Reel Life October 2021

  • Otago
  • 30/08/2021

Reel Life October 2021

Season opens on October 1

Fish should be in fine condition for the October 1 start of the fishing season after a relatively mild winter.

Most rivers should be stable because the region has not seen any significant floods recently.

Spring usually brings fickle weather, so if waters are full, use an indicator and spend more time blind fishing. Rivers like the Shag clear quicker after heavy rain. The Taieri River is returning to lower flows after a big spike earlier this month.

Above Right: A soft plastic bait did the job for this 2kg brown trout chasing baitfish in spring. PHOTO: BRUCE QUIREY

High-country water temperatures are low at the start of the season, and fish can be lethargic.

Targeting the lower reaches where temperatures warm up sooner gets around the problem.

Most high-country waters remain closed and will open on November 1.

Following the latest Covid lockdown, anglers are keen to get back onto the water, as Otago fishing licences sales are slightly up on this time last year.

Like last season, there will be very few foreign tourists around. So make the most of this rare chance to explore our amazing fishing resources in relative solitude.

Fish Central

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The signs are good for landlocked salmon this season after higher catch rates last year. PHOTO: BEN SOWRY

The tributaries and river mouths of the big lakes turn on excellent rainbow trout fishing as the fish drop out of the spawning streams to the lakes.

The size of trout harvested from Lake Wānaka has been creeping up over the past few years.

Creel surveys showed browns averaged 1.5kg and rainbows 1.3kg.

If you’ve got a boat, downriggers produce the best results in the big lakes.

Fish your lure within two or three metres of the bottom.

Wakatipu and Hāwea contain good stocks of salmon, and all the lakes have healthy trout populations.

The catch rate of landlocked salmon increased in Lake Wānaka last season, a good sign for this season.

Sadly, salmon returns in the Lower Clutha below Roxburgh dam have been extremely poor, as the trend for sea-run salmon has been in steep decline.

Border restrictions improve compliance rates

Otago rangers checked more than 1000 fishing licences last season and found that 97.5% of freshwater anglers comply with regulations.

A lack of tourists last season due to the Covid border restrictions more than likely played a hand in that result. About 20 percent of the offending in the previous season was by fast-moving tourists.

Don’t forget to read the regulations carefully. Some waters are not open until November 1, 2021.

For all unnamed waters upstream of the Clyde Dam not in schedule 3 of the regulations, the season is from November 1 to May 31.

Adult beginner spin-fishing classes

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Sign up for an evening of instruction on basic fishing following by a field trip. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Want to enjoy one of Otago’s favourite outdoor activities and don’t know where to start?

Join us for an evening of instruction on basic spin-fishing and then on a field trip.

The Otago Fish & Game Council will be running adult beginner spin-fishing classes in Dunedin (October 6/7/8) and Cromwell (October 8) at the start of the 2021/22 fishing season. (October 7 is fully booked.) Evening theory classes will cover licences, regulations, fish species, rods, lures/bait, knots, where to go and more. This will be followed by a field trip to the Southern Reservoir in Dunedin or a fishing spot near Cromwell on October 9. Each adult will attend one classand a field trip. Classes are for ages18 and above. All fishing equipment (rods and lures) provided. There is no charge for these classes—a limit of 12 people per class. To register, scan the QR code before October 1, 2021.


Dunedin: Steve Dixon 021 190 0711

Cromwell:Ben Sowry 027 344

Click here to register:

Or scan the QR code:

Deans Bank opening soon

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Deans Bank reopens for fly fishing on October 1. PHOTO: MARJORIE COOK

Last month we reported our rangers had seen a few anglers fishing in places they shouldn’t be, including the Dean Banks section of the Upper Clutha, which was closed for winter.

The good news is Deans Bank opens to fly fishing on October 1.

This river section can be highly productive and is easily accessed from the Wanaka outlet or upstream from Albert Town.

Spotlight on the Lower Clutha

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The lower reaches of the Clutha River can be highly productive for trout and perch on an incoming tide. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The Lower Clutha River/Mata-Au and its tributaries are home to brown and rainbow trout and perch.

There are many options for fishing spots, but sometimes knowing where to start can be daunting.

To make it easier, here are a few ideas. Several of these great fishing places are handy to the main centres.


The section between Tuapeka Mouth and Balclutha is quite attractive to anglers.

Below the Clydevale bridge, there’s a gravel bar on the true left bank. (The true left or true right of a river means the side of the river when you are facing downstream.)

Like many spots between Clydevale and Balclutha, this has wide open ripples and runs and well-defined pools, especially when the river flows are low.

Manuka Island

This spot on the Clutha Valley Road is 4.3km upstream from the State Highway 1 bridge at Balclutha.

It is well worth swinging a lure across and down the side channel at the gravel bar at Manuka Island.

There is an interesting backwater that can hold large wily browns.

Balclutha Bridge

Fishing opportunities are on offer in the middle of town.

Looking upstream from the State Highway 1 bridge, the river sweeps around a left-hand bend.

However, if you stroll up the true right bank, there’s easy casting across a gravel bar and side channel.


From Balclutha to the sea, the river slows pace.

Below Balclutha, there are numerous places where roads meet the river for easy access.

While big and daunting, the lower reaches can be highly productive for trout and perch on an incoming tide.

This tidal estuary splits in two around Inch Clutha. Below Stirling bridge on Riverbank Road offers easy access to the northern arm of the river (Matau branch).

The road at Kaitangata follows the riverbank.

Boat fishing

There are boat launch ramps at Balclutha and Kaitangata, from where you can be into some top-class fishing in no time at all.

Check the flow

Recent solid rain in the Otago headwaters means the Clutha River has been running high, but this will ease.

Google “Lower Clutha River flow” to quickly jump onto the Otago Regional Council website to check out the river flow rates near Balclutha.

Fishing is at its best on the Lower Clutha’s ripples and runs when flows are low (about 400 cumecs or less).

What to use

Soft plastic baits

Soft plastic baits are ideally suited to fishing big estuary waters like the Lower Clutha.

In spring, the river has plenty of small baitfish that the sea-run trout feed on.

A silver-and-white soft plastic bait is highly effective in these situations. When the water is darker, a yellow soft plastic is a proven performer, but the colour possibilities are almost limitless.

A 3/8-ounce jighead is a good match in the big, slower water. Use a smaller jighead over weed beds.

Spinning lures

The Clutha River is ideal for spin fishing, and traditionally the bulk of the angling is done by this method.

White and yellow Tasmanian Devils, silver Tobys or silver hexagon wobblers are great early in the season in the lower river.

Black-and-gold and banana Tobys, in 7 or 10 grams, work well throughout the river and at any time of year. In riffles or smaller streams, try using bladed spinners like Veltics and Mepps.


Hares ear or pheasant tail nymphs, weighted and unweighted, will imitate mayfly and caddis nymphs.

The Cul de carnard dun or emerger and the deer-hair elk caddis are popular dry fly patterns.

Early in the season, streamers like a Jack Sprat, Yellow Dorothy or Rabbit Zonker are essential when trout feed on baitfish in the tidal reaches.

Lower Clutha Trout Fishing Competition

Keep November 27 free in your calendar, and keep an eye on the Otago Fish & Game Facebook page for details to enter the Lower Clutha Trout Fishing Competition coming soon.

Citizen science

Otago Fish & Game still wants heads from harvested salmon for DNA analysis.

Record the species, weight, length, date and location.

We also want the heads of trout from the lower Clutha River for research.

Contact us on (03) 477 9076.

Take A Kid Fishing

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Don Pendreigh gives grandson Lincoln (6) a few casting tips at Take A Kid Fishing at Southern Reservoir. PHOTO: BRUCE QUIREY

We’ve seen plenty of smiles faces as the annual Take A Kid Fishing events are underway at Southern Reservoir in Dunedin this month.

Otago Fish & Game is holding four sessions over two weekends, September 18/19 and September 25/26.

The aim is to get kids outside and enjoying nature while fishing.

Registrations are fully booked as these events are being held under Alert Level 2 rules.

This has restricted the number of participants to 100 people.

If you missed out this year, sorry!

We hope more people will be involved at next year’s event.

Thanks to The Otago Community TrustandOceanaGoldfor their support.

Southern Reservoir in Dunedin is closed to public fishing until October 1.

Stand up and vote

210916 Elections start Facebook postMore than 4700 anglers and game bird hunters will have their say in the 2021 Otago Fish & Game elections. Eligible Fish & Game licence holders have been sent their voting papers.

Now is the time for licence holders to stand up and engage.

This is your opportunity to decide who governs your sport not just for the next three years but through an important transition for our organisation.

The elections come as Fish & Game looks to implement recommendations from a Ministerial review, including potential regional amalgamations.

Thirteen candidates are vying for nine council positions in the Otago election. Nine incumbent councillors are seeking re-election.

Voters have a choice of voting by post or online through the website (

Online voting is easy, quick and simple; just follow the link on your voting papers or the Fish & Game website to cast your vote.

Voting closes at 5 pm on October 8, and the results will be announced on October 12.

Otago candidates are: Mike Barker (Central Otago), Chris Bell (Dunedin/North Coast), Rick Boyd (Lakes), Ian Cole (Lakes), Ray Grubb (Central Otago), John Highton (Dunedin/North Coast), Mark Joyce (Clutha), Adrian McIntyre (Clutha), Vicky May (Central Otago), Murray Neilson (Clutha), Eric Neumann (Dunedin/North Coast), Blair Trevathan (Central Otago) and Colin Weatherall (Dunedin/North Coast).

Roasted trout

roast troutWe just can’t keep field officer Ben Sowry out of the kitchen. Luckily, he’s pretty handy on the tools. So try this mouth-watering trout recipe.

Serves two


Fillet off a small (1.5kg) trout. Deboned with the skin left on.

Four medium potatoes.

Six cloves of garlic.

1/4 cup of olive oil.

1/4 cup of parsley.

Salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven and oven tray to 200°C.

Cut potatoes into thin slices.

In a bowl, add crushed garlic, olive oil, finely chopped parsley and season.

Arrange potatoes on an oven tray in a single layer, and liberally coat with half the oil mix.

Place in the oven for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, place the trout fillet, skin down, onto the same oven tray as the potatoes, and coat the flesh side with the remaining oil mix.

Return to the oven for a further 10 to 12 minutes.

Serve with your choice of salad

Final word:

Lastly, take note and offer praise to any farmer who has done the right thing with their waterway or land use nearby. Be respectful of landowners. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Tight lines for 2021/22.

Bruce Quirey, Otago Fish & Game Officer.

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