Weekly Fishing Report for Central South Island and North Canterbury for March 21 2024

  • 21/03/2024
  • Richie Cosgrove

Weekly Fishing Report for Central South Island and North Canterbury for March 21 2024


Dry conditions affect sockeye sightseeing

Above: Fish & Game Officer Nikki Dellaway counts spawning sockeye salmon from a Schweizer S300 helicopter at the Ahuriri River

The peak of the sockeye salmon spawning run, about 5 – 25 March each year, is a great opportunity to view nature at work — without having to travel to Alaska.

The SH8 Bridge over the Twizel River usually offers a reliable spot to view hundreds, if not thousands, of spawning sockeye salmon from a safe distance — but not so much this year.

Fish & Game Officer Nikki Dellaway undertook our annual sockeye spawning survey last week – covering several waterways in the Upper Waitaki Catchment by helicopter.   

Catchment-wide, Nikki found the usual number of sockeye in most areas but was surprised to find very few sockeye up the Twizel River – I’m sure plenty of Twizel locals who make the annual trip to the SH8 Bridge were surprised too.

From the air the reason became obvious - the dry weather conditions have caused the Twizel River to go dry in a short section - just above its confluence with the Lower Ōhau River.    

The result being that the Lower Ōhau River was wall-to-wall with sockeye with only a small number making it up the Twizel before it disconnected with the Lower Ōhau River.

Fingers crossed that the rain and snow forecast for the Main Divide early next week spreads well east and makes it to the Twizel River headwaters and restores the flow connection.

Nikki has yet to crunch the survey numbers and write the report – we’ll share the number with you when we can.

Last year’s sockeye spawning report is available here.

Have the Waitaki River sea-run salmon turned up yet?   

Waitaki River fishing near Duntroon-photo by H Stevens

Richard from Oamaru Sports and Outdoors has only heard of two sea-run salmon being caught so far this season and a few seen, indicating it’s not firing down the Waitaki, yet.

Richard is optimistic that the salmon will run in numbers when the water temperature drops as we head further into autumn.

The traditional bestselling lure for Waitaki salmon has been the 38g Zed spinner, silver with red stipe.

Richard says in modern times the salmon are smaller and he sells more 28 and 22g Zed lures, and some folk are even going down to 17 grams.

Preferred lure colour has also changed a bit too with silver and green or silver and white selling well in recent years.

With little news of salmon catches, Richard provides an alternative incentive to get out for a fish this weekend on the Waitaki – trout are in abundance!

You will catch the occasional trout on the mentioned salmon lures – but if you are targeting trout, it’s best to switch to dedicated trout lures.

Although the flow levels are unpredictable on the Waitaki River due to the electricity demands fluctuating  - the flows in the past few weekends have been good for fishing at between 200 and 300 cumecs on ECan’s flow recorder near Kurow.

When fishing the Waitaki we recommend checking the flow recorder before and during fishing when possible.

We also recommend you check out our Waitaki Access Guide here and our online angler access mapping website here for access options.   

Note from our Rangers 

Sea-run salmon anglers in the Central South Island and North Canterbury Regions Fish & Game Regions must abide by a set of sea-run salmon regulations.

For example, if you have kept a sea-run salmon you must fill in the details of the catch immediately on your bag limit card. To do this you need to carry both your sea-run salmon bag limit card and a pen.

If you have failed to fill in your card immediately then expect a Fish & Game Ranger to issue you with an offence notice and seize your salmon and equipment. 

If you need clarification on the sea-run salmon regulations please refer to the 2023/24 sports fishing regulations.

If further clarification is required, please contact us directly, phone 03 615 8400 or email csi@fishandgame.org.nz. 

Dry conditions continue

CSI Fish & Game Chief Executive relocates a brown trout to a deep pool in the Pareora / Pureora River

Unfortunately, a dry autumn is following our dry summer. Many central and eastern areas of the region are now on full irrigation restrictions and river flows are very low.

We have undertaken several salvage operations over the dry spell – relocating stranded fish to permanent water.

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

Please tell us,

  1. Exact location.
  2. How many live fish, their sizes, and species.
  3. How deep the water is in the pools - we can only efficiently recover fish using electric fishing in shin-deep water 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  

Outlook for the weekend

It’s a promising outlook for fishing this weekend.

The general forecast calls for partly cloudy and cool conditions region-wide, with the chance of a shower or two.

Dress warm and enjoy the autumn conditions.

Fly anglers should expect to encounter mayfly hatches so it's best to carry a range of mayfly imitations, both dries and CDC emergers.

Anglers can expect relatively low river flows/lake levels in general.

Notice board

Waitaki Voluntary Salmon Hatchery (WRES) – Annual General Meeting

Where: Glenavy Hall   

When: Tuesday, 26th March – 7:30pm

To find out more about the voluntary hatchery check out the website here.

Tight Lines

Rhys Adams

Central South Island Fish & Game Officer 



Waimakariri Salmon Fishing Competition

Last Saturday, a hundred anglers hit the Waimakariri River for the annual NZ Salmon Anglers Association Fishing Competition.

Eight-year-old Noah Taiulu, pictured above, caught his first ever sea-run salmon in a river at the river mouth.

His was the only salmon caught during the competition, meaning he was the trophy winner.

A third of entrants were junior licence holders, and organisers said it was a great day for fishing; the river was low and clear.

Over $6000 in spot prizes were given out at the prize giving that afternoon, attended by the entrants.

The NZ Salmon Anglers would like to thank all the local retailers that support this event with donated prizes, which makes a great event on the angling calendar.

Drift Dives

Drift dives are a valuable tool for assessing the fishery, not only for evaluating fish numbers but also the habitat that sports fish live in.

Nelson Marlborough Fish and Game supported us in this programme as we are all a new team here at North Canterbury.

This year, we drift-dived three parts of the Boyle River and one very small part of the Lewis River, some of which had never been dived before.

Because we are a new team here at North Canterbury, drift diving is one area that we are examining and assessing where we want to drift dive.

With the changes in regulations since 2020, we have prioritized rivers which need to be targeted to improve our knowledge.

The tables below show how many brown trout we counted in the rivers we dived:

Boyle River (Over the three dive sections)

Small <150mm

Medium 150mm-450mm

Large >450mm





Lewis River (Over the one dive section)

Small <150mm

Medium 150mm-450mm

Large >450mm





In the 24/25 fishing season, we aim to expand our drift dive program to better understand our region's rivers.

The team at North Canterbury would like to thank the Nelson/Marlborough region team who assisted us with these dives.

Lagrosiphon control starting at the Groynes

The Christchurch City Council is undertaking Lagarosiphon control at the Groynes children's fishing lakes.

The current proposed application dates are:

  • Tuesday 9th April ( Approximate duration all day)
  • Tuesday 16th April ( Approximate duration half day)
  • Tuesday 23rd April ( Approximate duration half day)
  • Tuesday 30th April ( Approximate duration half day)

We advise anglers to avoid the area during the central dates.

Proposed Fishing Regulations Changes

We usually conduct our regionwide regulations review on a two-year basis, and in this the intervening year, we normally only make adjustments for corrections and or clarity.

However, we are committed to successfully implementing the Designated Waters Fisheries system, so we need to continually monitor the system.

This will involve surveying Designated Waters licence holders and wider consultation around the system's effectiveness.

It will highlight if other control measures are required if the system is not achieving the desired results.

Plus, it will alert us to any instances of angling pressure displacement.

The proposed changes we would like angler feedback on are: 

1- We would like angler feedback on possible controlled fishery options in the North & South Branch of the Hurunui River Designated Waters Fisheries and any other Designated Waters or similar pressure-sensitive fisheries.

2-We would like angler feedback on suggestions and or comments on clarifying the boundary of the Upper Rakaia sea-run salmon fishery. 

3-For clarity, we are considering removing the separate entry in the regulations for Hackett’s Creek. This is because the site is not actually a gazetted location. It is a local name only and a tiny tributary of the Kowai River, which is already covered with its own regulation, which covers its tributaries, of which Hackett’s Creek is one.

Feedback needs to be emailed to ncevent@fishandgame.org.nz  by April 30, and a public meeting for anyone wishing to discuss these changes will be held at 6 pm on May 7 at the North Canterbury Fish & Game Office, 595 Johns Road.

From this consultation, a report will be collated for the Council to consider at their May 24 meeting.

Designated Waters Survey

Fish & Game Officer Harry Graham-Samson on a compliance patrol on the Hope River.

Over the next two months, North Canterbury Fish and  Game will be asking anglers to participate in a survey to assess their use of and satisfaction with the Designated Waters system.

This survey will be emailed to all anglers who purchased a Designated Waters licence for the North Canterbury region.

 Information collected during this survey will be used to inform the Designated Waters program and make the changes required to ensure we are best serving our North Canterbury anglers.


Environment Canterbury has advised us that the LII Drainage committee has informed them that weed cutting in the Ararira /LII river will commence approximately on the 25th of March 2024 and continue through until the end of April 2024. 

A barrier will be placed on the river 200m downstream of Wolfes Road boat ramp.

This work is in accordance with Environment Canterbury's consents CRC000818.1 and CRC000819.

Should you require further information please contact Murray Tyson (weed cutting operator) on 027 628 5138 or the surface water team on 347 2800.

Tight Lines

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




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