levels rise soon.

In times of drought eels often make their way across land to larger bodies of water – they can even scale waterfalls of up to 20 metres.

On Wednesday the Masterton District Council said it would work with the Department of Conservation to address concerns about relocating wildlife.

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