New Zealanders hooked on angling – new survey

  • 17/12/2023

New Zealanders hooked on angling – new survey

Pictured are Rhys and Nico Adams making the most of the early season spring fishing in the Opihi Catchment.

Right across New Zealand people are hooked on freshwater fishing with new data showing what a popular pastime it is. 

“This survey shows freshwater fishing remains an incredibly popular pastime for New Zealanders all around the country,” said Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Corina Jordan. 

The latest National Angler Survey conducted by NIWA for Fish & Game released today also shows far more people getting out fishing in the South Island compared to the North Island, with 77 per cent of angling activity occurring in the South Island and 23% in the North Island. 

The survey, conducted every seven years, records angling activity for all lake, river and hydro canal fisheries managed by Fish & Game and collects data on the number of angling days (one angler fishing on one day, irrespective of the number of hours spent fishing). Some 15,000 people were surveyed from December 2021 to October 2022. 

About 92,000 angling licences were sold in New Zealand for the survey period – down by around 10 per cent from the last survey, likely due to Covid lockdowns and international travel restrictions. Almost 97per cent of angler days were attributed to New Zealand resident long term season licences. Total angler usage was 991,700 angler days – 38 per cent of angler days were for lakes; and 62 per cent were for rivers and hydro canals.  

“These findings are a great snapshot of how many Kiwis are getting out in nature, fishing for fun, food and their mental health and doing something together with family and friends. 

“Fishing is not only great for physical and mental well-being but also an escape from the daily grind. It helps build bonds with family and friends, teaches essential life skills, nurtures an ethos of environmental conservation, and fosters independence. 

“The popularity of fishing has been underlined by Fish & Game’s ReWild campaign, which aims to hook more New Zealanders onto angling and hunting but also highlight the organisation’s role in protecting and enhancing the environment including the country’s rivers, lakes and wetlands.” 

Everyone has their favourite fishing spot, but this survey shows Lake Rotoiti in the Bay of Plenty and the Clutha River/Mata-auin Otago are the most popular locations. 

The top three lakes to fish were Rotoiti, Benmore in Canterbury and Wakatipu in Otago. Rotoiti and Benmore each had more than 30,000 angler days, and Wakatipu had more than 26,000. 

The most-fished three rivers were the Clutha/Mata-au, with about31,000, followed by the Waimakariri (30,500) and the Rakaia (19,200), both in Canterbury. 

The Central South Island hydro canals were once again the most popular Fish and Game-managed combined freshwater fishery in the country with almost 118,000 angler days. 

Ohau C counted for28 per cent of all the canals fishing with almost 32,700 angler days. 

“To me, this survey highlights the real opportunities for more New Zealanders to get out in nature and rewild themselves by giving fishing a go,” says Ms Jordan. 

“Clearly, South Islanders get it, with over three quarters of angling effort taking place on the ‘mainland’.  

“But North Islanders also have some exceptional trout fisheries – from the Waikato spring creeks, Rotorua lakes, and Central North Island high country wilderness rivers – there's plenty of choice.  

“And almost all the major centres south of Auckland have quality trout fisheries right on their doorstep. One of the country’s great fisheries – the Hutt River – has trophy-sized trout [over 10lbs] and flows right through two major urban areas.” 

There are proven benefits to mental health and wellbeing from spending time in nature. Overseas, fishing is a commonly prescribed activity to help people, such as war veterans, dealing with mental and emotional trauma.  

“We know many Kiwis are suffering after some tough years, and angling can help. It’s also important that people take time to actively look after their wellbeing as a preventative measure.  

“People wanting to know more should check out our ReWild site for inspiration and advice. Summer is a great time to give fishing a go.” 

 Read the full survey here.


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