Please read the following information and click the link below to apply for your Designated Licence Endorsement.

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The Wellington Fish and Game region manages one Designated Waters fishery.

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The Nelson Marlborough Fish and Game Region has three Designated Waters fisheries.

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West Coast

The West Coast Fish and Game Region manage two Designated Waters fisheries: the Karamea and Mokihinui Rivers.

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North Canterbury

There are four river systems in North Canterbury Fish & Game region that have been listed as Designated Waters Fisheries, This is to protect and maintain…

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The following Otago rivers are Designated Waters Fisheries, if you want to fish these waters you require a valid Designated Waters Licence in addition to your…


In 2023 Fish & Game introduced the Designated Waters Licence to replace the Backcountry Endorsement.

Click on the map to download a larger version

Over the previous ten years, Fish & Game had received an increasing number of complaints from anglers regarding overcrowding on a small number of fragile fisheries. Unsustainable angling pressure on these fisheries detrimentally affects both the angling experience (sense of wilderness feeling/solitude) and trout behaviour (visibility and catchability). Fish & Game have termed these fisheries ‘pressure sensitive fisheries’.  

In most cases, pressure-sensitive fisheries share these common features:

  • Almost exclusively rivers
  • Clear water
  • Excellent sight fishing
  • Large average size of fish
  • High scenic value
  • Often in a wilderness or backcountry setting
  • Largely located in the South Island
  • High levels of non-resident angler use

Pressure sensitive fisheries are highly regarded by both resident and non-resident anglers for the unique angling opportunities they provide. However, research and monitoring of these fisheries have shown that both resident and non-resident anglers are being displaced from these fisheries because of overcrowding. 

Resident anglers are being displaced from these fisheries to a greater degree than non-resident anglers, and for some fisheries, angler use has gone from a roughly 50/50 resident-to-non-resident split (in the early 2000s) to an 80/20 usage split favouring non-resident anglers. 

To manage the angling pressure and experience in these pressure sensitive fisheries it has become necessary to implement fisheries management mechanisms to control crowding and disperse angling pressure. The Designated Waters Licence was introduced  to reduce crowding on a select few pressure sensitive fisheries. 

In total these waters comprise fewer than 2% of available fisheries, meaning that this new licencing system will only be applied to a very small proportion of fisheries. For anglers not fishing in these locations, there will be no impact.

Fishing A Designated Water 

To fish a Designated Waters Fishery a Designated Waters Licence is required.

First, you must get one of these qualifying Whole Season Sports Fishing Licences:

  • Whole Season (Adult, Junior or Child)
  • Family
  • Loyal Senior
  • Local Area (only qualifies for an endorsement in that region)
  • Non-Resident

If you are a visitor from overseas, you must purchase a Non-Resident Licence.

Once you have bought a qualifying licence you can purchase a Designated Waters Licence

Currently, there are six Fish & Game regions in New Zealand with Designated Waters fisheries; Wellington, Nelson/Marlborough, North Canterbury, West Coast, Otago and Southland. 

Resident Anglers 

The Designated Waters Licence works differently for resident and non-resident anglers. 

For resident anglers, if they want to go fishing in a fishery that is classified as a Designated Water, they would be required to:

a)    Hold a whole-season licence; and

b)    Purchase a full season Designated Waters Licence for the region whose Designated Water they want to fish 

All regional Designated Waters Licences carry a cost of $5.00 to fund the higher management costs of these fisheries. 

Only resident whole season licence holders can be issued a full season Designated Waters Licence. 

Non-Resident Anglers

For non-resident anglers, they would be required to:

a)    hold a non-resident whole-season licence; and

b)    purchase a Designated Waters Day Licence on the day/s they want to go fishing on a Designated Water. 

The cost of the Designated Waters Day Licence is $40 per day and is reflective of the increased management costs of these fisheries and aligns with international pricing for comparable fisheries. 

These licences are for one calendar day rather than a 24-hour period. 

A non-resident whole season licence holder can only purchase a maximum of five (5) Designated Waters Day licences for each Fish & Game region that has Designated Waters they want to fish in. 

This per region limit has been chosen because it will not restrict most non-resident anglers, as surveys of non-resident anglers demonstrate the majority do not fish backcountry fisheries (roughly indicative of Designated Waters) and those that do typically visit these waters fish these waters fewer than four days on backcountry fisheries across the entire country. 

As such, most non-resident anglers will be largely unaffected by this proposal and only the small proportion of anglers that are contributing to unsustainable angling pressure will be restricted.

Click here to see the results of the Designated Water Licence proposal survey conducted in early 2023.

Remember, anglers intending to fish a Controlled Fishery must first obtain a valid whole-season licence.

Be sure to check out the Designated Waters FAQ's on the link below.

  • Designated Water FAQ
    1012 KB Adobe Acrobat PDF file