Reel Life December 2023

  • West Coast
  • 21/12/2023

Reel Life December 2023

Angling over the Christmas/New Year’s break

With forecast good leading up to Christmas, rain over Christmas then a fine break between Christmas and New Year, its shaping up to be great conditions to get the family out fishing.

Prolonged fine periods over summer can result in tough fish so to know the lakes and river will get a top up over Christmas is great news for anglers!

With the start of summer being warm, trout are now feeding on terrestrial insects so fly anglers and those utilising bubbles with dry flies are in for excitement.

Perch fishing has also been great as water warms, with anglers reporting more than dozen perch to the boat in a quick session at Mahinapua.

For information on targeting perch click here.

A photo sent in from visiting angler Ulrich von Werder of a stunning West Coast brown trout kept for the table.

The lakes continue to fish well for trout, but as the lakes warming up and other boating activities pick up, early morning or evening is best time to head out to increase your odds.

As for rivers, anglers encountered on compliance rounds have reported excellent fishing with good numbers of well-conditioned fish.

River mouth fishing has been great lately with large numbers of bait fish really getting the trout feeding aggressively.

Just be sure not to fish too light of gear in case you hook something large.

With some sea runs being quite large and the chance of a salmon if you go too light you may be in for quite the battle.

As for the salmon, its likely the first will turn up in the coming month if some aren’t already at river mouths, with reports of salmon from over the hill, fingers crossed they are not too far away!

Lastly with Christmas time being a popular time to get outdoors, its great time to get exploring and get away from the more popular fishing spots.

If you need a few ideas check out the Fish and Game access website and our access pamphlet.

Salmon identification in the South Westland Lakes

A brown trout (top) and a salmon caught in South Westland.

Occasionally new anglers struggling to distinguish between the lake resident salmon and silver brown trout.

With different bag limits, season lengths and a minimum size for salmon, it is important that you can distinguish between the two to avoid a regulation breach.

So here are some tips to aid you in distinguishing between trout and salmon in the South Westland lakes:

  1. Salmon have black mouths, while trout tend to be white.
  2. Salmon have a forktail with spots, brown trout have square tails.
  3. Salmon have a diagonal anal fin with 15-20 rays, brown trout have squared anal fins with 10-12 rays.

Anglers are reminded that there is a minimum size of 450mm for salmon in South Westland lakes.

Please also ensure you are handling and returning the undersize salmon with the utmost care.

Proper handling of the lake resident salmon keeps them healthy, allowing them the chance to go to sea and attain their full potential or sustain the population when sea conditions are unfavourable.

Fieldwork Update

Staff and volunteers have been busy completing drift dives this month.

Dives have been completed on the Mawheraiti, Rough, and Haupiri rivers.

Counts of large trout have above average at most sites while numbers of small numbers are slightly down. This likely a reflection of the flooding experienced in spring, with small trout being most vulnerable to floods.

In the last month staff have also held educational sessions for both spin and fly fishing which were well received by attendees. We are looking at holding a basics of fly fishing in Westport, if this sounds like something you would attend, please send an expression of interest to

Staff also aided with the Lake Brunner Fishing competition which was held at the start of the month.

It was fantastic to see anglers having high success in Brunner and using the rulers provided and photos to enter fish rather than killing trout if they didn’t wish to eat them.

Andy Keenan with a trout he caught during the Lake Brunner Fishing Competition.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from West Coast Fish & Game.

Hope to see you out there!

Baylee Kersten, West Coast Fish & Game Officer.


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