Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 28 September 2023

  • Otago
  • 28/09/2023

Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 28 September 2023

Wild wet start to the season

Expect most Otago rivers to be still carrying significant colour after record rainfall battered the lower South Island last week. Further rain is forecast for the weekend, so make sure to pack a rain coat as there are still opportunities out there for anglers willing to explore and seek clear water.

October 1 is the opening day for a selection of Otago’s fisheries. These are not limited to but include Poolburn Dam, rivers such as the Taieri, Pomahaka, Manuherikia and Shag/Waihemo, and many smaller rivers and tributaries. Most other closed fisheries above Clyde Dam will open on November 1. If you are unsure which waters will be open on October 1, click here for the South Island 2023-24 Sports Fishing Regulations.

Above: Hemi Mildon with a lovely rainbow trout caught swinging streamers on the upper Clutha River. Credit: Angus Borrell.

The Manuherekia River running high and dirty at Omakau on September 28. Credit: Ben Sowry.


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 map dots for latest river flow information. There’s a good bet you’ll need this throughout the season when selecting a suitable water to fish. There is a training video and user guide.

Road closures and warnings

Be prepared to change to Plan B or even Plan C as further forecast rain is likely to affect access and river conditions.

The Nevis Road will remain closed until October 13 due to weather damage and a land slide across the road. Central Otago District Council reports the road will be opened before this date if repair works are completed sooner.

Anglers keen to fish Lake Dunstan are being urged to remain cautious if seeking to use their boat on the lake this weekend. Last week’s heavy rain resulted in large amounts of debris floating around Lake Dunstan, including tree stumps and large logs. This debris coupled with the discoloured lake are a dangerous mix and anglers are advised to remain extra vigilant and travel at slow speeds if attempting to use the lake.


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 Designated Waters 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. 


Seeking out the still

Stillwaters offer opportunity to fish clear water when rivers are discoloured and high. Poolburn Dam offers excellent condition fish, with the average weight of brown trout being 2.3kg during our angler surveys conducted at the reservoir last season.

Another option to explore is Moke Lake, where Angus from Hunting & Fishing Queenstown has been having some success. Angus recommends soft baiting along the edges and drop-offs. Angus was using a 1/16th jig head paired with a mudblood-coloured Baitjunkie 2.5-inch soft bait.  Other stillwater options include Mathias Dam, Hamiltons Dam, Southern Reservoir as well as the large Southern Lakes (Hāwea, Wānaka and Wakatipu).

Ben Laverack with an energetic brown trout caught casting softbaits off a drift boat on Lake Moke. Credit: Angus Clareburt.

Recent rain refreshing the upper Clutha

Mark from Southern Wild Wānaka reports that the recent rain has refreshed the upper Clutha River.

The heavy flow has dislodged a significant amount of the lake snow (Lindavia intermedia), which was previously fouling anglers’ equipment. The increased river level has also attracted fish back into nice holding water along the edges, making them easier to access for anglers. Mark recommends targeting these fish using dark natural-coloured lures and streamers, with black and gold being his favourite colour combination. Please note the Deans Bank section of the Upper Clutha River is closed until November 1.

Lovely-conditioned fish like this rainbow jack often fall victim to flashy streamers on the upper Clutha River. Credit: Angus Borrell.


Wonderful whitebait

Ryan from Hunting & Fishing Dunedin says anglers are having excellent days fishing the lower river mouths and rivers for trout chasing bait fish.

The lower Clutha when fishable has resulted in many excellent-conditioned fish up to the 8lb mark, Ryan says. Matching the bait fish is extremely important as the fish often refuse anything that is not the correct size or colour of the trout’s desired meal. Ryan recommends the Berkley Gulp Minnow soft bait in smelt colour, as they are the correct size, colour and shape and are scented, helping trout to detect even if the water is slightly discoloured.


Across the border

Southland Fish & Game has implemented a Voluntary Beat System on the upper Mataura in an effort to avoid overcrowding. The beat system applies upstream of Ardlussa Bridge (Keowns Bridge Rd) to its confluence with Roberts Creek above Fairlight, including the Brightwater Spring.

If you wish to read more please click this link.

If heading across the border to fish the upper Mataura River, Tim from Hunting & Fishing Central Otago recommends using specialised flies to combat the likely high and dirty water conditions. Tim’s picks include large stoneflies, dark streamers and the humble squirmy worm.


Lake Wānaka live webcam

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

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


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 are forecast to batter Dunedin on Friday and Saturday, with showers becoming widespread on Saturday. This rain will likely ensure the coastal rivers remain high and dirty. There is some good news with the weather easing and clearing for opening day on Sunday. A south-westerly pushes back in on Monday, bringing more wind and rain. The Taieri River at Outram  at the time of writing this report, had dropped to a flow of 42.45 cumecs, almost half of its peaked flow of 77 cumecs that was recorded on Sunday.

Click here for live weather updates.



Wānaka is the pick out of the weather forecasts for the region this week.  Occasional rain, clearing to fine on Friday evening, is forecast before turning to north-westerlies with a chance of a shower on Saturday morning. Opening day on Sunday is forecast to have light south-westerlies, easing in the afternoon. Some of the quick draining tributary and spring creeks may be fishable with this favourable forecast, however, double-check the waterway you intend to fish as many remain closed until November 1.

Click here for live weather updates.



Alexandra’s weather forecast is similar to Wānaka’ s with rain and wind forecast to clear on Saturday night, hopefully offering a chance for the rivers to attempt to clear. Anglers should make the most of Sunday morning before strong northerlies develop in the afternoon. Monday is forecast to develop into strong westerlies and even more rain.

Click here for live weather updates.


A rough weekend is forecast around the lower Clutha with strong westerlies until Sunday evening. Expect the Clutha and Pomahaka flows and water levels to increase as heavy rain and possibly even snow is forecast for Saturday. Sunday is the pick of the days with only light showers forecast. On Monday, shower are forecast to become more widespread and heavier, limiting anglers’ options mid-week.

At the time of writing, the Pomahaka River flow was above median flow at 25.6. cumecs.

The lower Clutha River at Balclutha was 1102.888 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.


Tight lines, 

Otago Fish & Game

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