Reel Life September 2023

  • Otago
  • 18/09/2023

Above right: Scale up your tactics in dirty water with dark, heavily-weighted streamers or lures. 

The final countdown

The wait is almost over.

Otago lowland waters open on Sunday, October 1, for the beginning of the 2023-24 season.

Opening rivers include the Taieri, Pomahaka, and Shag/Waihemo and many smaller rivers and tributaries.

In case anyone hadn’t noticed, Otago’s final countdown to the season is damp.

The heaviest rain seems to have missed the upper Taieri, and the oxbows could be a good opening-season option.

Credit: MetService

At the time of writing, flood warning alerts applied to the Pomahaka and Clutha/Mata-au rivers. The MetService charts are a tapestry of rainfall.

The good news is there’s a week for the weather system to pass and rivers may start to settle.

Not sure which waters will be open on October 1? Click here for the South Island 2023-24 Sports Fishing Regulations.

Fishing rivers after heavy rain

  • If rivers are dirty, look for clearer tributaries where fish might be holding out.
  • In big rivers at high flows, the trout will seek shelter around permanent hard structures like large rocks, logs and undercut.
  • Bait will concentrate in eddies and edges.
  • In coastal zones, run-in tides will bring clearer influxes.

Be still …

Stillwaters are often clearer than rivers after rain. Here are some ideas:

  • Mathias Dam
  • Poolburn Dam
  • Hamiltons Dam (Hamilton Diggings Rd)
  • Coal Pit Dam
  • Southern Reservoir (closed September)

Note, because of lambing, Rutherfords, Blakeys, McAtamneys Head Pond, and Hores Control Pond remain closed until November 1. 

Lures for dirty water

  • Choose heavier, larger lures to get down to fish.
  • Dark colours with flash, such as black and gold, provide good profile and attraction.
  • For soft baits, use heavy jig-heads to hold deeper in the current, and good tail action, such as paddle tails and curl tails.
  • Fly fishers should try dark, weighted streamers, or large nymph patterns below strike indicators.

For a week-ahead forecast, check out the MetService Dunedin – 7 days outlook or

High-country waters remain closed until November 1, which is a good thing anyway as most are blown out for now. Flood alert warnings apply to the Matukituki and Shotover.

New environmental data portal

Credit: Otago Regional Council Environmental Data Portal

Save the ORC Environmental Data Portal link to your favourites and click on the dots for latest river flow information. There’s a good bet you’ll need it next weekend. There is a training video and user guide.

Designated Waters

This 2023-24 season Fish & Game has introduced the Designated Waters Licence to replace the Backcountry Endorsement. If you want to fish these waters, you require a valid Designated Waters Licence in addition to your whole season Fishing Licence.  There are nine Otago Designated Waters Fisheries. Two of these DW fisheries open on October 1:

  • Upper Pomahaka River (upstream of Hukerere Station Bridge)
  • Nevis River

Click for more details about Otago Designated Waters Fisheries.

Please show respect and consideration towards fellow anglers while sharing the river to ensure positive fishing experience for everyone. 

Don’t have your licence yet?

Drop into your local agent or simply click here: 

Weekly fishing report

The Otago weekly fishing report starts back on September 28. Click here to subscribe and the weekly report will be emailed to your inbox with up-to-date fishing conditions, weather and river flow information to help you improve your catch rate. Previous reports can be read in the Fishing News on our website.

New magazine

Don’t miss the latest issue of Fish & Game magazine. Issue 57 is packed full of interesting articles and photos to inspire you to get out into the wild, help you catch more fish, harvest some wild kai, and better understand the work of Fish & Game to improve habitat for trout and salmon. The magazine has been mailed to full-season licence holders from the previous season. Anyone can read it online by clicking here

Want more info? Check out these links or contact our helpful Otago team.

Tight lines,

The team from Otago Fish & Game

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