Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 21 December 2023

  • 21/12/2023
  • Roslyn Simmonds

Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 21 December 2023

All I want for Christmas is clear skies

Long summer days are providing ample fishing opportunities no matter what type of angler you are. 

With just enough scattered rain forecast to fall throughout the Christmas and New Year period, rivers should stay in pristine condition. Combined with a lack of wind forecast it is shaping up to be an excellent summer.

Pictured: Lily Manson with a lovely brown trout that engulfed a damselfly pattern up at McAtamney’s head pond. Credit: Tim Johnson.

Green mānuka beetles and damselflies are still the pattern of choice for many fly anglers as the trout feast on the abundance of these species. Spin anglers can take advantage of these hatches by using a small bubble float.

The lakes are producing some excellent-conditioned fish. Traffic light and black-and-gold coloured Tobys and Tasmanian Devils are hot favourites when trolling. Pink is still proving successful for salmon on Lake Hāwea, says Mark from Southern Wild Wānaka.

The Otago Weekly Fishing Report will take a two-week holiday break and will restart on Thursday, January 11. Follow our Otago Fish & Game Council Facebook page to stay in touch with events and reports over the Christmas and New Year period.


Online access map

Looking for ideas where to go fishing this summer? Wanting to explore? You can view the Otago Fish & Game online access map by clicking here. Create a shortcut on your cellphone, or save to favourites, for quick easy access. Each online access point has: 

  • Location description 
  • Open season 
  • Minimum size limit 
  • Fishing methods 
  • Daily bag limit 

A dropdown menu lets you toggle on and off various waterbodies. If you want to focus on a certain fishery, just tick the one you want. You'll need internet coverage to access the maps. You can also find more access information and download pamphlets at our website here. Get planning your summer fishing missions.


Gear maintenance 

It pays to double-check your fishing gear before heading away on your summer holiday.

Don’t let your fishing be ruined by finding your nylon, braid or leadline has perished since last summer. Look out for frayed or discolouration as these often indicate a weakness. You don’t want to lose a tasty salmon or trophy trout due to gear failure. Dylan from Queenstown Hunting & Fishing urges anglers to pay extra attention to nylon tippet and fluorocarbon leaders, as these are often the weakest part of your set-up and can perish after exposure to UV.


Check, Clean, Dry

Another important aspect of summer is avoiding spreading freshwaters pest into our waterways.

Freshwater pests, including didymo, could squeeze the life out of our country’s most precious rivers and lakes. They can be spread by a single drop of water or plant fragment. You can help to protect your favourite waterways if you always check, clean, dry any gear that comes into contact with the water, between every waterway, every time. For more information, please click the link below:

Check, Clean, Dry: preventing didymo and other pests | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)


Salmon identification on Otago lakes

A Lake Hāwea salmon. Note the black mouth, forked tail and diagonal anal fin. Credit: Bruce Quirey.

Anglers often struggle to distinguish between the land-locked salmon, silver rainbow and brown trout on Otago’s large lakes (Wānaka, Hāwea Wakatipu and Dunstan).  

With different bag limits, it is important that you can distinguish between the three to avoid a regulation breach. Here are some tips:

  1. Salmon have black mouths. Trout mouths tend to be white or very pale pink.
  2. Salmon have a deeply forked tail with no spots. Brown trout have square tails with occasional spots, rainbow trout have a slightly forked or square shaped tail and are profusely spotted all over.
  3. Salmon have a diagonal anal fin with 14-20 rays. Brown trout have squared anal fins with 10-12 rays. Rainbow trout have a slight squared anal fin with 9-12 fin rays, often with a white tip.

If you are unsure of the species identification, it is encouraged that you release the fish.


Targeting the depth

Acoustic surveys conducted last summer found the highest fish densities at 20 metres depth in Lakes Wakatipu and Hāwea and 17 metres in Lake Wānaka.

The most common ways anglers to target these depths is trolling with a lead line or a downrigger. Tim from Hunting & Fishing Central Otago says to try jigging as an alternative to trolling.

Tips for jigging:

  1. Find the school of fish using your sonar/fish finder. Fish will often congregate off river mouths, dam walls or structure. 
  2. Aim to drift the boat over the school.
  3. Drop your jigs or flies down past the school. Using multi-coloured braid with marked intervals allows this to be done accurately.
  4. Gently and slowly jig the lure or flies through the school. Bites may be subtle, so strike sharply if you sense something.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

Spinning reels or bait-casting type reels are often used for jigging. Bait-casters are favoured for their ergonomic design and simplicity. Basic jigging set-up includes up to three flies attached to a line and a lead sinker to keep it on the bottom. 

Tim says swapping the lead sinker for a spinner or soft bait often increases the catch rate. However, keep in mind one of the flies must be removed as per the regulations no angler is allowed to use more than three artificial flies or spinners.


Summer compliance

Fish & Game ranging will be conducting regular compliance checks on the lakes, rivers and reservoirs over the summer holiday period. Credit: Richie Cosgrove.

Rangers will be busy this summer, so remember to carry your fishing licence on you while fishing.

Anglers can save a lot of money and time ensuring that they have a valid fishing licence. A ranger seizing your gear and issuing an offense notice is a sure way to ruin a day’s outing.

Eight people have been caught at the Southern Reservoir fishing without a licence this season. This is the most common offence detected. Another angler was caught in the Greenstone Designated Waters fishery on a day licence when in fact they needed a full-season licence and a DW endorsement. 


Buyer beware alert 

Alert notice for anyone intending to purchase a fishing licence: It has come to Fish & Game’s attention that a website is offering its services as an assistant to aid the purchase of a fishing licence.

This fish assistant website is unauthorised by Fish & Game NZ, and use of this website comes at a significantly higher cost to the user than purchasing through the Fish & Game website. There is only one authorised place to buy your Fishing Licence online: through the Fish & Game NZ website

You can also buy a licence in-store at one of our many retail outlets throughout the country. 


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:




Not a very summerly forecast for Dunedin this weekend. Northeasterlies and scattered showers are forecast to last until Christmas Day. Saturday is the pick of the days for anglers to brave the elements with the rain forecast to ease mid-morning. The wind turns to the south on Monday with rain developing on both days. The Taieri River at Outram is flowing at 4.9 cumecs. The water temperature is 19.9℃. Expect the flow to increase and the water temperature to drop with the forecasted rain and cool air temperatures.

Click here for live weather updates.



A slightly damp run into the Christmas period is forecasted for Wānaka, with scattered showers forecast from Friday to Tuesday (Boxing Day). The good news, there is a lack of wind forecast over this period, with light winds and the occasional northerlies. Rain should refresh Wānaka backcountry rivers, encouraging trout to feed.

Click here for live weather updates.



The forecast for Central Otago this weekend is variable. Saturday evening looks to be the pick of the forecast with morning showers clearing and light winds. Perfect for an evening at one of the local reservoirs. Please take care when driving the access roads as they can become greasy with rainfall. Stiff southerlies are expected on Christmas Day and might disrupt fishing plans for Boxing Day.

Click here for live weather updates.


Clutha Regional Forecast

Easterlies are forecast to develop on Friday and Saturday mornings with heavy rain a possibility. Friday is the pick of the days with the easterlies dropping in the evening allowing angling opportunities with the extended daylight hours.  Rain is forecast to develop on Sunday morning until Tuesday. Expect the Pomahaka River to rise.  The Pomahaka River is currently flowing at 5.7 cumecs.

The lower Clutha River at Balclutha is flowing at 342 cumecs and falling.

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.

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