Weekly Fishing report for Central South Island and North Canterbury - 11 Jan 2024

  • Central South Island North Canterbury
  • 11/01/2024

Weekly Fishing report for Central South Island and North Canterbury - 11 Jan 2024

Above: The Thelning Family out fishing on Lake Aviemore-Photo by Rhys Adams

Central South Island Report

Waitaki Lakes Fishing Well

The Waitaki lakes, especially Benmore and Aviemore have been providing excellent fishing for holiday goers.

One angler with 45 consecutive years of experience fishing Lake Aviemore claimed that the fishing this summer is the best he has ever had.

At Lake Benmore, the trout are in fantastic condition. Although most trout have been feasting on snails, they have been diverting their attention to trolled lures like tassies, Kobras, tobies — you name it.

There have been many big trout caught too.

One angler who fishes pretty much every day through the holiday period said he had caught 20 trout that were five pounds or bigger during the holidays.

Matthew Heaven caught this well-conditioned rainbow trout on a Blue Fox Vibrax lure spin fishing from a boat in the shallows at Lake Benmore' Photo by Rhys Adams

It’s not just trout biting lures at Benmore, both sockeye and chinook salmon have been regularly caught – see article further on for sockeye news.

Chinook salmon from 1.5 to six pounds have been taken – the trick with targeting Chinook, like sockeye, is to fish deep to find cooler water.

As a rule of thumb, get out on the water nice and early in the mornings on those hot sunny days.

Target the shallower water first and then by about 11 am move out to deeper water as surface water temperatures get above 19°C.   

CSI Fish & Game’s activities over the holiday period

Between barbeques, fishing trips and family time our staff and honorary rangers have been active over the holiday period checking in on the success and legal requirements of anglers.

We have focussed ranging efforts at river mouths, canals (day and night) and a few other popular spots.

Rangers approaching a boat angler to perform a licence and regulations check at Ahuriri Arm, Lake Benmore- photo by Rhys Adams

We have also been boat-ranging out on Lakes Benmore and Aviemore.

It has been great to find high levels of compliance with licencing and regulations.

Unfortunately, however, we have encountered a small number of anglers fishing without licences most notably at Lake Benmore, the canals and Lake Alexandrina.

We have also encountered a small number of anglers fishing the canals using illegal bait, namely cut-up pieces of fish.

Please note when using fish for bait the fish must be whole and fully intact.

Unfortunately, it’s a very dry summer in some corners of the region and a few small rivers and streams are drying up.

We were alerted to the Twizel River drying up above Lake Poaka recently.

We investigated and managed to relocate 45 trout to permanent water nearby.   

If you report a fish stranding to us there are some key pieces of information we are after as we triage the urgency to attend versus other important work at hand.

  1. Exact location.
  2. How many live fish, their sizes, and species.
  3. How deep the water is in the pools (we can only recover using electric fishing in knee-deep or less).
  4. Is there water flowing into the pool where they are stranded?

Contact us at our Temuka Office, phone - 03 615 8400 or email - csi@fishandgame.org.nz  

Sockeye Salmon fishing peaking

Isabella Hanning caught this 370mm sockeye salmon at Lake Benmore from the shore.

Sockeye salmon have been a regular catch at Lake Benmore over the holiday season and their size is relatively large.

It’s the peak of the sockeye fishing season right now so get stuck into them this January while they are prime table fare.

Sockeyes are commonly around 320 - 380mm this season at Lake Benmore.

In recent seasons they have rarely exceeded 320mm.

By Early February they stop eating and start to colour up for spawning. From late February through to late March the run the rivers and streams to spawning.

Most sockeye are being caught while trolling at depth with the help of lead lines, down riggers or paravanes and traditional trout lures. 

Watch this video for tips on how to target sockeye.

Sockeye fishing isn’t just for boaties, though, as sockeye will school around the Benmore Dam during December and January and be within the reach of shoreline anglers.

In fact, the phenomenon of sockeye schooling around dams became quite evident during the holidays as many sockeye migrated down from Lake Pūkaki into the Pūkaki Canal through the control gate/intake.

The result of the “turbulent ride’ through the intake with high water pressures and concrete structures meant some sockeye were damaged and were seen floating down the canal.

I witnessed this at the same time last year too.

Many would have survived too, so don’t be surprised to catch a sockeye in the Pūkaki - Ōhau A Canal sometime soon.

This highlights how the canals are naturally stocked through the downstream migration of fish from their headwater lakes Tekapo / Takapō, Pūkaki and Ōhau through the power scheme infrastructure and into the canals. 

Outlook for the weekend

For the low country, the summery dry and hot conditions continue for the weekend.

I recommend Focussing your efforts in the morning while water temperatures are less than 19 degrees.

Near the main divide, rain will set in on Saturday Night and through Sunday so rivers like the Ahuriri and Rangitata / Rakitata may rise in flow on Sunday.

High country areas like Twizel are forecast to receive some much-needed rain on Sunday if the Northwest front is strong enough to extend eastward from the main divide. Here’s hoping the rain does eventuate as the fire risk is high.  

Tight Lines

Rhys Adams

Central South Island Fish & Game Officer


North Canterbury Report

Matthew Garrick with this lovely rainbow trout from Lake Coleridge.

The North Canterbury team have been out and about throughout the region during the holiday season doing compliance checks, and it has been awesome seeing anglers out enjoying the angling opportunities we have here.

We’ve seen anglers making the most of the holiday period getting out on the water fishing, whether trolling the lakes with the family or stalking trout up a backcountry stream.

Everyone (so far) has been compliant, which is great to see! 

January is an excellent month for fishing as the cicadas are starting to get active. 

For the fly angler, this is an exciting time as fishing for trout with cicada pattern flies is very exciting seeing a trout rise and chomping on your fly that you have presented in front of them. 

With it being the peak of summer and water temperatures rising due to the hot/warm days we are getting, the fish will change their behaviours so at this time of year they tend to feed a lot earlier and later in the day. 

To increase your chances of catching I would suggest either getting up before sunrise and fishing for the first few hours of daylight when the fish are in shallower water. 

As the day heats up they will drop into deeper water and then they come back into the shallower water later in the day as the temperatures get cooler. 

Trolling Tips

After seeing and observing anglers trolling on our lakes with their powerboats, the first thing we often notice is that a lot of boats are trolling too fast. 

They are trying to troll off their main motor instead of using either an auxiliary or electric motor, this will make your chances of a successful catch a lot less as trout are not marlin! 

In our opinion, the ideal trolling speed is 3-3.5kph depending on the conditions.  

For those new to trolling, you can watch our video here that covers off lake trolling. 

Salmon news 

The Hurunui River mouth on the Outdoor Access website

On the salmon fishing front, it has been a bit quiet as these warm water temperatures won’t be helping our cause. 

But be patient as we are sure there will be a good pulse of fish coming into the river soon and we would love to see any photos of any salmon catches.  

We have been out on the rivers checking salmon anglers, we even captured a ranging team on the Outdoor Access live webcam on Wednesday when they were checking the Hurunui River mouth. 

The Outdoor Access cameras are a great tool for helping you decide when and where to go fishing. 

Also, a big reminder to have your sea-run salmon harvest card on you when salmon fishing, plus a means to fill out the card immediately you harvest a fish. 

Rangers checking salmon anglers on the Hurunui River

If you don’t have your card on you, don’t be surprised when the ranger writes you out an offence notice. 

Rakaia Salmon Competition  

It’s coming up that time of year when the annual Rakaia River Salmon Fishing Competition is held on 23-25 February. 

The Rakaia Salmon competition is one of the biggest freshwater fishing competitions in the country. 

Often many people enter the competition just for the daily prize draws as it is often more of a celebration of fishing at the Rakaia Community Centre each night with some fantastic prizes on offer. 

Anglers often ask us how Fish & Game can support the competition when the salmon fishery is in recovery mode? 

Simply the introduction of the two fish season bag limit means that as anglers can only catch two fish, harvesting them during a competition makes minimal impact on overall harvest as anglers can still only harvest two fish per season. 

Rangers will be out in numbers during the competition after five offenders were detected on the Rakaia River last year and dealt with through the District Court process. 

Griggs Road Anglers Access point 

Anglers have been in touch about the locked gate at the Griggs Road Angler Access point on the Rakaia River. 

The existing landowner is happy for anglers to access the river on foot, but the gate is locked in an effort to prevent the illegal harvesting of trees which has been occurring in the forestry block. 

For those that are unaware the vehicle track largely goes through private land and doesn’t follow the paper road for most of its length.

The new landowner that takes possession in April intends to fence off the paper road from the forestry block. 

This is because they intend to run a business in the forest there, so tidying up the angler access will help keep that separate from the business and hence their efforts to prevent the trees from being illegally harvested. 

New data from Fish & Game New Zealand shows that North Canterbury anglers stay close to home     

The 2021-2022 National Angler Survey conducted by Niwa for Fish & Game has just been released.        

With some of the best fishing options in the country, this survey shows that North Canterbury anglers really know their area is the pick of the bunch.  

86% of angling effort on waterbodies in North Canterbury was attributed to North Canterbury anglers; 14% to anglers from other regions.

The survey, conducted every seven years, records angling activity for all lake, river and canal fisheries managed by Fish & Game and collects data on the number of angling days (one angler fishing on one day, irrespective of the number of hours spent fishing).

Some 15,000 people were surveyed from December 2021 to October 2022.  

Tight Lines 

Richie Cosgrove & Harry Graham-Samson, North Canterbury Fish & Game

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