Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 27 April 2023

  • Otago
  • 27/04/2023

Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 27 April 2023

Above: Seven novice female fly anglers and seven fishing guides threw everything they could at trout during the Casting for Recovery weekend retreat at Makarora. The Makarora River is one of Otago’s high-country tributaries that remain open for fishing through to the end of May. Credit: Bruce Quirey.

Final weekly report until next season

Whether you're a seasoned angler or a beginner, this weekend is a great time to get out and enjoy some fishing, with clear skies and light winds forecast across the region. Mayfly hatches as well as the salmon and brown trout spawning runs will ensure there is still plenty of action to be had.

Rivers will start to drop and clear after mid-week rain, providing great opportunities for anglers. The cool, oxygenated water will likely lead to increased feeding activity among fish before spawning.

As many Otago rivers will be closing for the season this Sunday, April 30, the Otago weekly fishing report will be taking a break until the start of the next season.

Poolburn rock marking

Otago Fish & Game have joined forces with the team at ORC Harbourmaster and taken advantage of Poolburn’s low water level, to make the dam safer. The team marked a few of the worst offending rocks, by attaching bright red buoys. Skippers need to note that only SOME of the rocks are marked with red buoys. There are many more unmarked in the lake, especially near the shore. Extreme caution is still needed when operating watercraft on this hazardous lake to avoid running aground.

As cell phone service is very limited here, those who are operating vessels in the lake need to make sure they have other communication methods, such as EPIRBs, PLBs, radio and flares in the event of a boating accident.

Trout are starting to congregate at the stream mouths for spawning. As the lake and stream levels are low, fish haven’t moved upstream yet. Many of the bays are experiencing good midge hatches on warm calm days, with anglers having success with fine leaders and midge pupa flies. Trolling, harling and livebait fishing with worms are successful on this reservoir too. The fishing season for Poolburn closes this Sunday, April 30.

Steve Dixon of F&G Otago looks on while the Otago harbour master secures a buoy to one of Poolburn rocks which is often submerged during high lake levels. Credit: Ben Sowry.

Intercepting the run

With brown trout making their way into the river to spawn now is an excellent time to target a trophy in the lower sections of the rivers.

Recent rain often encourages fish to move up into these systems and can make for some excellent fishing. Dylan from Hunting & Fishing Queenstown recommends being adaptable when targeting these fish. If the river is running clear, standard nymphs such as pheasant tails variants in size 16 & 18 can be effective. If the river is high and carrying colour, break out the streamer or soft baits. Dylan encourages anglers to fish both streamers and soft baits the same way, by casting upriver, swinging across the current then retrieving up the edges.

Trophy-sized brown trout like this one often move out of the lakes and into the lower section of the river before spawning, providing an excellent opportunity for anglers. Credit: Mason Court. 

River mouth rainbows

Reports from local anglers indicate that rainbow trout are being caught in good numbers and are in excellent condition at drop-offs at river mouths in Lake Wānaka.

Nick from Southern Wild Wānaka recommends using dark-coloured soft baits for best results. Nick had success over the weekend using the Daiwa Bait Junkie in black. While he didn't manage to catch any of the larger brown trout on their spawning run, he believes that persistence is key, as outsmarting the hungry rainbows can be half the battle. Ensure the soft bait is correctly weighted and is reaching the bottom to get more bites.

Safety first

As we approach winter, more anglers fish around river mouths, so it’s important that everyone stays safe in these hazardous areas.

When fishing at a river mouth, anglers should take the following precautions:

  • Wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD).
  • Be aware of the currents and flow conditions in the area. These can change quickly and can be very strong.
  • Stay alert.
  • Use caution when walking on slippery rocks or sandbars.
  • A walking pole or stick can be of great assistance.
  • Carry a whistle or other signalling device to call for help if needed.
  • Fish with a buddy, if possible.

Stretch it out

Take advantage to fish on many of the main rivers before they close on Sunday, says Tim from Hunting & Fishing Central Otago.  

  • Be prepared to put in longs casts with light, long leaders’  to maximise the chances of success.
  • Take extra care when approaching late season fish as they can be very spooky.
  • Don’t be afraid to drop down a fly size and add an extra foot or two to your leader length.
  • Check out the Fish & Game regulation booklet when seeking out fishing locations as there are still back country options available until the end of May.

A brown trout suspended in a large pool on the Makarora River. The crystal-clear water often makes it challenging to get a cast to the fish without spooking it. Credit: James Harris.

Get out and explore

Todd from Dunedin Hunting & Fishing urges anglers to get out and explore this last weekend before many of the rivers around Dunedin close.

Todd says anglers are having success on Deep Stream with fish most often falling to small gold-beaded nymphs or black-and-gold soft baits.

Lake Mahinerangi is worth a look as there has been reports of good-conditioned fish smashing midge patterns. These fish aren’t huge, but provide some excellent entertainment and make great eating.  

Winter angling

For hardy anglers willing to brave the frosts, several fishing locations are open year-round in Otago.

These include lakes Wanaka, Wakatipu, Hāwea and Dunstan. The Clutha River/Mata-Au, apart from Deans Bank section, is also open year-around. The Clutha/Mata-Au and Kawarau rivers have good trout winter runs. For the first time, the Manuherekia River below Shaky Bridge (Kerry Road) will be open during winter. The lower reaches of many coastal rivers are also open year-round. 

Winter licences

An adult winter licence is 40% less than the price of a whole season licence and is valid from April 1 to September 30.

They are available at the usual licence agents or online by clicking here.  

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.

Here’s the weekend outlook:


Westerly winds turn to light northerlies on Friday night, making for an excellent forecast for Dunedin this weekend. Anglers should make the most of the calm, still evenings if chasing hatches. Warm, calm conditions should assist in clearing the rivers from the mid-week rain, making for some excellent opportunities. The Taieri River at Outram at the time of writing was flowing at 34.6 cumecs and dropping towards median levels. The water temperature was 8.4 degrees.

Click here for live weather updates.


Wānaka much like the rest of the region has been treated to a favourable forecast this weekend with light north-westerlies and clear skies forecast.  Lake edges and river mouth will be hotspots before the rivers clear allowing anglers to take advantage of still, warm days. Don’t be afraid to dust off the waders as the water temperatures and air temperatures are flirting with single digits. Light showers are forecasted to move in mid-morning Monday.

Click here for live weather updates.


Alexandra is the pick of this weekend forecast within Otago, with stunning sunshine forecast to last Friday to Monday. Light variable winds and warm air temperatures in the afternoons will help hatches. The forecast is perfect for those anglers wanting to fish the rivers and reservoirs closing this weekend. Frost is forecast for over the weekend so wrap up warm and take extra care driving.

Click here for live weather updates.

Clutha Regional Forecast

Another pleasant forecast for the Clutha region this week. Saturday and Sunday are forecast to be stunning days with light variable winds and clear skies. The Pomahaka and the Clutha are running high, likely due to mid-week rain. Expect the flow to decrease over the coming days for some excellent fishing on Saturday and Sunday.

At the time of writing, the Pomahaka River flow was above median flow at 37.0 cumecs.

The lower Clutha River at Balclutha was 713.3 cumecs.

Click here for live weather updates.

For more ORC water monitoring and alerts information click here.

Grab your licence online and let the angling adventures begin.

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