Central South Island’s Backcountry Fishery

The upper section of the Ohau River from its confluence with Lake Ruataniwha upstream to the Lake Ohau weir is the Central South Island Region’s only backcountry and controlled fishery.

The purpose of the backcountry and controlled fishery is to manage angling pressure to ensure that the fishery’s high-country aesthetics and high levels of angler satisfaction are maintained during the early-opening “Spring season” that was established in 2018.

The Spring Season is made possible through flow restoration and spawning enhancement provided by Meridian Energy. To learn more about the history of the Ohau River Spring Season click here.   

Backcountry Licence Requirements

All anglers who fish the (upper) Ohau River must obtain a backcountry licence.

To get your Backcountry Licence (available for free) click here. Only Adult Whole Season, Family, Loyal Senior, Non-resident Whole Season and Local Area licence holders are eligible for a Backcountry Licence. 

Ohau River Backcountry Fishery

Ohau backcountry fishery mapOpen Season: 1st Saturday in November – 30 April

Note: A Controlled period applies on the Ohau River backcountry fishery during September and October 2022. Please refer to the Controlled Fishery information page for further details.

Method: Fly and Spin only.

Bag Limit: 2 trout, 2 salmon.

Reach: The designated backcountry reach is upstream from the river’s confluence with Lake Ruataniwha to the Lake Ohau weir.

Access: All access points to the river requires driving on gravel roads. Access to the uppermost section at the Lake Ohau weir via Glen Lyon Road and the river’s mouth area via the Ohau A Power Station Road are usually passable by all vehicles. The gravel road that follows the true right (South) riverbank, starting at the Ohau Weir, skirting the river and Lake Ruataniwha and ending near the Ohau B Canal Bridge on State Highway 8, generally requires a high clearance 4WD vehicle to access and is not recommended for cars.

Etiquette for Ohau River Anglers

  • Respect fellow anglers and remember they arrived at the river with the same expectations as you.
  • Always ask anglers if you can share the same pool and clarify their intentions to fish adjacent water.
  • Use a strong tippet so that very large fish can be landed smartly, we recommend 8lb strength (2X).
  • When releasing fish, do so with great care by keeping the fish in the water as much as possible and photographing the fish in or over water and minimising the time the fish is out of the water.

Compliance Monitoring

Central South Island Fish and Game will be monitoring compliance on designated backcountry fisheries during the season.

Non-compliance with the backcountry licence and controlled period licence requirements are offences under the Conservation Act and subject to maximum fines of $5000.

CSI Fish & Game looks forward to your cooperation in the management of these fisheries, and we encourage you to show courtesy and respect to one another.

If you require further assistance, please contact us.

Please Avoid Nesting Terns

There is a major nesting colony of the threatened black-fronted tern on an island about halfway up the river. The birds are actively nesting from late September through the October period (and beyond) and they will aggressively dive bomb anyone who comes close. If you encounter this behaviour, please move on, and do not cross to the island. Drones are not permitted to be used in this area.

Tern Island2


Prevent the spread of freshwater pests

Please click here and read the important information provided on doing your part to prevent the spread of freshwater pests.