Lake Hawea is the most northerly of Otago’s glacial lakes, it is 35 kms long, covers 124 square km, lies at an altitude of 320 metres and is nearly 400 metres at its deepest.
The Hunter River is the largest inflowing tributary with two other significant tributaries the Dingle Burn and Timaru River joining the lake from the East.
The lake is named after the early inhabitants of the district, the Hawea sub-tribe which was an offshoot of the Waitahas and, more laterly of the Ngati Mamoes, although there may be differing interpretations of this.
In 1958 a control structure for hydro-electric purposes was commissioned at the lake’s outlet raising the lake by 18 metres. The lake continues to be controlled as hydro storage for power stations further down the Clutha River.
Lake Hawea is located off State Highway 6 a comfortable 15 minutes drive north of Wanaka. This highway follows the Western Shoreline of the lake to the neck, then crosses to the upper eastern shoreline of Lake Wanaka and continues to Makarora and the West Coast. At the southern end of the lake a road across the control structure leads to the Hawea Township then branches to the small settlement of Gladstone, following the lake to Timaru Creek.
Good access to the Western shoreline of the lake is provided off State Highway 6 and by taking the gravel road at The Neck that leads to the Kidds Bush Recreation Reserve. In the other direction past the Hawea Township access is available to the southern end of the Lake and heading north to the Timaru River Delta. A short distance past this point the road becomes private and access by 4-wheel drive is at the discretion of the Dingle Burn Station owners. The top of the lake and the Hunter River is accessed mainly by boat, but 4-wheel drive access is possible with permission of the Hunter Valley Station owners.
The only formed boat ramp is at the southern end of the lake through the Lake Hawea Holiday Park entrance. Four wheel drive boat-launching sites are situated at the Neck and Kidds Bush.
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Lake Hawea is a relatively easy lake to fish for anglers of all abilities, with many regarding it as the best freshwater sportsfishery in the South Island. Rainbow trout make up 60% of the total catch with Chinook salmon 29% and brown trout 11%. The most popular method is trolling, which accounts for nearly 70% of the total angling effort with an average catch rate of 1 fish for every 2 hours of angling. However, spinning provides the best catch rate and is particularly productive in spring and early summer when land-locked chinook salmon congregate at the south end of the lake.
The Hunter River Delta is a highly productive zone that always holds good fish numbers. This area can be fished in many ways, from wading the shallows and casting a fly or spinner to cruising fish, to carefully navigating the numerous river channels and weedbeds with a harled fly or trolled lure. Brighter coloured lures should be used if the water is discoloured. Bait anglers could do very well exploring this area.
Further down the lake most of the shoreline and dropoff area is worth trolling, but boaties should be alert to the semi-submerged trees that are especially difficult to see in dull conditions. These underwater forests do however provide good foraging and hiding areas for large fish, which will often feed on the surface during the summer months. The numerous small tributary inflows of this area are also ideal places to find resting and feeding fish. Whitebait imitations work well at this end of the lake in the autumn.
The Dingle Burn River Delta is a favoured spot for many providing good wading and stalking opportunities. The dropoff near the middle of the lake has a reputation for holding large rainbow trout which are available to deep trolling and downrigging techniques year-round. Nearby, Dingle Bay is a great spot for the family picnic being nicely sheltered from the prevailing northerly weather. Large fish are known to lurk beneath the Dingle Bluffs and these can also be targeted with leadlines or downriggers.
The Neck regularly produces fish and is often calmer than the main lake. Browns can be targeted over the weed beds at the end of this arm and near the mouth of Neck Ck, whilst rainbows and salmon can turn up anywhere. Angling for salmon is very productive during the spring. Salmon tend to travel and feed in schools so once you strike one keep fishing the same area, as there will be more. Bait anglers have a good selection of water to fish, from the Deep water beneath Halls Face to the productive shallows on the opposite side of the Neck.
The Timaru River Delta provides plenty of scope for boat and shore anglers. This is a very popular trolling area and a good place to fish during the spring, when large numbers of rainbows gather at the river entrance. Shore anglers should take extra care due to the large beds of quicksand that are exposed when the lake is drawn down. Take plenty of insect repellent, the sandflies are legendary!
The Southern End of the lake is an ideal spot for evening trollers being a short distance from the main boat ramp. October and November are good months for catching salmon off the rocky shoreline near the Holiday Park. Large brown trout weighing in excess of 7kg have also been taken from this area bait fishing after sun down.
Various Rapala patterns, King Cobra and Tasmanian devils in combinations of green/yellow,
red/gold, black/silver, Traffic light. Frog pattern flat fish.
Black Gnat, Cochybondhu, Loves Lure, Royal Wulff and Humpys in Green and yellow.
Bead Head Pheasant Tail, Casual Dress, Damselfly, Hare and Copper, Midge and Snail Patterns,
Grey Ghost, Hamills Killers, Jack Sprat, Woolly Buggers, and green/orange/yellow Rabbit Patterns
Articulated trout, Blue Fox, Mepps, Small Rapalas, Silver Wedges and Veltecs.