Fishing tips for the holiday season

  • 21/12/2017
  • Richie Cosgrove

Fishing tips for the holiday season

Rotorua’s trout fishing is renowned around the world, attracting thousands of visitors hoping to catch one of the region’s magnificent rainbow or brown trout.

But like anywhere, local knowledge pays off.

Above Right: Roy Thompson from Nelson casts out onto Lake Georgina in the early morning light.

If you want to get out fishing with your family this holiday season, Fish & Game has some advice to give your trip a better chance of success.

The first thing to think of is water temperature.  While holiday makers like warm water for swimming, trout like cooler temperatures up to about 16-17C.

As a result, when the lakes start heating up, trout will be found in deeper waters where temperatures are more comfortable for them and where they can find their food.

Fish & Game’s Rotorua-based staff say that means for boat fishing, the deeper lakes like Rotoiti, Tarawera, Rotoma and Okataina are the places to go using fishing methods such as jigging and deep trolling.

Casting at a big brown trout on the Ngongotaha Stream near Rotorua. .IMG 2341I see you...catching at a big brown trout in the Ngongotaha Stream.

Fish & Game Officer Matt Osborne advises anglers to look for what is known as the thermocline - a band of water where the temperature changes.

“Trout are most likely to be found in or near the thermocline so being able to locate it is important for anglers,” says Fish & Game Officer Matt Osborne.

The easiest way to pinpoint the thermocline is to check the Bay of Plenty Regional Council website and look at the ‘Live Monitoring’ links to the Rotorua lakes.

Shallower lakes such as Rotorua, Rotoehu and Rerewhakaaitu pose different challenges.

These lakes warm rapidly and trout don’t have the luxury of being able to escape to deeper cooler areas, so they go in search of cool springs or tributaries entering the lake.

“When you find this cooler water entering the lake, you can target trout by shallow trolling or harling, spinning and fly fishing.  Often the early morning or evening angling are best as fish are more actively feeding at those times,” Matt Osborne says.

But Mr Osborne warns that boat anglers must check the regulations to make sure where they are allowed to fish and remain 200 metres from a stream mouth or landmark pole.

For anglers without boats, Fish & Game officers reckon it’s hard to beat Lake Rotorua’s shoreline fishing where the streams empty out into the lakes.Tarawera trolling3

Trolling Lake Tarawera.

As Lake Rotorua warms to around 23C, the Awahou and Hamurana stream mouths are the spots where trout congregate.

“The Awahou itself is closed to fishing and within 200 metres of the mouth, it is fly fishing only, while the Hamurana area is fly and spin,” Mr Osborne says.

“If fly fishing, a floating line with woolly bugger or smelt patterns work well, or try a nymph under an indicator. Quite often anglers can sight fish these areas.” 

Spin fishers should try a black and gold toby or light purple Tassie pattern, he advises.

The mouth of the Ngongotaha and Waiteti streams also offer good summer fishing opportunities.

On other rivers around the region, Matt Osborne advises to keep an eye on increasing insect activity as the temperature rises.

“Look for rises that indicate surface feeding on mayfly, caddis or cicadas. This is very exciting way to fish. 

“If trout are feeding subsurface, try rough nymph imitations such as the hare and copper that mimics caddis nymphs, or pheasant tail to represent mayfly” he says.

For more information, contact Mark Sherburn, phone 07-357 5501, Mob 021- 244 1774, or email: 

South Island fishing tips

The South Island offers terrific trout fishing for Christmas holiday makers, from lowland rivers to high country lakes, with plenty of variation, like the legendary MacKenzie Country canals, in between.

Fish & Game says some regions are already reporting hot fishing to match the warm weather.

In the Central South Island region, staff say the fishing in November and December has been “epic”.

“We've had reports of salmon catches at the Rangitata River mouth and Lake Tekapo, excellent dry fly fishing in the Ashburton lakes, monster trout taking egg imitations in the canals and fantastic trout fishing in the Waitaki River near Kurow,” says Fish & Game officer Rhys Adams.

“While flows are low in some of our lowland rivers because of one of the driest Novembers on record, opportunities are there for the taking as the big fish tend to congregate in the biggest pools,” he says.

If big fish are your objective, North Canterbury Fish & Game staff report good salmon are being caught in all the main alpine rivers. 

“The first salmon of the season are usually in fantastic condition as they are fresh, and in the Rakaia River, the first run always seems to be a bit bigger as well,” says Fish & Game Officer Tony Hawker. 

Salmon are also now arriving in the Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers in steady numbers.

Tony Hawker says for holidaying anglers, the beauty of salmon fishing is that it is compatible with other family activities.

“If you are camping with the family, you just need to concentrate on the best times for salmon fishing, either at the very start or the end of daylight.

As the season progresses, salmon fishing is also available on the West Coast.

The West Coast also offers spectacular and scenic trout fishing, as do the Nelson, Marlborough and Otago regions.

The South Island also offers some great lake fishing, with Southland but one example. 

But while Southland lakes have good numbers of brown and rainbow trout, they're not always easy to catch.

Lake Te Anau trolling brown trout3

Trolling did the trick on Lake Te Anau.

However, local Fish & Game staff say there are a few things that can increase your chances of success. 

Southland Fish & Game Officer Cohen Stewart says one of the first things is to consider the time of day you’re planning on fishing.

“It is nice to head out fishing on the lake when the sun is beating down and you can enjoy the day out a while trolling a lure off the back of the boat.  Unfortunately, fishing isn’t always productive in the middle of the day when the sun is bright,” he says.

“If you are serious about catching trout, consider fishing in the early morning, late afternoon or evening.  Fishing is more productive then because trout are actively foraging for bullies.” 

Cohen Stewart also advises to fish the lake’s most productive trout feeding areas.

“Focus your fishing attention on what are known as the littoral areas, which run from the shallows around the shore through to where the lake drops off into deeper water,” he says.

“Another good spot to try is the stream mouths - you can troll your lure past these but for a bit more excitement, try to spot and target cruising fish with a soft bait or fly.”

Mr Stewart says think carefully about what speed to troll your lure.

“Drop your lure just off the side of the boat and watch how it swims. If the lure is swimming nicely and does not look like it's moving too fast, then that’s the boat speed you need to increase your chances of success.”

Other productive lake fisheries can be found in the Otago and Central South Island regions and this advice works just as well in these areas.

Especially if you are new to freshwater fishing, there’s one accessory you mustn’t forget, says Fish & Game, and that’s your fishing licence.

While the whole season-type licences, including the family licence, offer the most flexibility and ‘fish anywhere’ benefits, there are Short Break and Long Break options that are perfect for holidaymakers.

If you need advice, phone your nearest Fish & Game office ( or go online here, snap up a licence and get fishing!


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