Reel Life March 2023

  • Nelson/Marlborough
  • 15/03/2023

Reel Life March 2023


Staff have had a busy month in the rivers, completing multiple drift dives across the region.

The Branch & Leatham rivers were dived, showing good numbers of fish in the Leatham and lower Branch (below confluence).

The Branch dive site at Nesbitt’s Creek is showing continual signs of habitat loss through pool infilling and is lacking in pools, hence a reasonably low count here.

Many of the rainbows in the Leatham and lower Branch were occupying very fast white water, so heavy nymphs would be the go here, tied under a bright and buoyant terrestrial which the Branch trout also love to eat.

The Matakitaki River was dived above Horse Terrace Bridge, and trout numbers were low compared to the two previous dives (2009, 2010) and in average condition.

The Maruia river was also feeling the effects of recent large flood events, with a low count and an absence of small/medium fish which are most vulnerable in flood events.

As can be seen from the graph below, the Motueka River trout fishery showed an improvement on the past couple of years.

While the numbers of medium and small fish were less than in some years, numbers of large fish showed an increase on previous years.

Of note was the impressive fish size and condition, with a couple of very large fish in the trophy category seen – a reasonably rare site for this river.

The Baton River also showed a very healthy population of fish when dived in March, though it does not feature regularly in our drift dive programme and had not been dived since 2017.

NM Drift dive stats 2023 March

The Motueka showed an increase in large fish this year.


Staff have been busy undertaking electric fishing surveys in the Branch & Leatham rivers recently.

This work was set up to determine the health of both native fish, and brown/rainbow trout recruitment following the commencement of a Trust Power funded adult trout release program as mitigation for the Branch Hydro weir.

It was great to involve the Department of Conservation freshwater staff, who assisted on one of the days.

North Branch Koaro 2021a

An adult koaro from the Riuwaka North Branch.

Electric fishing surveys have also been undertaken on Boulder Stream in the Wairau Valley; and the Riuwaka River, where during stable years good numbers of koaro can be found within the catchment alongside trout.


This season staff and voluntary rangers have been active on our waterways undertaking compliance and angler use monitoring on local and backcountry fisheries.

It’s been pleasing to see a very high compliance rate, with all anglers checked found to be in possession of a fishing licence so far and just some minor offences dealt with at places such as Lake Argyle and Waimea Park.


A new access track has been created at Rocky River (pictured top right).

Anglers can access the area near the Motueka/Rocky River confluence by parking at the Rocky River Bridge and taking the short track to the river.

Access to the downstream run, where some great ripples can be found, is best by parking down the road 100 metres and going through the double gates to the river, then walking downstream.

Staff plan to create a more formal access track to this downstream site this winter.

Tight Lines

Jacob Lucas, Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game Officer

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