Reel Life October 2022

  • Otago
  • 20/10/2022

Reel Life October 2022

High-country rivers to open

Many anglers will be looking forward to November 1, which is the first day that many of the rivers in central and western Otago open for angling. Many rivers in the upper Clutha catchment open on November 1, rather than the traditional October 1. This is to allow rainbow trout in these areas to complete their spawning cycle, which occurs later than the brown trout spawning season.

The high-country opening falls on a Tuesday this year, but many local anglers will have booked in leave.

Many international anglers have not been able to fish in New Zealand over the previous two seasons due to Covid travel restrictions. This season is the first in three years with unrestricted travel for international anglers. This means rivers may have higher pressure on them than the past few years, so Fish & Game is reminding people to be courteous and share the rivers.


Leaving a note on your dashboard helps other anglers know where you are on the river.

Anglers needing to know which waterways are open, as well as bag limits and other regulations, can check the regulation booklet presented with their licence, or search for regulations on the Fish & Game website.

Rivers running high, and lakes are heating up

Many of the region’s rivers have been high over the start of the season, mostly from the snowfall in early October.
Although this has made it slightly difficult for spotting fish, the trout are certainly there.
Reports are coming in for some great fishing with soft plastics, and blind fishing with heavy nymphs.

When rivers are high and coloured, anglers would do well to use darker-coloured spinners and softbaits, or dark nymphs and streamers. The darker lures have a stronger silhouette, helping the fish see them in the marginal visibility.


Vast numbers of common bullies are found in our inland lakes, and spring is the time to target trout feeding on these fish.

Many of our lakes are starting to fish well in the shallows. As the lakes warm up, the fish and invertebrate activity increases. Common bullies are an abundant native fish species in many of our lakes, and they are starting to approach their spawning season. The male bullies will change colour to become almost completely black, and this lack of camouflage makes them a lot more visible to cruising brown trout. Using a tiny, black soft plastic or a size 10 or 12 black booby or woolly bugger fly is a deadly way to target these fish. Cast well ahead of the cruising fish, then gently twitch as the trout approaches. The resulting strikes can be explosive.

Rainbows of Wakatipu

Recent spawning surveys of several rivers flowing into Lake Wakatipu suggest the rainbow trout population in the lake is lower than usual.
Fish & Game staff believe this may be the result of flooding during 2018 and 2020.

This isn’t an unprecedented event, as the rainbow trout population in the lake tends to fluctuate up and down, particularly after significant flooding events.

Rainbow trout are particularly susceptible to flooding, as the juveniles tend to spend time in the main flow of the rivers. Flooding can wash these fish into the lake too early in their development, and this can affect an entire generation of rainbows.

As juvenile brown trout tend to stay in the small spawning streams for longer in their development, they are less likely to be taken out by flooding events, as these smaller streams are often more stable during floods.

Floods can also damage the spawning habitat of trout, by washing away the fine gravels that trout depend on to lay their eggs.

Wakatipu rainbows

Staff have been conducting rainbow trout spawning surveys in the tributaries of Lake Wakatipu.

Otago Fish & Game staff is interested to hear reports from anglers in the early season of where rainbow trout have been seen in the tributaries of Lake Wakatipu. By identifying these areas, Fish & Game staff will be able to focus our efforts on protecting these valuable spots.

Dart-Caples 1080 predator control

Anglers preparing for the start of the high-country season need to be aware the Department of Conservation is planning a 1080 operation to control rats and possums in the Dart Valley and surrounding catchments starting on November 1, 2022.

The two most popular fisheries this will affect are the Caples River and the Routeburn.

Check the DOC website for alerts under the relevant pages – eg Greenstone and Caples Conservation Area, Rees-Dart Track, and Routeburn Track. At the time of writing, these say the operation will occur during November. DOC advises they will be updated with exact dates of the operation once it is confirmed a few days beforehand.

Fish & Game licence holders may also find these useful:

Central Otago TAKF


Students from Concord School had a great time fishing on their school camp.

Ten year-six students from Concord School passed through Cromwell on their way to Queenstown for their annual school camp.
They stopped off in Cromwell and were joined by Otago Fish & Game staff to try their hand at trout fishing.
Although conditions were difficult, with the pond sporting a thick growth of water weeds, some great-conditioned fish were captured. The students harvested a couple for their dinner and had a bit of an anatomy lesson from Fish & Game staff as the fish were gutted and prepared for the table.

Fix our waterways. Be heard.

Otago Regional Council is about to hold community meetings in round 2 of consultation on its Land and Water Regional Plan.

The meetings begin on October 25.

The Land and Water Regional Plan will include rules and limits on water and land use to keep fresh waterways healthy.

Fish & Game believes we must improve the state of our waterways.

Why is it important? Our waterways support all life, among them statutorily protected sports fish and game birds, threatened native fish, and mahinga kai (food) we collect. Sports fishing and hunting contribute to our wellbeing, culture, and economy. Trout and native fish need clean water and healthy habitat. Our waters are also where people swim, earn their living, and collect clean drinking water.

Otago has just elected its regional councillors to govern and protect our waterways for the next three years. We encourage you to attend these meetings and speak up as anglers, hunters, and conservationists.

Check this calendar for when the meetings are coming to your neighbourhood.

Weekly Fishing Report

Want the latest Otago freshwater fishing info at your fingertips each week?

Otago Fish & Game will start weekly fishing reports during the fishing peak from December to February.

Sign up, and every Thursday we’ll email you the latest fishing conditions, weather and river flow info, and tips for your next fishing mission.

If you’d like to subscribe, click here to contact theOtago office using the subject line “Weekly Fishing Report”.

Tight lines, Otago Fish & Game

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