Reel Life April 2023

  • Otago
  • 19/04/2023

Reel Life April 2023

That’s a wrap

Welcome to the final edition of Reel Life for the 2022/23 fishing season. We hope you’ve had a great season.

It’s that time of year when brown trout instinctively focused more on reproducing than feeding head towards spawning grounds.

Many lake fish have gathered at river mouths while others have moved upriver and will be holding in pools.

Pre-spawning browns can often be provoked to strike at large streamers or lures.

Use a sinking line or weighted lures to get down to the fish.

Above Right: As the main fishing season draws to a close, check the South Island regulations guide for which waters are still open. Photo: Allan Carpenter

The main fishing season closes on April 30 and applies broadly to waterways within the Clutha catchment downstream of Clyde Dam and any other catchment flowing to the sea not mentioned in clause 3 of the Otago regulations.

There are exceptions, so check out the South Island regulations guide to be sure which water is open.

High-country fishing

Mason Court with a Caples River rainbow. Photo: Ngaio Emson

Otago’s high-country waters, renowned for large browns and hard-running rainbows, remain open to fishing until May 31.

These waterways are within the Clutha River/Mata-au catchment upstream of Clyde Dam.

If you’re heading into remote areas, let someone know of your intentions for safety and layer up warmly.

Winter angling

For hardy anglers, several fishing locations are open year-round in Otago.

These include lakes Wanaka, Wakatipu, Hawea and Dunstan. Clutha River/Mata-Au, apart from the Deans Bank section, is also open year-round.

The Clutha/Mata-Au and Kawarau rivers have good trout winter runs of trout.

For the first time, the Manuherekia River below Shaky Bridge (Kerry Road) will be open during winter.

The lower reaches of many coastal rivers are also open year-round.

Winter anglers are more likely to catch maiden fish and other non-spawning trout than spawning fish.

Trout do not to feed actively in cold temperatures; however, they can be triggered to strike at streamers or lures and may be enticed with emerger patterns or nymphs during mayfly hatches on fine days.


Lake Mahinerangi offers shore-based fishing for cruising browns. Mahinerangi trout have been in top-class condition this season. Having said that, sometimes they’re just not biting like the day this photo was taken last weekend. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Only an hour-long drive from Dunedin, Lake Mahinerangi remains open to fishing over winter.

In good conditions, this lake offers shore-based sight-fishing for cruising browns.

It is important to choose a clear and calm day.

At 600 metres altitude, conditions at this lake can be brutally cold and windy.

The water level fluctuates for power generation, but this season has remained high, and fish condition has been exceptionally good.

Tread lightly

Freshly disturbed patches of gravel are a sign of trout redds. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Be careful where you tread in rivers and streams during the spawning season.

Trout and salmon lay their eggs in gravel patches known as redds.

These are sensitive and should be avoided.

Redds can be identified by their freshly disturbed gravel.

Please take care of our fishing future.


Landlocked salmon can be targeted near river mouths at the top of lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea before autumn spawning runs.

There are reports of some of these small quinnat (or Chinook) salmon already moving into headwaters.

There is a zero bag limit for salmon in rivers and streams in the upper Clutha catchment above Clutha Dam.

A small number of large sea-run salmon have been caught below the Roxburgh Dam in recent weeks.

Spawning salmon caught in rivers or streams in the upper Clutha catchment must be returned to the water. Photo: Steve Dixon

In recent years, the population of sea-run salmon in the Clutha River/Mata-au has been extremely depleted.

The legal minimum length for any salmon kept below Roxburgh Dam is 450mm. 

Use of a float or floating device on a fishing line is not permitted in the section of the Clutha River downstream of Roxburgh Dam to the Roxburgh Township Bridge. 

Winter licences

An adult winter licence is 40% less than the price of a whole season licence and is valid from April 1 to September 30.

They are available at the usual licence agents or online at

Weekly fishing report

The Otago weekly fishing report takes a break at the end of April and will resume in the next fishing season.

Click here to subscribe and the weekly report will be emailed to your inbox with up-to-date fishing conditions, weather and river flow information to help you improve your catch rate.

Previous reports can be read in the Fishing News on our website. 

New environmental data portal

Otago Regional Council’s new environmental data portal for water monitoring offers more data than the previous format and is still being fine-tuned.

There is a training video and user guide. The previous water monitoring and alerts format is still in operating during a changeover period. 

Want more info? Check out these links or contact our helpful Otago team.

Tight lines,

Bruce Quirey, Otago Fish & Game

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