Reel Life February 2023

  • Otago
  • 18/02/2023

Reel Life February 2023

Autumn’s awesome

Autumn is usually an outstanding time of the year to be fishing in Otago.

While the days are warm, overnight temperatures are dropping, and rivers are cooling.

Think clear days, temperate rivers, and active fish putting on condition before spawning.

Further rain forecast in the south late this week will hopefully freshen up our rivers.

Above Right: A healthy brown trout caught on fly in South Otago. Photo: Stefan Thorburn

Having said that, our thoughts are with those affected by the rain and flooding further north.

The best of the cicada fishing is behind us, but mayflies will be hatching in the mornings.

Otago’s long, hot summer created a mix of fishing conditions.

Some anglers described this season in the south as among the best terrestrial insect action in a long time.

Others say, understandably, the fishing has been challenging due to low water levels and warm temperatures.

Trout and salmon like cooler temperatures and will change their habits and locations accordingly.

In lakes, they will move to deeper water. Acoustic population surveying this month found more trout at 20m and 25m depths in lakes Hawea and Wakatipu respectively.

Trolling with downriggers and lead lines, or jig fishing will get down to the fish.

However, fish will often be active in the shallows in the early mornings.

Lower Clutha Trout Fishing Competition

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Balclutha angler Mark Kingipotiki with his winning 2kg brown trout at the Lower Clutha Trout Fishing Competition in November 2021. Photo: Bruce Quirey, Fish & Game

Don’t miss the Lower Clutha Trout Fishing Competition on Sunday, March 12, supporting trout research and the Clutha community.

The event, run by Otago Fish & Game, is linking up with the children's Bluelight Fishing Competition, backed by Balclutha police and the local community. Same day. Same weigh-in.

Up to $3000 worth of fishing prizes for adults are up for grabs.

Plenty of children’s prizes are also on offer in the Bluelight competition.

Fish & Game will collect trout heads at the weigh-in to study where trout spawn and spend most of their lives.

  • Where: The Clutha River, from below Roxburgh Dam to the sea, and the lower Pomahaka River:
  • When: Sunday, March 12, from 8.30 am to 2.30 pm.
  • Weigh-in: Balclutha Association Football Club, Glasgow Street, Balclutha, 2.30 pm-3.30 pm.
  • Prizegiving: 4 pm.
  • How to enter: Online at the Otago Fish & Game Facebook page,, or pick up an entry form from Balclutha Police Station or Stirling Sports Balclutha.

Perch techniques

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A perch takes a soft plastic lure as another one chases it. Photo: Ben Sowry

When the water gets too warm for trout fishing, perch can be a reliable and exciting fish species to target.

These fish are aggressive feeders and can be targeted with soft plastics, hard-bodied lures and flies.

Where to find them …

  • Near Dunedin: Tomahawk Lagoon, lower Taieri River, lakes Waihola, Waipori and Mahinerangi.
  • South Otago: the lower Clutha/Mata-au and Lake Tuakitoto.
  • Inland: Lake Dunstan, Conroys Dam, Butchers Dam, Lake Johnson and Lake Hayes.

Fish & Game officer Ben Sowry put together this YouTube video on basic techniques for catching perch on soft plastics.

Perch’s white, firm flesh is great eating and are they’re well worth the effort to fillet and prepare.

Low levels at Lake Onslow

IMG 7456 Lake Onslow 25 January 2023

A tributary of Lake Onslow viewed from the air on January 25 this year. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Fish & Game staff are hearing feedback from anglers concerned about the poor fish condition and access difficulties related to unusually low water levels at Lake Onslow.

The low level looks bad, however, it is completely authorised by the present consent conditions for Pioneer Energy, which draws down the water for power generation.

Otago Fish & Game officers will be surveying the sports fish population in Lake Onslow this week.

We are also making inquiries with Otago Regional Council and the power company.

The worm turns at Poolburn

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Honorary ranger Mike Teasdale checks a compliant fly angler’s fishing licence. Photo: Steve Dixon

Worm anglers were winning on Poolburn Dam when Fish & Game rangers visited on Saturday.

Rangers completed 11 licence checks at Poolburn on Saturday.

The most successful anglers were those using worms for bait.

While people were enjoying the warm weather, there were no signs of cicadas.

Greenstone booking system

The booking system on the upper Greenstone applies from February 1-March 31.

Anglers returning from the Greenstone River this season are saying fish numbers are down from last year but the size of the trout – notably large browns – is up.

Spaces are available for bookings on the upper Greenstone River in March.

A controlled fishery period on the Upper Greenstone manages angling pressure in February and March to maintain a wilderness experience during the peak season.

Bookings can only be made up to five days before your fishing trip, including on the intended day of fishing.

You’ll need a whole-season fishing licence and a backcountry endorsement.

Click here for more details and to book.

Otago weekly fishing report

Want the latest Otago freshwater fishing information each week?

Otago Fish & Game is providing weekly fishing reports until the end of April.

Sign up, and every Thursday we’ll email you tips for your next mission, including fishing conditions, weather and river flow information to help you catch more fish.

Click here to subscribe.

You can also read previous reports in the Fishing News on our website:

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

Tight lines,

Bruce Quirey, Otago Fish & Game

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