Nelson Marlborough Backcountry Fisheries

The Nelson Marlborough Fish and Game Region manage four backcountry fisheries. Anglers wishing to fish the backcountry must hold a Backcountry Licence Endorsement in addition to their Fishing Licence to fish these waters.

Travers MapTravers River Backcountry Fishery

Open Season: 1 Oct - 30 Apr
Methods: Fly and Spin
Bag Limit: 2 (means 2 sports fish where only one may exceed 500 mm in length)
Reach: Upstream of the marked Coldwater / Lakehead DOC walking track river crossing (approximately 1 km upstream from the river's mouth where the river enters Lake Rotoiti).
Access: Access to the Travers backcountry fishery is by boat from St Arnaud to the head of the lake, or via walking tracks either side of Lake Rotoiti. It is also possible to enter into the Travers via the Upper Travers and Mt Angelus tracks. Helicopter access is not permitted.

Green: Open to all licence holders (including day licences)

Orange: Open to holders of a Backcountry Endorsement only. Please note the Backcountry Fishery extends to the head of the fishery (not in view of map).

Goulter MapGoulter River Backcountry Fishery

Open Season: 1 Oct - 30 Apr
Methods: Fly and Spin
Bag Limit: 1 (means 1 sports fish which may not exceed 400mm in length)
Reach: Upstream of the confluence with the Wairau River.
Access: The Goulter River can be accessed via Northbank Road (turn off at SH6 on the North side of the Wairau River). There is a DOC walking track alongside the river and the Goulter Track carpark is at the end of this road. It is also possible to access by crossing over the Wairau River from the Southern side of the river at the Power Generation Plant, near Lake Argyle. Helicopter access is permitted into the Goulter as long as the helicopter operator holds a DOC concession, and the open nature of the valley provides many landing options.

Upper Wairau River Backcountry FisheryUpper Wairau map

Open Season: 1 Oct - 30 Apr
Methods: Fly and Spin
Bag Limit: 2 (means 2 sports fish where only one may exceed 500 mm in length) 
Reach: Upstream of Wash Bridge, including all tributaries.
Access: Access to the Upper Wairau backcountry fishery is by vehicle off SH63 and through Rainbow Station. 

Note: there is a locked gate at Six Mile Creek and permission and key is required from Rainbow Station from 1 October until the gate is opened to the public on Boxing Day (26 December).  The Rainbow gate has been known to be open earlier, so visit the Rainbow Station website for current information on road conditions and when the gate is open:

Upper Wairau beat system

A voluntary beat system is in place for the Upper Wairau from Six Mile Creek to the Molesworth Boundary. Indicate which beat you have chosen by parking next to the appropriate sign.

Leave your intentions on your vehicle dashboard indicating whether you have gone upstream or downstream.

BEATS:Wairau River Beat System 2022

Map of all beats

Six Mile Creek to St Ronans Stream

St Ronans Stream to Hamilton River

Hamilton River to Irishmans Flat

Irishmans Flat to Shroders Creek (Old Rainbow Homestead)

Shroders Creek to Connors Creek

Connors Creek to Bridge

Bridge to Hells Gate

Hells Gate to Coldwater Creek

Coldwater Creek to Molesworth Boundary

Note: No beat system for Rainbow River and upstream of the Molesworth Boundary, normal courtesy applies.

You may fish an occupied beat behind other anglers.

Please respect this system which is designed to minimise angler contacts, otherwise future access to this fishery may be restricted.

Upper Matakitaki River Backcountry Fishery

Upper Matakitaki BC fishery map2

Open Season: 1 Oct - 30 Apr
Methods: Fly and Spin
Bag Limit: 2 (means 2 sports fish where only one may exceed 500 mm in length)
Reach: Upstream of Horse Terrace Bridge.
Access: Access to the lower reach of the backcountry fishery at Horse Terrace Bridge via Matakitaki Road.  Access to the upper section is through Mt Ella Station (via Mangles Valley/Tutaki Road South). Park at designated DOC carpark. 

Note: there is private land adjacent to the river in the lower section of the backcountry fishery, so normal permission is required by the landowner if access on private land is required.    


Fish and Game will have a strong presence in these rivers this season. Non-compliance with the new regulations is an offence under the Conservation Act and subject to a maximum fine of NZ$5,000.00.


It is expected a short web-based questionnaire will be sent to all backcountry licence holders to evaluate their backcountry experience. Please be sure you have provided your correct email address. Your email address will be confidential and is strictly for Fish and Game survey purposes only. Nelson Marlborough Fish and Game look forward to the co-operation of all anglers and your assistance to help manage this unique fishery for current and future licence holders.

Etiquette for Backcountry Anglers

nelson backcountry 1Respect fellow anglers and remember they arrived at the river with the same expectations as you.

Never ever cut in front of other anglers regardless of how desperate you are to get to the water.

If fishing solo, invite an angler you meet to fish with you or share the available water. You may both learn something.

Use a quality line which strikes a balance between strength and visibility so that fish can be landed smartly. Do not play fish excessively

When releasing fish, do so with great care and try to keep the fish in the water as much as possible.

For further information contact us