Reel Life February 2024 - Otago

  • Otago
  • 27/02/2024

Reel Life February 2024 - Otago

Autumn, here we come

Heading into autumn, cooler nights will lower water temperatures and stir up daytime fish activity.

This summer has had enough rain to keep most rivers refreshed, while high temperatures slowed the bite in some waterways.

Anglers have grumbled about strong wind often playing havoc with casting and boating these past three months.

The good news is autumn generally brings more settled, fishy conditions.

Above:Stephen Haggie with a trout caught fly-fishing with a foam cicada pattern at Logan Burn Dam at the weekend. This one was going home for the table. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Only a few opportunities for cicada fishing may remain this season.

If you strike a warm day, don’t delay getting to our tussock-lined reservoirs or rivers.

Last weekend trout were taking cicada imitations at Logan Burn Dam.

While many cicadas were being blown onto water, fish rises were few and far between.

Yet an inspection of stomach contents showed cicadas featuring highly in the diet.

Not to be outdone, spin anglers were having success trolling lures such as traffic-light Tasmanian Devils.

Fully compliant angler Richard Butler (left) chats with Fish & Game officer Steve Dixon at Logan Burn Dam. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Carry your licence

Rangers checked more than 40 anglers at Logan Burn Dam last weekend and were pleased to say they were all licensed.

But a few anglers were not carrying their licence while fishing.

Technically this is an offence and you should always carry your licence when fishing.

If you have recently purchased one and have yet to receive it, print your receipt or take a screenshot on your cellphone and be prepared to be asked by a ranger to present your ID.

On the Fly Mataura River Festival

Look out for Fish & Game at the On The Fly Mataura River Festival in East Gore on Sunday, February 25.

 Live rainbow trout will be on display, supplied by Otago Fish & Game from Macraes Hatchery and will be released into Lake Thomas, near The Key, in Southland.

There will be a competition to guess how many fish are in the tank, plus information and brochures on local fisheries and advice on access points.

The event hosted by Gore District Council will celebrate fly fishing, brown trout, the renowned Mataura River and Gore’s title as the World Capital of Brown Trout Fishing.

The festival is from 11 am to 3.30 pm at River Terrace.

Click here for more info. 

Ida Burn Dam

Ida Burn Dam, near Oturehua, is unfortunately closed to fishing after it was drained for emergency maintenance by an irrigation company.

See our online access map for other nearby fishing locations: 

Predator control

The Department of Conservation says the non-toxic component of an aerial operation to control rats and stoats in the Dart, Routeburn and Caples Valleys was taking place on February 20-21.

The 1080 poison pellets would be sown in one to six weeks later weather permitting. 

For further information call the local DOC office on 03 442 7933 or email

In case you missed it …

Here are some highlights from our Otago weekly fishing reports in the past month.

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

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

Click here to sign up. Earlier weekly and monthly reports can be read in Follow the Fish – News and Events.

Fish & Game officer Ben Sowry navigates at Frankton Arm in Lake Wakatipu during acoustic surveying. Photo: Jayde Couper

Fish sitting deep, acoustic survey shows

Otago Fish & Game this month completed acoustic monitoring of fish populations in lakes Wakatipu, Wānaka and Hāwea. 

Staff will analyse a huge of amount data recorded by a high-tech echo sounder and report to the Council in a few months.

What we can say already is that fish in Lake Wānaka were detected mostly at depths of 20m.

So go low, with leadlines, bibbed lures and down riggers.

There have been recent reports of lake snow in Wānaka fouling fishing line, so check your gear and clear it if necessary.

Remember to always check, clean, dry your gear before heading to different lakes and waterways.

The council has made it a strategic priority to determine drivers for changes in the trout and salmon populations and to establish long-term monitoring in the Southern Lakes fisheries.

Above: Cicadas blown onto the water from a north-westerly ensured this brown trout didn’t hesitate to rise when Jayde presented an imitation. Photo: Mason Court

Making the most of the wind

While wind has often plagued weekend fishing plans in Otago this season, it also blows a smorgasbord of prey items onto the river, and fish often key into these.

Match your fly as close as possible to the insects trapped on the surface.

Take time to study likely holding waters, such as pools or steady runs.

Seeing a set of jaws snapping a fly from the surface is sometimes the one opportunity to pinpoint fish when the surface is distorted.

When casting in the wind, limit the number of false casts and keep your line low.

Try to position yourself so the wind works to your benefit, for example, coming over your dominant shoulder.

Mike Weddell is running a fly-fishing course in March. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Fly-fishing course

Mike Weddell is running a four-part fly-fishing course in Dunedin on the evenings of March 4, 11, 18 and 25.

Mike is an angling columnist, world professional title winner, author, and five-time British all-round fly-casting champion.

The course will be held at the Otago Fish & Game office, corner of Hanover and Harrow streets, Dunedin, from 7 pm-9 pm.

It will cover all aspects of fly fishing, tackle selection, casting, trout behaviour and diet, which flies to use and how to fish them.

The cost is $70.

Phone 027 577 2439 or email

Lake Hāwea Family Fishing Classic

Despite trying conditions, the Lake Hāwea Family Fishing Classic on February 10 was a success with many families being rewarded with excellent fish.

Almost all fish this year were in good condition.

Competition rules stipulated that all fish at the weigh-in must be chilled and this ensured they were in the best state for eating later.

Many larger trout were caught up the top end of the lake by anglers who braved the strong winds and waves. Good catches of salmon were reported around The Neck.

Coastal success

Perch have provided plenty of entertainment for anglers in the coastal reaches, such as the lower Taieri and Clutha/Mata-au rivers and Lake Waihola.

Soft baiting or fishing with a worm have been the most common methods of targeting these tasty fish.

Meanwhile, kahawai have been prolific in coastal waters this season.

They are good fun on light gear and present a real challenge for anglers.

Anglers don’t need a fishing licence to target Kahawai but anyone without a licence must release any sports fish (trout, salmon or perch) caught.

All anglers should be prepared to be questioned by a ranger if they have gear that could also reasonably take sports fish within 500 metres of a river mouth.

This is to ensure they are aware of the need for a licence for sports fish, and to confirm they are targeting only kahawai.

Shane Wright with a stunning brown trout at Poolburn Reservoir. Photo Murray Cramond

Poolburn thumpers

Poolburn Reservoir continues to yield excellent-conditioned brown trout this season.

Shane Wright was rewarded with this 6lb brown at Poolburn with fishing with Murray Cramond on Waitangi Day.

The 6lb brown was taken on a traffic light-coloured Tasmanian Devil.

Shane comes from a well-proven fishing stock. His father Monty is a former Otago Fish & Game Council chairman and retired field officer, and his late grandfather Stan was chairman of the Otago Acclimatisation Society.

Walkers joined Otago Fish & Game at Takitakitoa Wetland on World Wetlands Day. Photo: Bruce Quirey

World Wetlands Day

After heavy downpours, it was a leap of faith for those who joined Fish & Game’s walking tour at Takitakitoa Wetland on February 2.

The clouds parted and they were rewarded with a lovely evening to mark World Wetlands Day. Otago Fish & Game chief executive Ian Hadland discussed the hunter-funded habitat project to the backdrop calls of fernbird and grey teal.

Inanga (whitebait) and tuna (eels) from the wetland were also on display.

Participants also put native plants in the ground, adding to the 8000 natives that have been planted here since the valley was restored and rewilded by Fish & Game nine years ago. 

Win with #ReWild

Fish & Game NZ is continuing its ReWild Snap’n’Share photo competition until March 31, with $2000 worth in prizes from Kilwell Sports up for grabs.

Submit your best NZ sports fishing photo on the ReWild campaign website.

Share it on socials and tag us #ReWildSnap.

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

Finalists will go to a public vote on Facebook and the winner will receive an additional $1000 from Kilwell Sports.

Be a part of the #ReWild campaign. The winning photo will be featured on the front of the 2024-2025 fishing licence.  Click this link to enter.

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

Tight lines,

The team at Otago Fish & Game

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