Reel Life April 2023

  • Central South Island
  • 19/04/2023

Reel Life April 2023

With the end of the summer season finishing up on Friday, the 30th of April, it’s time to dig out your 2022/2023 regulation guide and familiarise yourself again with the CSI’s “all-year” and “winter” fisheries. Click Here to view the online version of the guide.

A selection of our lakes, rivers and canals are open during the winter and offer a variety of fishing opportunities.

McKenzie Hydro Canals   

Try out a canal special, “Egg rolling” if you haven’t already, by rigging up an artificial egg and drifting it along the canal bed; Check out these YouTube videos here to give you an idea. 

Be sure to be respectful of others using the space and be prepared to move to a less popular fishing area if there are anglers using stationary fishing methods in your favourite drifting spot. 

If you haven’t checked out our Hydro Canal guide, then click here.

The guide has some great advice on important canal fishing etiquette issues like camping, rubbish, and toilets. 

Above Right: The upper part of the Tekapo Canal upstream of SH8 Bridge, including the Magic Carpet (pictured), will be closed from 1 June to 31 August 2023-Photo by Rhys Adams 

The upper part of the Tekapo Canal will be closed for the 3-month period, from 1 June to 31 August 2023.          

The closure only applies to the upper half of the Tekapo Canal, upstream of the State Highway 8 Bridge to the Tekapo A Powerhouse - This includes the Magic Carpet. 

The closure is a conservation-minded approach to managing the intensive fishing pressure experienced at the upper part of the Tekapo Canal during the peak of the winter fishing period and rainbow trout spawning season. 

The closure does not apply to the lower part of the Tekapo Canal, meaning the fishbowl and any other part of the Pukaki and Ohau Canals are still good to go.  


Lake Benmore from the Falstone Creek mouth’ Photo by Nikki Dellaway

Rainbow trout generally don’t spawn for a month or two yet so target these in lakes as per usual in May.

If you’re on a boat, try trolling drop-offs and river mouth deltas.

In shallow areas a lead line may be too weighty for trolling, so an alternative would be to use a standard spinning rod with a small sinker about 1.5 metres in front of a Parsons Glory or Mrs Simpson fly.

Lake Benmore is a great sports fishery and is open all year, as are the rest of the Waitaki River lakes.

If you’re fishing from the shore, expect brown trout to be congregating around river mouths in May and early June, ready to head up to spawn.

An evening or night-time fish can be productive if you strike the timing right.

Some rain to raise the flow in tributary streams will help.

Be sure to only fish the lake, as streams and rivers are closed.

Flies like your trusty woolly buggers and spinners like black and gold tobies will get results.

Lakes Middleton, Ohau and Hood are year-round options, and with weed beds reducing in the cooler temperatures there may be less opportunity for a snag up.

See if you can catch your bag of 2 sports fish from Lake Alexandrina while it’s open in June or July, remembering no brown trout allowed in the winter season.


If a trip to Mackenzie is a bit too much of a commitment, but you still want to get the kids out for a quick fish, then the Waitaki, Opihi, and Rakitata have a winter season where you’re permitted to spin or fly fish downstream of State Highway 1 in June, July, and August.

The Rangitata Diversion Race is open year-round.

Sea-run salmon surveying underway

Every year Fish & Game estimate the total run sizes of our sea-run salmon on our main rivers.

Those surveys are underway currently to estimate the 2022/2023 run size. 

The estimates are based on spawning numbers observed in the annual aerial counts and the angler harvest information that we gather through your Sea Run Salmon Season Bag card returns

Catch and Release

Brad Snow releases a rainbow after a textbook catch and release - keeping the fish and net in the water at all times-Photo by Nikki Dellaway

As the spawning season comes around, you can expect some of those trophy-sized ladies and gentlemen fish to be a little more aggressive and maybe more likely to take what you put in front of them over the next few months. 

A lot of times, these giants won’t fit in our chilly bin or freezer, and we like to let them go to carry out their spawning duties.

If you’re letting it go for any reason it is critical that you handle your fish with the utmost of care to comply with the release regulations (Note 1.5 on page 36 in your regulation book). 

Here are our ‘Quick 5’ tips for handling fish with care: 

  • Cool your hands and landing net by wetting them before touching the fish.
  • Keep the fish in the water while removing the hook.
  • Do not squeeze the fish, and never touch the gills.
  • Photograph the fish in or over the water and make it quick - the fish should not be out of the water for more than 5 seconds.
  • Revive the fish facing into the current long enough for it to regain its swimming strength.

In the unfortunate instance that a fish you intended to release does end up bleeding from the gills, so long as you can legally take that fish, you should keep it as part of your bag limit and utilise it. 

Click here for a great video demonstrating proper fish handling skills. 

Tight Lines

Nikki Dellaway, Central South Island Fish & Game Officer

More Posts