Second only in flow to the mighty Clutha River to the south, the Waitaki is widely recognised for its annual salmon run and its big water trout fishing.
The Waitaki River is popular for trout and salmon angling and was ranked as the 6th most fished river in New Zealand in the 2014-2015 National Angling Survey.
The fishery as we know it today was established in the 1930’s by the construction of the Waitaki Dam which separated the lower 65km of river from the greater Waitaki Catchment.
A review of angler access in 2019 produced a Waitaki River angler access pamphlet that lists 35 access options on the Waitaki.
This access pamphlet is your best source of information for planning your fishing trips.
The river has a formidable flow and can be a challenge to access and fish.
A healthy population of brown and rainbow trout awaits any angler willing to take that challenge and if the conditions are right some truly phenomenal fishing can be experienced.
The key to successful fishing on the Waitaki River is knowing the flow.
A flow recorder located at Kurow can be viewed on the Environment Canterbury “River Flow data” Website.
Many anglers use this to gauge the fishability of the river.
In general, flows under 300 cumecs are best, flows between 300 and 350 Cumecs offer good opportunity and flow over 400 cumecs are considered unsuitable in the lower river.
The upper river around Kurow offers the best options in flows over 350 cumecs and should be the starting point for any angler exploring the Waitaki for the first time.
The Waitaki River is a popular jet boating river, the only permanently constructed ramp is located at Kurow on the island between the northern and southern braids.
Launching is also popular at Bells Ponds access (Ross Road), Te Maiharoa Rd and Duntroon.
Depending on river conditions other launching options are possible at several access points.
Popular access points
There are 35 access options on the Waitaki to explore and you can find all these options within the Waitaki angler access pamphlet.
A summary of the most popular access points is listed below.
Access to the river mouth may be gained from either the north or south sides.
From Glenavy SH1, Fisheries Road leads to Waitaki Huts carpark overlooking the river mouth.
To reach the beach is either a long walk around the lagoon or a short trip across it by dinghy.
On the south side, and about 1.5km south from Waitaki Bridge, Kaik Road leads to the Kaik Mouth Motor Camp and carpark at the coast; a short walk along the beach to fishable water.
North Bank – Waitaki Bridge/Glenavy to Waitaki Dam
Access is available at the SH1 Bridge and just upstream at Te Maiharoa Road. Travelling west along the north bank to Kurow via the Glenavy-Tawai Road the river is accessible from Ferry Road (5.5km).
Following along Old Ferry Road and then after about 1km, along the Tawai-Ikawai Road, the river may be accessed at Ross Road, commonly referred to as Bells Pond.
From Ross Road Junction it is 7.2km to SH82. A further 6.8km along SH82 brings you to the Stone wall where the road meets the river.
A further 5.5km along is an access point marked only by a signposted farm gate and a short drive through a paddock to the river side willows.
This is 4X4 access only as a small spring must be forded. Near Kurow the Waitaki River can be reached by walking 700m down the Hakataramea River to the mouth.
Drive through the Hakataramea township to continue along Old Slip Road where after two gates the road ends at the river’s edge.
Twin Bridges, joining Hakataramea and Kurow townships provides angler access upstream and downstream on ‘Kurow Island’.
South Bank Access – Waitaki Dam to Waitaki Bridge/Glenavy
Upstream from Kurow the best access is via the Awakino Riverbed, 4km from Kurow.
Proceeding downstream from Kurow along SH83, the river may be accessed at Otiake River (west side, 8km from Kurow), Otekaike River (east side, 12.5km), Duntroon (west side of Maerewhenua River, 22km), and at Bortons Pond (31km).
Between Bortons Pond and the mouth, Ferry Rd and SH1 Bridge are the most used access points.