Reel Life January 2024

  • Central South Island
  • 19/01/2024

Reel Life January 2024

Compliant angler Sam Coskerie and his catch met with rangers on a night ranging operation at the canals this month-Photo by Nikki Dellaway.

Between barbeques, fishing trips and family time our staff and honorary rangers have been active over the holiday period checking in on the success and legal requirements of anglers.

We have focussed ranging efforts at river mouths, canals (day and overnight) and a few other popular spots.

We have also been boat-ranging out on Lakes Benmore and Aviemore.

It has been great to find high levels of compliance with licencing and regulations.

Unfortunately, however, we have encountered a small number of anglers fishing without licences, most notably at Lake Benmore, the canals and Lake Alexandrina.

We have also encountered a small number of anglers fishing the canals using illegal bait, namely cut-up pieces of fish.

Please note when using fish for bait the fish must be whole and fully intact.

Regrettably, it’s a very dry summer in some corners of the region and a few small rivers and streams are drying up.

We were alerted to the Twizel River drying up above Lake Poaka recently.

We investigated and managed to relocate 45 trout to permanent water nearby.   

If you report a fish stranding to us there are some key pieces of information we are after as we triage the urgency to attend versus other important work at hand.

1.     Exact location.

2.     How many live fish, their sizes, and species.

3.     How deep the water is in the pools (we can only recover using electric fishing in knee-deep or less).

4.     Is there water flowing into the pool where they are stranded?

Contact us at our Temuka Office, phone - 03 615 8400 or email - 

Sea-Run Salmon Season Bag Limit Card required for Central South Island and North Canterbury Regions

Sea-run salmon and trout anglers take advantage of a stunning day at the Rakitata River mouth-Photo by Nikki Dellaway

The 23/24 sea-run salmon season has begun, some will say a little too slowly here in our region, but it is still early days.

90% of last year's reported harvest occurred after the first of January.

54% of the fish caught in the Rakitata/Rangitata last season were caught in February and March.

The Waitaki River is a late starter traditionally and we anticipate the first of the salmon runs will come through in February.

Rangers have been active at the river mouths this season and are grateful to the anglers that produce their licence and season bag limit card freely, even though the angler may have been checked more than once already this season.

The season bag limit card and a pen must be carried with you while fishing sea-run salmon waters if you have any intention to catch a sea-run salmon or keep one incidentally caught while targeting other species like trout or kahawai.

Sea run salmon fishing requires you to carry your licence, season bag card and a pen

All the information you need to know can be found at our website here including how to obtain your sea run salmon licence and season bag limit card, for a $5 charge.

The list of sea-run salmon waters can be found in the first question of our FAQ’s for sea run salmon anglers.

Central South Island Tagging Programme

When handling fish for other purposes like transfers or salvage, field officers will often take measurements and tag the fish before releasing it.

The idea is that when you, the angler, catch the trout you will notice the small yellow tag protruding from the fish’ back alongside the dorsal fin, and take note of the tag number to report back to us.

If you have caught a tagged trout please get in touch and let us know the following five things:

  1. The unique four-digit tag number
  2. location caught
  3. date caught
  4. Your best estimate of size.
  5. Whether it was kept or released

Fish & Game Officer Mark Webb tagging and transporting a tagged trout to Tekapo Canal with Fish & Game Officer Rhys Adams assisting’ Photo by Richie Cosgrove

Watch the guys in this video from FishThe DriftNZ and The Anglers Logbook catch a tagged trout in the Tekapo Canal at about the 12 minutes 50 seconds timestamp. 

They note the tag number and then give CSI Fish and Game a call to report the tag and get information back on their tagged trout. 

Hear field officer Rhys Adams explain the origin of their fish and how much it has grown in the Tekapo Canal at the 13:27 timestamp.

Even if you caught your tagged trout a while back (last year etc.) and forgot to report it to us, no worries just get in touch as we’d appreciate the information. 

Contact options – email or phone 036158400 

Currently, tagged trout may be present in these and adjoining waterways: Tekapo Canal, upper Ōhau River, Lake Ruataniwha, Ōhau A, B and C Canals, Pūkaki Canal, Waitaki River and Hakataramea River.

High-country dry fly time!

February is the month to head to the high-country and try a bit of dry fly fishing.

Cicada, hoppers, blowfly – you name it – trout are looking for them and ready to bite.

Here are some fly patterns worth having on stand-by – click the linked names for images: cicada, blowfly, black gnat, royal wulff, hopper and flying ant.

Where to try? Any waters of the Mackenzie Basin are worthwhile and also the Ashburton Lakes.

Don’t have a fly fishing gear? Spin fishing with a float and dry fly is worth a try – click here to view our advanced spin fishing brochure that show you how to set-up. 

Sockeye salmon season peak

Right now there is a short window of opportunity to target Lake Benmore’s sockeye salmon prior to the spawning run.

Sockeye have been measuring around 320 - 380mm this season at Lake Benmore. In recent seasons they have rarely exceeded 320mm.

By early February they stop eating and start to colour up for spawning. From late February through to late March, they run the rivers and streams to spawn.

Most sockeye are being caught while trolling at depth with the help of lead lines, down riggers or paravanes and traditional trout lures. 

Watch this video for tips on how to target sockeye.

Sockeye fishing isn’t just for boaties though, as sockeye will school around the Benmore Dam during December and January and be within the reach of shoreline anglers.

In fact, the phenomenon of sockeye schooling around dams became quite evident during the holidays as many sockeye migrated down from Lake Pūkaki into the Pūkaki Canal through the control gate / intake.

The result of the “turbulent ride’ through the intake with high water pressures and concrete structures meant some sockeye were damaged and were seen floating down the canal.

This happened at the same time last year too.

Many would have survived too, so don’t be surprised to catch a sockeye in the Pūkaki - Ōhau A Canal sometime soon.

This highlights how the canals are naturally stocked through the downstream migration of fish from their headwater lakes Tekapo / Takapō, Pūkaki and Ōhau through the power scheme infrastructure and into the canals. 

The current bag limit at Lake Benmore is 4 sports fish and the minimum size for salmon is 250mm. These regulations were updated to encourage anglers to target and harvest sockeye salmon.

Handy Resources to Bookmark

2023/24 Sports fishing regulations – or email

Access Map for Central South Island Region – other regions found via a dropdown box here.

Fish and Game NZ’s YouTube channel – find interesting videos from all over the country

Regional weekly fishing reports

Tight lines,

Nikki Dellaway - Central South Island Fish and Game 


More Posts