Reel Life February 2024 - Nelson/Marlborough

  • Nelson/Marlborough
  • 26/02/2024

Reel Life February 2024 - Nelson/Marlborough


The Motueka River is firing this season.

Angler feedback has been excellent, and our recent drift dive has confirmed the Motueka River is well and truly on the rise and delivering the goods. 

A stable year or two has contributed to excellent recruitment and fish survival. 

Additionally, periodic small ‘freshes’ originating from the Wangapeka have arrived at timely intervals over the hot summer months and kept the river at a decent flow, considering the near-drought conditions much of the region has experienced.

An increase in medium and large fish was found over the five sites, going from 181 large/medium fish per/km in 2023 to 244 large/medium fish per/km in 2024. 

The trout population is trending upward towards another peak like what was experienced between 2017-2019, and we only hope that we get another reasonably stable year to see this ‘compound’ further for next season. 

The dive also showed fish to be in great condition due to the abundant macroinvertebrate and terrestrial insect supply.

Whilst most anglers catch fish in the 2.5-4 pound range, there are decent numbers of larger specimens in the 5-7 pound range in residence and even one or two in the 10-pound range, which tend to be seen in deep water.

We are entering what is arguably the best month for fishing the Motueka River. 

Cooler nights mean the water temperature chills down overnight and any sunny day should see the fish feeding actively by about 9-10 am. 

The hot summer has seen passion vine hopper numbers boom, and trout will be gorging themselves on these all day from now and through March. 

They can get very locked on to these and at times can be tricky customers to hook, so multiple variations are needed and sometimes it is worth trailing a small nymph underneath your dry to cover both bases.

Recent compliance outings have also seen the Motueka River usage increase as it tends to this time of year, including a few more non-resident anglers around. 

See you on the water.

Above: Marcus Girvan enjoyed great fishing on the Motueka over the summer.


Besides the Motueka which was dived in mid-February, the Branch & Leathem rivers were dived in late January. 

Both these rivers yielded disappointing results, with the Leatham having just one large brown and seven large rainbows (all hatchery origin). 

The Branch River (below the Leatham confluence) was also well below average, with only one large brown and two large wild rainbows seen. 

This reach is usually quite productive, especially as trout often drop out of the warmer lower Leatham to the cooler Branch flows, and staff believe a large flood in May 2023 may be the reason for the low count over all three sites. 

The river had considerably changed since it was last dived, and the 800+cu flood that occurred in May rose very rapidly, which likely affected fish numbers.

The Motueka trout population is on the rise

The Wairau River was recently dived at four sites, with the site below the Rainbow confluence fairly decent (25 large fish over 2kms) and a fairly average count at Dip Flat. 

This year we introduced a new site in the mid-Wairau (above and below the Goulter confluence), as we have been fielding an increase in reports in the number of rainbow trout caught in the Wairau. 

Sadly, this count was fairly low, and staff believe the high water temperatures the Wairau has been experiencing is likely the reason for this, meaning trout have possibly departed for cooler waters elsewhere. 

The Marlborough District Council water temperature monitoring indicates the river has frequently reached 22 degrees this summer and even close to 24 degrees on some days – dangerous territory for trout. 

While three large rainbows and 12 medium rainbows were seen on the lower Selmes Road site, only one salmon was seen.


Salmon fishing has been slow in the Wairau this year, likely due to the low flows the Wairau has been experiencing. 

Angler reports have been sporadic, and recent drift dives saw only one average-sized salmon over all sites. 

The salmon are likely ‘waiting for the rain’ to bring some elevated flows to the Wairau, and we hope to see some fish move upriver when this eventually occurs. 

Tight Lines

Jacob Lucas, Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game.

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