Reel Life February 2024 - Central South Island

  • Central South Island
  • 26/02/2024

Reel Life February 2024 - Central South Island

Lake Waitaki report

Four South Canterbury Anglers Club members had a successful day fly fishing this month at Lake Waitaki.

Eleven brown trout were landed, using mostly damselfly nymphs. At least one ‘big’ one got away.

Allan Gillespie remarked that the fish were in excellent condition, probably the best he’s seen at Lake Waitaki.

The anglers waded in the shallows, fishing for sighted fish and blind fishing in between sightings.

If you’re looking to do some social fishing and learn a few tricks from some of the region's most knowledgeable anglers, consider joining a fishing club like the South Canterbury Anglers.

Above: Allan Davidson of South Canterbury Anglers Club gets ready to net a Lake Waitaki trout - Photo by Allan Gillespie.

One of the benefits of joining a fishing club is they often have huts at great fishing spots for relatively low-cost hire – the South Canterbury Anglers Club has two huts at Lake Alexandrina.

Click here to check out the South Canterbury Anglers Club website.

Sea-run salmon update.

Waitaki River at 214cumecs off Kurow Bridge at the beginning of the 23/24 fishing season' - Photo by Nikki Dellaway

Sea-run salmon chatter has ramped up with more frequent catches at the Rangitata/Rakitata mouth and a few sightings right the way up the river too.

Rakitata River anglers are reminded that the sea run salmon season closes for the river and tributaries above Turn Again Point on 29 February (see page 42 of the 2023/24 Regulation Guide).

Check out our access website here if you’re looking to try somewhere new.

We have had the first confirmed sea-run salmon catch in the Waitaki River this month and rumours of more.

We have the traditional Waitaki peak period to look forward to still in late March and April

We really enjoy seeing and sharing photos of angler success.

We would appreciate it if you sent through photos of you holding up your harvested fish to

A reminder that from April 1st the upper part of the Waitaki River (above Bortons Pond/ Stonewall powerlines) and tributaries close for sea-run salmon fishing – get into it in March.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your sea-run salmon licence if you want to be able to catch or keep one.

Click here to add a salmon licence to your existing whole-season licence or here to get your 23/24 licence.

Remember to carry the season bag limit card and a working pen on the river bank to be able to comply with sea-run salmon regulations.

What is a fin clip?

Anglers are required to identify whether they have caught a fin clipped sea-run salmon' - image courtesy of WDFW

On your sea-run season bag limit card there is a tick box to indicate the fin clip status of your fish. 

Fin clipping or fin removal is one way fish are marked to assist fisheries managers in tracking the growth, movements, and survival of fish stocks.

The diagram displays the location of the adipose fin and how it appears both intact and clipped (removed).

Two volunteer-run salmon hatcheries operate in the CSI Region being McKinnon’s Creek Hatchery on the Rangitata River and the Waitaki voluntary salmon hatchery on the Waitaki River.

These hatcheries clip the adipose fin of their salmon smolt (juveniles) before they are released to the rivers and make their way to the sea.

If you’re keen to volunteer your time to help operate these hatcheries, including fin clipping, please email  Phil De Joux from McKinnon’s Creek ( and Linn Koevoet from Waitaki Salmon Hatchery (

The records of angler caught fin-clipped salmon combined with those fin-clipped salmon that return to the hatcheries during spawning are used to monitor the success of annual releases of salmon smolt from the hatcheries. 

Although most fin-clipped salmon will return to their river of origin, a small number are known to stray so be sure to look for fin clips no matter where you catch your sea-run salmon.

Sockeye spawning regulations start 1st March

A pair of coloured-up sockeye salmon preparing to spawn in the Twizel River-Credit Jayde Couper

It’s that time of year again when tens of thousands of sockeye salmon make their spawning run into tributary streams of the Waitaki Lakes, notably lakes Benmore, Ōhau and Pūkaki.

From 1 March to 30 April, it is an offence to fish for sockeye salmon in any stream and river where they are present. See Note 1.10, page 36 of the 23/24 sports fishing regulation guide.  

An open season for trout fishing in these same waters remains in place until 30 April.

In summary: No licence holder shall fish for sockeye salmon in any river or stream between 1 March and 30 April.

Stick to the lakes and canals if you want to target sockeye during that period.

If you haven’t seen sockeye in the rivers before this video may give you an appreciation of the event. 

The sockeye salmon population of the Waitaki lakes is the only self-sustaining sockeye population in the southern hemisphere.

With help from Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, CSIFG have been undertaking a spawning run monitoring program in recent years. The total spawning run has varied from about 40,000 – 80,000 sockeye salmon.

Sockeye salmon runs usually peak mid-March and provide for interesting viewing – the SH8 Bridge over the Twizel River is a good spot to go and observe the phenomenon.

The influx of this number of hormone-charged sockeye can make trout fishing difficult as they can spook and disturb large stretches of river.

Outlook for March

Fishing in March can be characterised by summer-style fishing but with cold mornings — sometimes even frosty.

Water temperatures start to cool off but still offer enjoyable ‘boots-and-shorts’ fishing — although it pays to carry a warm jacket too.  

High-country rivers usually flow low and clear and often provide afternoon mayfly hatches that bring the river ‘alive’ with rising trout.

Dads favourite and Parachute Adams  are the flies to try when looking at mayfly imitations.

Tight lines

Nikki Dellaway, CSI Fish and Game Officer


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