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Southern Lakes Salmon Fishing

General Tips

The most common fault is fishing in water too deep or with equipment that is not capable of fishing close to the bottom.

The golden rule is that the lure needs to be close to the bottom (within 1.2 metres). Select the depth you want to target and troll along the lake drop-off following this depth contour.

An echo sounder or fish finder makes a huge difference. If it shows the depth increasing then turn towards the shore. Similarly if the depth is decreasing turn out into the lake.

How Deep Am I Fishing?

Trolling with a standard threadline and lure

Using this method your lure will reach a maximum depth of about 2-3 metres. Following our first tip which says the lure should be winthin 2 metres of the bottom, for best success this method should only be employed in water up to 5 metres deep.


Again harling is a shallow water method and is best used in water less than 5 metres deep.


Anglers fishing with leadlines generally think they are getting a lot deeper than they actually are. Each colour on the leadline represents 10 yards. Generally, with 10 colours out in the water (100 yards of leadline) your lure will be 10-12m deep (depending on speed of trolling). Putting 20 colours (20 yards) out will only put your lure a further 5m deep. Leadlines are only truly effective to about 20 metres depth.


A downrigger is the only moving method that allows you to fish at depths greater than 20m accurately. Most downriggers come with about 40 metres of wire on the spool.


Jigging is rarely used down this end of the country, but it is becoming more popular on North Island lakes and is proving successful under certain conditions. Jigging can effectively fish down to about 40m. After this you lose touch with your lure and miss strikes. Jigging is particularly successful on land-locked salmon when they are schooling near the dam end of Lake Hawea.

Other Factors

Trolling Speed

Other than harling, which is done as slowly as you can possibly go, the ideal speed for all trolling is around 1.4-1.9 knots. If you are unsure of the speed to go trail you lure close to the boat and adjust your speed until you get the maximum action/movement of the particular lure. A lot of people tend to troll too slow, which makes the lure drag lifelessly through the water.

Time of the day is important

Fishing at the change of light (dawn or dusk) is the most productive time of the day, fish tend to move from deeper to shallower water and feed actively. Methods that fish closer to the surface such as harling and threadline trolling are often most successful around the change of light at each end of the day.

Weather effects on the fishing

Fishing is generally better on a dull day with some breeze than in flat calm sunny weather. If the weather is bright and calm, deeper fishing methods such as leadlining, jigging or downrigging are often more productive.

Releasing fish so they survive

If you wish to release a fish with a good chance of survival, a net is invaluable. Ensure the fish is not out of the water for more than a few seconds. Hook removing pliers are efficient and safer! Never touch the fish’s gills. The fish will stay calmer if you hold them upside down while removing hooks and don’t squeeze. Never throw fish back overboard. Once the hook is removed you may need to hold the fish upright alongside the boat for a few minutes until it regains energy and swims away by itself.

Angling Manner on the Lake

Anglers trolling or harling may have up to 200m of line trailing behind their boat. Give them plenty of room before cutting across behind them or you may cut their lines.

Try to ‘go with the flow’ which is usually to troll parallel to the shore rather than at right angles to everyone else.

When you meet another boat head on, leave them room to maneuver. Skilled skippers will be trolling their lures close to the bottom and will be unable to turn to shallower water without snagging their lines.

Give shore anglers plenty of room. Remember, you have the whole lake at your disposal while they have far more limited area to fish. The regulations say you can’t fish within 100m of a shore-based angler. Give them at least that much room if not more.

Top 10 Quick Tips For Success

  1. Familiarise yourself with the area first.
  2. Start in deep water and then move to the fishing area after the trolling gear is out.
  3. Drop-offs, river and stream deltas and edges are prime areas to fish.
  4. Sudden changes in lake bed shape, such as points of holes, tend to concentrate fish.
  5. Use the sounder and landmarks to stay at the chosen depth and to plan ahead your trolling path.
  6. Match trace length and weight to water clarity - the clearer the water the longer, and lighter the trace.
  7. The best strike zone is within 2 m of the bottom.
  8. Vary trolling speed and direction.
  9. When a trout if hooked, slow the boat and only stop when the fish is under control.
  10. Re-fish area where you have hooked or caught trout as they travel in groups.