Within 10 minutes’ drive from the centre of Dunedin a variety of stillwater trout fishing can be found.  Otago Fish & Game Council have been stocking two of the Dunedin City water supply reservoirs plus one of the natural lagoons at Tomahawk with trout.  The emphasis is on providing good fishing, particularly for younger anglers, without having to travel too far from home.  All three waters are open for fishing throughout the year.  Access to fish the reservoirs is kindly by permission of the DCC.  Therefore, it is up to us, as anglers, to respect their wishes by staying out of the water and taking any rubbish with us when we leave.

Sullivans Dam

The water is set in native bush with some pine forest, near the top of the northern motorway.  At the southern end of the dam there is relatively deep water, with some shallow weedy areas near the inflow.  Being set in a narrow valley and surrounded by bush has the advantage that you can usually find a spot which is sheltered from the wind.  It is stocked with rainbow trout, and carries a limit of one fish per day.


There are two access points with a small amount of car parking at each.  Driving north up the Leith Valley Road, you will come across a gate on your right about 200m after crossing the bridge over SH1.  There is a stile over the fence next to the gate which allows foot access to the water.  If you carry on for another 200m there is a second access point which includes a short walk through the forest to the top end of the reservoir.  Please make sure you keep the gateways clear when you park your vehicle.

Southern Reservoir

This is an almost square pond with mostly deep-water habitat.  There are some shallow areas around the western bank, where trout can be spotted cruising.  Regularly mowed grass around the entire reservoir provides a great spot for picnicking, walking or taking the kids fishing.  There is a bag limit of one fish per day and it is stocked with rainbow trout, but also contains a population of brown trout that arrive through a pipe which feeds the reservoir from Silverstream.


Drive south along Kaikorai Valley Road to the end of the road island.  Turn right up Townleys Road and carry on up the hill until you come to a ‘T’ Intersection.  Turn left onto Reservoir Road, the gate to the reservoir is about 150m along on your right.  There is plenty of parking available, just make sure you leave the gateway clear.

Tomahawk Lagoon

There are two lagoons at Tomahawk but only the top lagoon is stocked with fish (refer to map).  The lagoons used to be tidal but now the top lagoon is permanently closed off from the sea.  The entire lagoon is shallow with a maximum depth of around 1.5m in some places.  Food is prolific and fish grow quickly feeding on perch fry, bullies and numerous aquatic insects.  The lack of deep water does however cause problems during the warm summers and fishing tends to be best during winter, spring and early summer.  Tomahawk Lagoon is stocked with hatchery-reared rainbow trout and also holds brown trout and perch.  The bag limit is one trout per day. There is no bag limit on perch.


Tahuna Road runs into Tomahawk Road at the top of the hill adjacent to the Anderson’s Bay cemetery.  There are two main access points.  One is directly off Tomahawk Road through the car park of the Domain Hall.  The other is found by turning left onto Oregon Street for about 30m then left again down a gravel road which leads to a playground and car park next to the water.

Watch Dunedin Trout Fishing Spots

Learn more about fishing in Dunedin reservoirs in this three-part video:


Fly Fishing

Midges, snails, corixa (water boatmen) and, particularly in Sullivans Dam, bullies make up the bulk of the trout’s diet, although from November until mid-March terrestrial insects such as cicada, blowflies and a range of green, brown and black beetles feature.  Successful nymphs are Black & Pea, Hare’s Ear, Midge Pupa and Gold Bead Hare’s Ear, sizes 12-16.  Dry Flies to try are small Adams, all year, and during the warmer months Cochbondhu, Royal Wulff and Cicada patterns are worth a try.

For Tomahawk Lagoon, you could add to that list with Hamill’s Killer and Mrs Simpson to imitate perch fry, also Woolly Buggers and Damselfly nymphs, as there are a lot of larger insects present.


Spin anglers should try small black and Gold Hexagon and Zed Spinners to attract brown trout, or brightly coloured Tasmanian Devils to interest the rainbows.  When fishing the deeper parts of Sullivans Dam or Southern Reservoir, make sure to let the lure sink for a while and vary the rate of retrieve.  Tomahawk Lagoon is very shallow, so a fast retrieve is needed to keep out of the weed.

Bait Fishing

Bait fishing is allowed at Tomahawk Lagoon and can be very successful.  Because the lagoon is very shallow and often weedy, worms, bullies are most effective when suspended beneath a float or bubble.  This is a very good way to get young children into fishing.  Bait fishing is not permitted at Sullivans Dam or Southern Reservoir due to public health concerns.

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