Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 18 April 2024

  • Otago
  • 18/04/2024

Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 18 April 2024

River mouth rewards

Dunedin angler Caleb Marfell had a successful weekend exploring the small tributaries that flow into the upper Clutha River/Mata-au.

Originally planning to fish the Clutha River itself, high flows prompted a change of plans. Caleb found success using a small black-and-gold soft bait paired with a 1/12th jig head in the backwaters and pools found near where these tributaries flow into the Clutha.

On his first cast, a trout attacked the soft bait, leading to an exhilarating battle across the raging Clutha. With skilled angling and a bit of luck, Caleb quickly landed the trout. Recognising its excellent condition, he decided to take it for the table.

Above: Caleb Marfell, from Dunedin, with a brown trout caught casting a dark-coloured soft bait around a river mouth on the upper Clutha River/Mata-au. Credit: Mason Court.


School holidays opportunities

Matilda Kanok making the most of her school holidays up the top of Lake Wakatipu. Credit: Jakub Kanok.

Looking for ways to entertain bored kids stuck indoors during these school holidays? Are you unsure of where to fish or eager to explore the wild?

Luckily, there are numerous locations throughout Otago where you can take the kids for a day of fishing fun.

The Fish & Game website offers a wealth of resources and materials to help anglers of all levels, whether experienced or inexperienced. You can find valuable information on fishing spots, regulations, tips for beginners, and more. It's a great resource to help plan a memorable fishing trip with the kids while also learning about responsible fishing practices.

Check out these videos and aim to upskill: ‘How to’ fish

For where to fish, click here: Where to fish Otago 

Grab yourself and the kids a licence online here


‘I can see clearly now …’

Jack Gauld and Bob Schiesser with a pair of rainbow trout caught after significant rain up the headwaters of Otago’s lakes. Credit: Jack Gauld.

Fishing in the dropping backcountry rivers has been successful for many anglers, yielding well-conditioned rainbow and brown trout.

Dylan, from Hunting & Fishing Queenstown, says although the rivers were initially running high, many have cleared swiftly, providing excellent fishing opportunities.

The clear water conditions have allowed anglers to return to traditional backcountry flies instead of relying on dirty-water patterns and streamers. Small bead-headed pheasant tail nymphs in sizes 14 and 16 have become a favourite among anglers. Many are opting for heavy tungsten bead-head flies to ensure that smaller profile flies reach the fish in higher flows.

Anglers have reported successful outings in the spring creeks and side braids during the early morning hours while waiting for the main rivers to clear. If the river still carries some colour, try using streamer, worm, or stonefly patterns to entice bites from trout.


Coalpit fish kill

Two of more than 15 dead rainbow trout observed at Coalpit Dam on Wednesday. Credit: Jayde Couper.

Fish & Game has been alerted by anglers to issues at Coalpit Dam near Naseby.

After the reports, staff visited the site and found about 15 dead rainbow trout. A spot check of the water suggested that despite low temperatures, the oxygen levels in the dam are very low. This information has been passed to the Otago Regional Council for investigation. In the meantime, we ask that anglers avoid fishing the dam to protect the remaining stressed fish population.


Lake levels

Paddock Bay, Lake Wānaka, on Sunday showing the high lake levels due to the recent rain. Photo: Mason Court

Following last week's rainfall, most of the larger lakes are now filled to the brim, if not overflowing.

At the time of writing this report, the big Southern Lakes (Wānaka, Hāwea, and Wakatipu) were almost 1 meter higher than their median levels. This surge in water levels has created excellent habitat for trout to feed in the margins and flooded areas, with some trout spotted cruising in flooded paddocks.

Bait fishing with a live worm suspended under a small bubble float can be highly effective during these floods, as worms constitute a significant part of a trout's diet during such times. Additionally, using soft baits and spinners can cover a large area and intercept cruising fish.

Fly anglers often find success using unweighted worm patterns under a small dry fly in these conditions. Ensure lures or flies aren't too heavy, as they might constantly get stuck in the grass.

Popular fishing areas during these conditions include Paddock Bay on Lake Wānaka, Bendigo Reserve on Lake Dunstan, and The Neck on Lake Hāwea.

You can check lake levels using the ORC data portal here.

More than 800 cumecs of green-grey water flows down the Clutha River/Mata-au, near Clydevale, on Monday. Credit: Jayde Couper.


Clyde Dam live webcam

A screengrab of the Clyde Dam webcam taken at the time of writing.

Want to know conditions at Clyde Dam? Check this live webcam sponsored by Contact Energy updated every 15 minutes.


Lake Wānaka live webcam

A screengrab of Lake Wānaka webcam taken at the time of writing.

Want to know conditions at Lake Wānaka? Check this live webcam from the Wānaka water sports facility.


Here’s the weekend outlook:


Rain showers and south-westerlies are forecast to develop on Friday morning before clearing late afternoon. Early cloud cover is forecast to clear on Saturday morning with light winds also forecast. Saturday is shaping up to be an excellent day for fishing.  Sunday is forecast for overcast conditions and light south-westerly winds.

The Taieri River at Outram was flowing at 7.8 cumecs. The water temperature was 10.1 degrees C.

Click here for live weather updates.



Saturday morning stands out as the prime time of the weekend to venture out and target those dropping rivers. The forecast promises light winds and clear skies, creating optimal conditions for fishing. Cloud cover is expected to build in the late afternoon, potentially limiting sight fishing. Overcast conditions are forecasted to continue through Sunday.

The calm weather over the weekend also presents a great opportunity to head out onto the lakes and target some excellently conditioned autumn fish. Focus on steep drop-offs and river mouths for the best chances of success.

Click here for live weather updates.



Alexandra stands out as the prime location in the region this weekend, boasting excellent conditions from Saturday to Tuesday. Expect clear skies and light winds over the weekend, making it perfect for a trip to Poolburn Reservoir before its seasonal closure on April 30. Light rain on Friday could make access tracks greasy, so take care while traveling.

Click here for live weather updates.


Clutha Regional Forecast

The Lower Clutha region can expect a mixed weather pattern in the coming days. Rain is forecast to develop on Friday morning, gradually easing by the evening. Saturday is expected to be clear initially, with westerly winds picking up in the evening. On Sunday, showers and stiff westerly winds are forecasted, creating a more challenging time for fishing.

The Pomahaka River was flowing at 18 cumecs at the time of writing, still dropping from a high of 93 cumecs last Friday.  

The lower Clutha River at Balclutha was flowing at 770 cumecs and is carrying significant colour from the Kawarau confluence through to the mouth. (See photo in report)

Click here for live weather updates.


Getting started

Need a fishing licence? Go online here, and let the angling adventures begin.


Got any Otago fishing news?

Send your fishing news and photos (with anglers’ names) to otago@fishandgame.org.nz for consideration in the weekly report.  If photographing a fish to be released, hold the fish over water and make it quick – the fish should not be out of the water for more than five seconds.


Tight lines, 

Otago Fish & Game


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