Reel Life December 2023

  • Otago
  • 21/12/2023

Reel Life December 2023

Above right: Visiting angler Charles Rangeley-Wilson with a brown trout caught in the lower Clutha/Mata-Au this month. Photo: Ian Hadland, Otago Fish & Game

Long summer days have arrived and holidays are almost upon us.

If you’re staying around the major Southern Lakes, you’re spoiled for options with fishing at Wakatipu, Wānaka, Hāwea and Dunstan.

Boat fishing can be as simple as casting and retrieving a lure, soft bait or fly in shallow waters, or using one of several trolling and jigging methods.

If fishing the shallows, target the drop-offs near stream mouths in the cool, quiet times of day as the sun rises or sets.

For the most successful trolling, get your lure down deep. Acoustic surveys last summer found the highest fish densities at 20 metres depth in lakes Wakatipu and Hāwea and 17 metres in Lake Wānaka.

Five boat fishing methods

  • Trolling lures with a spin-rod: Your lure will reach a maximum depth of about 2-3m using this method. Therefore, fish in water up to 5m deep.
  • Harling: This involves trolling flies on a light trace behind a fast-sinking fly line or leadline. Take it slowly. It’s ideal for a rowboat or kayak.
  • Leadline: The leadline has a different colour each 10m. The line will sink the lure about 1m or more for each colour that is out in the water, depending on the trolling speed. With 10 colours out, your lure should be about 10-12m deep.
  • Downrigger: A weighted ball is lowered on a cable to the desired trolling depth. The fishing line is attached with a clip that releases when a fish strikes.
  • Jigging: Use a light, fast action rod and reel with 3-4kg line. Lower your weight or lure to the bottom and move it gently up and down. Bites may be subtle, so strike sharply if you sense something.

If fishing from shore, then concentrate around river mouths, dam walls and drop-offs. Southern Lakes salmon fishing

Up at the tussock lakes, water levels have been high recently at Onslow and Logan Burn, and the fish condition at Poolburn and Mahinerangi has been excellent.

For fly anglers around the region, matching the hatch has all kinds of possibilities. Green mānuka beetles are splashing into streams and lakes.

Damselflies are swimming in still waters and backwaters. Under willow trees, trout will be narrowing their attention on fallen willow (sawfly) grubs. And sedges are hatching in fading light and darkness. 

Online access map 

Looking for somewhere to go fishing this summer?

Or do you want to explore further?

You can view the Otago Fish & Game online access map by clicking here.

Create a shortcut on your cellphone, or save it to favourites, for quick easy access.

Each online access point has:

  • Location description
  • Open season
  • Minimum size limit
  • Fishing methods
  • Daily bag limit

A dropdown menu lets you toggle on and off various waterbodies. If you want to focus on a certain fishery, just tick the one you want. You'll need internet coverage to access the maps. You can also find more access information and download pamphlets at our website here. Get planning your summer fishing missions.

Fishing close to home

Daniel and Marlia Marais fishing the Taieri River near Outram at the weekend. Photo: Bruce Quirey, Otago Fish & Game

You don’t need to travel far from home to find fish.

South African-born Marlia Marais, of Mosgiel, caught her first New Zealand brown trout on Sunday while fishing in the lower Taieri River with husband Daniel.

The couple bought day licences for a special occasion.

“It was a great way to spend our wedding anniversary doing something new,” Marlia says.

“We will definitely be getting a season pass and getting out there a bit more.

A very good day indeed!” The successful lure? A black-and-gold Toby.

Five spots handy to Dunedin:

Buyer beware alert

ALERT NOTICE for anyone intending to purchase a fishing licence - It has come to Fish & Game’s attention that there is a website offering its services as an assistant to aid the purchase of a fishing licence.

This fish assistant website is unauthorised by Fish & Game NZ, and use of this website comes at a significantly higher cost to the user than purchasing through the Fish & Game website.

There is only one authorised place to buy your Fishing Licence online: through the Fish & Game NZ website.

You can also buy a licence in-store at one of our many retail outlets throughout the country.

Lure of the Clutha/Mata-Au hard to resist 

The highly productive Clutha River/Mata-Au has claimed bragging rights as the most-fished river in New Zealand.

The river, which tallied about 31,000 angler days in a newly released survey, also topped the list of most popular places to fish in Otago. 

"It’s no surprise the mighty Clutha River/Mata-Au is so popular with anglers,” Otago Fish & Game chief executive Ian Hadland said.

“People keep coming back to this river as it’s highly productive and accessible at so many places as it flows from Lake Wānaka to the sea for more than 300km.”

Read the full article by clicking here.

Brook trout relocated to protect endangered natives 

Otago Fish & Game officer Steve Dixon releases brook trout into Coalpit Dam after they were electric-fished and translocated from a Kye Burn tributary. Photo: Bruce Quirey, Otago Fish & Game

More than 100 brook trout were shifted to Coalpit Dam this month after being removed from a tributary of Kye Burn.

The fish ranged in size from about 40mm to 200mm. Coalpit Dam, near Naseby, has previously held brook trout, and also has hatchery-reared rainbows.

Although not widespread in the region, brook trout can be prolific in certain narrow headwaters.

They are admired by sports anglers who don’t mind a long walk for a small fish that looks like it fell off a paintbrush.

Fish & Game assisted to electric-fish and translocate these fish as part of an Otago Regional Council project in an area where threatened non-migratory galaxiids are highly vulnerable.

Otago Fish & Game Council has a species interaction regional policy whereby it must give regard to the impact of introduced sports fish on native species.

Decisions to intervene and separate the populations are taken on a case-by-case basis.

Fishing events keep kids keen

Charlie Baumgren (10), with mum and dad Jenny and Nick, was grinning from ear to ear after catching this 2.5kg rainbow trout near Wānaka. Photo: Mason Court, Otago Fish & Game

More than 160 children are hooked into fishing after several weekend events run by angling clubs and community groups in the region in the past month.

Wānaka brothers Charlie (10) and George (12) Baumgren had to be prised from the water’s edge at the end of the day, their parents Nick and Jenny said.

The boys were among 31 children at a Take A Kid Fishing event organised by Upper Clutha Angling Club and supported by Otago Fish & Game on the outskirts of Wānaka.

Two other Take A Kid Fishing events were held at Roxburgh East and Macraes. Ninety-five children got a taste of fishing at a community event run by OceanaGold at Lone Pine Reservoir, next to Macrae's trout hatchery.

Teviot Angling Club held a children’s fishing event near Roxburgh East where more than 40 youngsters took part.

Fishing licences for children under the age of 12 are free.

Caring for your catch

As summer temperatures climb, looking after your catch from the moment you hook it is crucial. If keeping a fish for kai, it will taste much better by following these simple steps:

  • Fight fish quickly and use a landing net to secure the catch. Long fights can cause a build-up of lactic acid in the fish’s blood. This will acidify the flesh and start to break down the proteins, making for poorer table fare.
  • Similarly, if you choose to release the fish, a shorter fight time will greatly increase its survival rate.
  • Immediately dispatch the fish, either by a knife spike to the brain, or a swift blow with a sturdy object to the head. After killing the fish, immediately bleed the fish. This is best done by cutting the throat behind the gills.
  • Once the fish has bled out after a minute or so, place the fish in a chilly bin or insulated bag with ice. Instead of buying ice for every trip, fill soft drink bottles with water and freeze them.

Compliance corner

Rangers will be busy this summer, so remember to carry your fishing licence.

Anglers can save a lot of money and time by buying a licence.

A ranger seizing your gear can ruin a day’s outing.

Eight people have been caught at the Southern Reservoir fishing without a licence this season.

This is the most common offence detected.

Another angler was caught in the Greenstone Designated Waters fishery on a day licence when in fact they needed a full-season licence and a DW endorsement.

Who can use a family licence?

Rangers sometimes find junior anglers listed on a family licence fishing alone.

Juniors wanting to fish alone need a separate licence.

The family licence allows one person (the primary licence holder), or one person and that person's spouse or partner (the secondary licence holder) and their children or grandchildren (who are under 18 years of age on October 1) to fish together.

The secondary licence holder may take the children named on the licence fishing (and fish themselves with the children) without the primary holder taking part.

Only the primary licence holder may use this licence to fish on their own.

If family participants, including the secondary licence holder, want to fish independently, they will need a separate licence. Child licences (under 12) are free. Check out Fishing Licence FAQs on our website. 

Win with #ReWild

Calling all fishing enthusiasts!

Get your cameras ready as Fish & Game NZ is launching its ReWild Snap’n’Share photo competition, running from December 1 to March 31, with $2000 worth in prizes from Kilwell Sports up for grabs.

Capture the beauty of sports fishing in New Zealand and submit your best photo on the ReWild campaign website. Share it on socials and tag us #ReWildSnap.

There are four separate monthly competitions over December, January, February and March.

Each month, the best photo will win a $250 Kilwell Sports voucher, and the monthly winners will become finalists for the ultimate prize.

The finalists will go to a public vote on Facebook and the winner will receive an additional $1000 from our generous sponsor Kilwell Sports.

Get creative, showcase your skills and don’t miss your chance to be a part of the #ReWild campaign.

The winning photo will be featured on the front of the 2024-2025 fishing licence.

Follow the link below to enter.

Please read the full terms and conditions and make sure your photo complies with the competition rules. Good luck!


Otago Weekly Fishing Reports

If you haven’t already subscribed, you can get the latest Otago freshwater fishing info emailed directly to you each week.

We’ll send the latest fishing conditions, weather and river flow info, and tips for your next fishing trip. 

Click here to subscribe. Earlier reports can be read in the Fishing News on our website.

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

Have a safe and happy Christmas.

Tight lines,

The team at Otago Fish & Game

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