Central South Island and North Canterbury Weekly Fishing Report for March 2 2023


Thirty-eight Years Between Kings 

King, Chinook or Quinnat – three common names for New Zealand’s sea-run salmon species introduced from North America. 

Canterbury-based angler Dave Kitching fishes for trout in our local and high-country streams annually but last caught a king salmon in 1985. 

Dave’s fishing buddy Allan Gillespie managed to talk him into having a go again this season, and what do you know – he caught one some 38 years since his last! 

Above right: Dave Kitching's first salmon since 1985 - 6.2kg and caught on Tuesday this week - photo by Allan Gillespie

There are two months of the sea-run salmon season; if you haven’t reached your season bag limit yet, we encourage you to get out there while you can. 

There are several regulations anglers must adhere to when targeting sea-run salmon in Central South Island and North Canterbury Region – click here to view the 2022/23 regulations guide or here to see our sea-run salmon info pages on our website. 

We expect the salmon catch at the Rangitata River to taper off towards the end of March, so don’t delay if that’s your river of interest. 

WFR2223.54 We are anticipating the salmon runs to start soon at the Waitaki River photo via Outdooraccess.co.nz

We are anticipating the salmon runs to start soon at the Waitaki River - photo via outdooraccess.co.nz'

One of our Southland-based Fish & Game colleagues caught a nice salmon in the Rangitata near the main road bridge last weekend – our Rangitata Access Guide may help you find a spot to fish the river. 

From what I gather, the Waitaki River salmon runs haven’t kicked into gear – but they’re due soon. 

Richard from Oamaru Sports and Outdoors knows of two Waitaki salmon caught so far this season. 

As for Waitaki River trout fishing, Richard reports that some fantastic condition rainbows are being caught mainly on 14g spinners, black or brass colour and often in the toby or tassie design.

Jet boat anglers targeting trout have been doing particularly well in the Waitaki’s middle reaches, according to Richard.

Waitaki River access info can be found here.

Sockeye spawning regulations start on 1st March 

We have received reports from anglers that sockeye have already run in modest to high numbers up the Lower Ōhau River, Twizel River, Fraser and Ahuriri River – this is a good indication that we can expect tens of thousands to spawn through the Waitaki lakes Catchment over the next month. 

We will conduct sockeye spawning surveys over the week of 13-17 March, in time with the historical peak of the run.     

From 1 March to 30 April, it is an offence to fish for sockeye salmon in any stream and river where they are present. See Note 1.10, page 36 of the sports fishing regulation guide.   

An open season remains in place until 30 April for trout fishing in these same waters where spawning sockeye are present. 

Trying to fish for trout around spawning sockeye can be ‘tricky’ as spooked sockeye swimming in all directions can put the trout off the bite – so it's best to avoid these spots if you can. 

Although each year, the places and number of sockeye spawning do vary a bit, this 2020 spawning report will give you a good idea of where you are likely to encounter them during March.   

Outlook for the Weekend 

It’s looking like a weekend for warm clothes and rain jackets. 

It’s a South Easterly front – so the plains and foothills will receive the most rain. Inland areas may be drier. 

Although the rain is looking steady at times, it’s not torrential, and it may not actually make much of a difference to river flows – they’re generally at low to moderate flows today (Thursday 2nd). 

I recommend keeping an eye on the weather forecast like Metvuw, rainfall data from ECan and River Flow data from ECan.   


Environment Canterbury (ECan) – riverbed weed spraying and machinery operations 

ECan is currently undertaking riverbed operations that may impact your fishing.  

ECan’s Current Works website provides maps and further information. 

Rivers to be weed sprayed include South Opuha, Te Ana a Wai (Tengawai), and Rangitata.

Riverbed Machinery operations include Omarama Stream, Waihao Box and Bowyers Stream. 

Tight Lines

Rhys Adams, Central South Island Fish & Game Officer


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Dave Barron releasing a salmon back into the Rakaia River to carry on its journey to the spawning streams.

Outlook for the weekend 

It’s looking like another awesome weekend for some fishing, there is a little bit of rain forecast for Sunday, but Saturday is looking great. 

I bumped into a couple of anglers who used the Outdoor Access livestream web cameras to great effect on Saturday.

They intended to fish the Hurunui River, but after a quick check on the cameras, they realised it was unfishable. 

They then checked the Rakaia River to see if it was all go, so they changed their plans, headed south and found a spot on the river and landed two salmon, an awesome effort and a great use of technology to aid their fishing exploits. 

Salmon seized from Rakaia Anglers 

Over the weekend, we seized two salmon from anglers not following the regulations, and three other anglers had their rods seized for other offences. 

The salmon were seized because the anglers in question had caught and kept them but either did not have their Sea-Run Season Bag Limit Card on them or did not hold a Sea-Run Salmon endorsement. 

The Sea-run salmon regulations clearly state in rule 12.5: Immediately upon taking or killing a salmon from sea-run salmon waters the licence holder must complete an entry in their Season Bag Limit Card for that fish. 

I’ve emphasized the word immediately above because the anglers had landed and kept their fish a considerable time before being approached by rangers hence why their fish were seized. 

This is obviously a shock to the anglers after the excitement of landing a sea-run salmon, but the rules are in place to ensure all anglers are treated equally and everyone has a fair chance at catching a salmon. 

It’s the angler's responsibility to have the means by which they can fill out their Sea-Run Season Bag Limit Card 

They will now be processed through our regular compliance system, but it is highly likely to say that these fish will become very expensive fish for the anglers in question. 

The other offences detected involved seizures of rods from anglers who were salmon fishing without a licence or endorsement. 

It's important to note that these anglers were not part of the Rakaia Salmon Competition (the competition has strict rules around entry requiring a fishing licence and salmon endorsement). 

Still, it would appear that they were taking the opportunity to fish whilst the competition was underway as they possibly thought that they might get lost in the crowd, so to speak. 

There was probably the misguided assumption that Fish & Game doesn’t do compliance as the competition rules require a licence. 

Our Rangers are out in force when there are competitions for this exact reason. With the upcoming Salmon Anglers competition on the Waimakariri River on March 11, don’t be surprised if you see a Ranger and get asked for your licence and season bag limit card. 

Rakaia Salmon Competition 

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Salmon Anglers at the mouth of the Rakaia River on Saturday-Photo Brian Hodges

On a more positive note, Rakaia River Promotions ran a successful competition over last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

Over 500 anglers entered the competition, and thirty-four salmon were weighed in, but a few more salmon were caught, with many anglers choosing to practice catch and release.

It was great to be able to get out and talk to anglers in numbers, and the team at North Canterbury Fish & Game want to recognise the great work that all of the people involved with the Rakaia competition do in promoting, organising and running the biggest freshwater fishing competition in the country. 


The NZ Salmon Anglers Association Waimakariri Salmon Fishing Competition

Saturday, March 11 2023, start time 5 am, finishes at 3 pm.
Weigh in station is located at the Waimakariri River mouth and opens at 8 am.

Click here for more details.

Ranger Competition

The Annual Rangers Fishing Competition will be held on Friday, March 31; watch for more details in this section soon. 

If you have any recent photos of your fishing exploits or events you want to publicise, send them to northcanterbury@fishandgame.org.nz ; even if they aren’t from our region, I’ll pass them on.  

Tight Lines, 

Richie Cosgrove, North Canterbury Fish & Game Officer.