Reel Life November 2023

  • Southland
  • 22/11/2023

Reel Life November 2023

Targeting Trout and Perch in the Lower Oreti River

In recent weeks, our lower rivers, particularly the lower Oreti near West Plains, have been a hotspot for trout and perch fishing action.

The trout have been in pursuit of migrating smelt, while the perch are concluding their spawning period and are aggressively feeding.

Using soft baits in the deep, slow-flowing tidal reaches is a great way to target these fish. 

For best results, use a 1/8th of an ounce jig head along with a brightly coloured soft bait—white, pink, and fluorescent orange/yellow are great choices.

When casting, aim upstream (or up current during incoming tides) and allow your soft bait to sink before gently bouncing it along the riverbed.

It's important to ensure your bait moves slowly along the bottom, as both trout and perch tend to forage hard on the bottom.

To maximize your chances of success, fish on either side of the low tide.

During low tide, the reduced water volume makes it easier to cover the water and locate the fish.

Applying these techniques on the lower Oreti, or any other tidal river in Southland, can greatly enhance your chances of a successful fishing outing.

Above right: A great harvest of trout and perch from the lower Oreti.

Compliance Update

Fish and Game field officer Dwight Grieve checks the licence of fully compliant angler Chris Dore on the upper Mataura River.

If you've been fishing in areas like the upper Oreti, upper Mataura, Aparima, or Hamilton Burn recently, chances are you've crossed paths with field officer Dwight Grieve.

Dwight has been regularly engaging with anglers, checking their Designated Waters Licence (on the upper Oreti), and conducting angler surveys.

So far this season, compliance has been excellent, with only one instance of an angler fishing without a licence and no offences related to the Designated Waters Licence.

We have really appreciated receiving on-the-ground feedback from anglers about these fisheries and the voluntary upper Mataura beat system.

Most anglers seem to appreciate the upper Mataura beat system as it helps them know where others are fishing, contributing to a better angling experience for everyone.

If you happen to run into Dwight while fishing, it would be fantastic if you could assist by carrying your fishing licence with you and providing him with some feedback on your fishing experience.

Waituna Lagoon - Improved Lagoon Health and Great Trout Fishing

Background and status

Ruppia - Source: Department of Conservation.

Waituna Lagoon has a rich cultural and ecological history and plays a crucial role in our region's biodiversity.

Recognised for its environmental importance, it gained the designation of a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance back in 1976.

The lagoon has approximately 1350ha of open water and to put that into perspective, it’s larger than both North and South Mavora Lake combined.

Conveniently located just a short 30-minute drive from Invercargill, Waituna Lagoon is renowned for its thriving brown trout fishery. 

The significance of ruppia

Historically, Waituna Lagoon has been manually opened (by excavator) in response to the lagoon’s water level.

However, Southland Fish & Game has been opposed to this practice due to its adverse effect on the native ruppia, an aquatic grass.

The increased salinity from the manual openings to the sea poses a risk to ruppia which can tolerate some salt but cannot grow in saltwater.

These plants play a pivotal role in the lagoon's health by oxygenating the water, binding sediment, and minimizing wave action.

Moreover, they form the foundation of the lagoon's food web, supporting various invertebrates, native fish, birds, and of course, brown trout.

The great news is that since 2021, Waituna Lagoon has been closed and as a result, the ruppia populations are flushing. See NIWA’s recent monitoring report available here

The health of the ruppia populations has had flow-on benefits for brown trout and there has been some great fishing action this season.

Waituna fishing tips

Waituna trout are on average, the heaviest of all Southland’s waterbodies. 

The average fish is around 2.3kg (5lb) and there are some notably larger specimens in there.

When fishing, there are a few things to keep in mind to increase your success rate.

For example, tributaries and structures (plants, tree stumps, maimai piles, ledges, drop-offs) provide trout with food and cover and consequently, you will often find trout in proximity to these habitat features.

Wind is an important variable too.

Waituna Lagoon can be a very windy place and you can use that wind to your advantage.

Look upwind for sources of wind-blown food (e.g., insects) and fish downwind of them.

The wave lap that the wind generates can also create good shore-based fishing where the waves crash into the bank.

These waves move food across the lagoon and stir up the bed and suspend invertebrates into the water column.

It is also important to use lightweight equipment when fishing in Waituna. 

The traditional approach of long rods, thick monofilament and heavy silver wedges might still work, but they are not nearly as effective as the modern, lightweight options.

Soft baits are preferable as they allow you to quickly change your setup depending on the depth of the water.

Southland Fish & Game Councillor Corey Carston with a Waituna trout in prime condition.

A braided line will allow you to remain in contact with your soft bait and detect any subtle bites.

It’s important you don’t allow any slack in your line; always remain in contact with the lure.

It also pays to have a range of soft bait colours and jig head weights as this will allow you to fish in different depths and conditions.

In some areas, you’ll want to bounce your soft bait on the bottom and in others, you’ll want to fish above the ruppia.

When fishing Waituna, it be prepared to move and be mobile.

If an area isn’t producing, relocate. 

The trout move around the lagoon depending on the conditions, so you should be prepared to do so too.

Keep these tips in mind when you fish Waituna Lagoon and you should have a good chance of success.

Tight Lines

Cohen Stewart, Southland Fish & Game

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