Reel Life March 2024 - Otago

  • Otago
  • 21/03/2024

Reel Life March 2024 - Otago

 Magic in the autumn air

The final weeks of the main fishing season are a great time to be on the water. It’s many anglers’ favourite time of year.

Lower temperatures, morning dew and fog, and inland snowfall are clear signs the seasons are changing. Cooler water temperatures encourage trout to feed more actively.

Pictured: The lower Clutha River/Mata-Au at Stirling, where the water temperature is about perfect for trout this week. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Snow and rain early this week helped cool rivers further and – at least briefly - improved flows while much of the region endures dry conditions.

With the Otago Anniversary long weekend and Easter coming up, grab your fishing rod!

River mouths are a great choice for autumn angling – but take extra care.  Photo: Ben Sowry

River mouths

River mouths offer excellent autumn fishing for pre-spawning brown trout and salmon.

Fish gathering at rivers mouths will strike at spinners and large streamers, such as a Wooly Bugger or Black Rabbit. Fly anglers should use a sinking tippet, sinking line or weighted fly to get down to the fish.

Now is a good time as ever for boat trolling near river mouths but please keep at least 100 metres away from anglers fishing from shore.

Low flows

Fishing in low, clear rivers calls for subtlety.

Spin anglers should try downsizing lures or using lighter jig-heads on soft baits.

Fly-anglers should try emerger and spinner patterns and small weighted and unweighted nymphs.

Many rivers in Otago’s lower catchments have been running below minimum flows since summer.

Early this week flows in the Taieri, Pomahaka, Waipahi and Shag rivers nudged upwards before dipping again.

  • At Waipahi, the upper Taieri has been hovering just above and below minimum flow – the point at which primary permits cease.
  • At Outram, the Taieri rose briefly above minimum flow this week but was falling again.
  • The Pomahaka spiked on Tuesday and was settling quickly.
  • The Shag/Waihemo finally crept above minimum flow. Waihemo means “river that has gone away”.

Water temperatures

If you’re out fishing, keep an eye on the temperature gauge.

You can get an overview of water temperatures on the Otago Regional Council’s Environmental Data Portal map.

At the time of writing the Taieri was about 13 to 14 degrees Celsius, depending when and where you looked, and the Pomahaka at Burkes Ford was 12 deg C.

Temperatures can change significantly in a day.

Trout are comfortable between 10 to 18 degrees Celcius. The sweet spot is 14 deg C, which means the lower Clutha River/Mata-Au temperature was just about perfect.

Below 10 deg C, trout become sluggish as their metabolism slows down.

Perch are happiest between 15 and 25 deg C, and so it’s starting to get cool for them.

Salmon limits

Please take note of the salmon bag limit in rivers above the Roxburgh Dam.

Land-locked salmon may only be kept in the Clutha River/Mata-Au, Hāwea River, Kawarau River and Shotover River.

All other rivers above Roxburgh Dam have a zero-bag limit for salmon.

For access locations to many river mouths and deltas click here.

Hunter River jetboat uplift

Anglers are warned to expect jetboats in the Hunter River from now until the end of April as hunters and other recreational users head up the valley.

The Hunter River has an “uplift period” from March 19 to April 30 during which jet-boating is allowed.

Jetboats can be hazardous for unsuspecting anglers in a river. If you don’t want to be buzzed by jetboats on your backcountry fishing trip, then consider heading to another river over this period.

Please note fishing is not permitted from a boat, canoe, pontoon or floatation device on the Hunter River.


Otago University Professor Gerry Closs collects a juvenile brown trout with student Jaxon Marshall for research in the Waters of Leith. Photo: Bruce Quirey

River research is net gain for students and urban fishery

Zoology Department students researching the brown trout population in the Waters of Leith and its tributary Lindsay Creek are surprised at the number of trout they’ve found in the urban Dunedin catchment.

The Otago University project is in its seventh year and the data will help Otago Fish & Game with its management of the fishery.

Read more

Otago weekly fishing reports

If you haven’t signed up already, you can receive weekly email updates on freshwater fishing in Otago.

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

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

Winter licences

Haven’t got around to fishing yet this season? Still want to wet a line on our rivers and lakes?

Winter licences are available from April 1 to September 30.

All you need to know about licences and regulations is online right here.

Want to know more?

Check out these links or contact our helpful Otago team.

Tight lines,

The team at Otago Fish & Game

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