Weekly Fishing Report for Central South Island and North Canterbury for February 23 2023


Welcome Rain and a Favourable Fishing Forecast 

Thanks to 20-50mm of rain region-wide on Wednesday, river flows have jumped a bit and for the most part will provide ideal fishing flows tomorrow and over the weekend. 

Add to that, conditions are forecast to be mostly dry with mild temps and calm winds; we are looking at favourable late-summer fishing conditions this weekend. 

One river to keep in mind this time of the year is the Ashburton - it can provide excellent sight fishing for brown trout. 

Fish & Game Officer Nikki Dellaway visited the Lower Ashburton River at Boundary Road recently and spotted a few brown trout feeding away in the pools and runs bordered by overhanding willow trees. The river was flowing at about 9 cumecs on ECAN’s SH1 flow recorder.

Above Right: Prior to the rain the Lower Ashburton River was in great order for fishing-Photo Nikki Dellaway 

It’s hard to predict if the Ashburton River’s clarity will be good this weekend after Wednesday’s rainfall did make the river silty. Uniquely, there is an active slip in the Ashburton North Branch’s headwaters that can release a lot of silt. 

WFR2223.52 late summer high country fishing at its finest photo by Rhys Adams 1

Late summer high-country fishing at its finest photo by Rhys Adam.

The North and South Branches of the Ashburton join just upstream of Ashburton Township – the South Branch usually clears up quickly after rain. The lower river will be worth a trip when it clears up.      

I was in the high-country last weekend and had some fantastic ‘cicada fishing’ action.

Although it feels like we have prematurely gone into Autumn, I’m sure the high-country trout will still be on the hunt for large terrestrial food items like cicada and hoppers this weekend and into early March.

The pictured 4.5-pound rainbow trout took a #10 Royal Wulff dry fly – this fly was bigger in size than the cicadas flying about, but at this time of year the trout can be pretty aggressive eaters so I had confidence it would work. 

It was a classic ‘full-of-beans’ high-country rainbow taking me up a rapid when hooked which gave me that sinking feeling that it might be foul hooked. It wasn’t; just a super strong fish.

Sockeye spawning regulations start on 1st March

It’s that time of year again when tens of thousands of sockeye salmon make their spawning run into tributary streams of the Waitaki Lakes, notably lakes Benmore, Ōhau and Pūkaki. 

You have a small window of opportunity to target the spawning runs in rivers and streams up until Tuesday 28 February. 

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. 

Sockeye salmon runs usually peak around the 10th to 15th of March and provide quite the spectacle – the SH8 Bridge of the Twizel River is a spot to go and observe the phenomenon.


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

ECAN are currently undertaking riverbed operations that may impact on your fishing.  

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

Rivers to be weed sprayed include Upper Ōhau, Tekapo/Takapō, Lower Waitaki (Kurow-Duntroon & @SH1), Opihi, Tengawai and Rangitata.

Riverbed Machinery operations include the South Opuha River and Bowyers Stream. 

Ōtūwharekai (Ashburton Lakes) Working Group – Open Day

When: Saturday 25 February 2023, 11 am–2 pm

Where: On the waterfront at Te-Puna-a-Taka/Lake Clearwater, Mount Darchiac Dr.

A public information day focusing on the water quality and health of the Ōtūwharekai/Ashburton Lakes, supported by the Ashburton Water Zone Committee. Free sausage sizzle. CSI Fish & Game will have a live fish display.

For more information click here 

Game bird hunting ballot

We are accepting ballot entries until 1 March for hunting stands on Opening Weekend of the 2023 game bird hunting season at wetlands owned or managed by CSI Fish & Game. 

For more information click here.  

Tight Lines

Rhys Adams, Central South Island Fish & Game Officer


The recent rain we have had this week in the region has topped up our major alpine rivers as well as reducing the water temperature.

IMG 1929So, if you were thinking about chasing salmon over the weekend, then this could be a great opportunity to harvest either your first or second fish for the season.

Be mindful that it’s the Rakaia Salmon Fishing Competition this weekend, so if you're wanting to fish where it might be less crowded, then it’s a great opportunity to explore the other salmon rivers such as the Waimakariri, Hurunui and Waiau rivers.

On the trout fishing front, the Lake Sumner road is still closed, and at this stage, it won’t be open until 10th March.

But on the other hand, there is still plenty of good opportunities in the region to go trout fishing and the weather forecast is predicting that for the majority of the weekend.

Julia Kingcote caught this lovely 3.5-pound rainbow trout above on a damsel fly in Lake Grasmere over the weekend

It will be overcast which can make sight fishing difficult, it will mean that you might have to change up your tactics and fish pieces of water blind with an indicator or fish with streamer flies.

If you are not a fly angler, then spin anglers can also have great success whether you use bibbed lures e.g. rapalas.

Or you could use softbaits which are very effective, especially if you are fishing in an area where it is shallow and it drops off into deep water (what we would call a drop-off).

It's also really good to contact your local tackle store as they can also point you in the right direction of where has been fishing well over the past couple of weeks.

Catch and release of sea-run salmon

Dr Slick

Pliers are essential for releasing fish unharmed.

With it being the second year that the season bag limit has been introduced to salmon anglers, there has been a big talking point about catch and release amongst anglers.

As they are seeing fish being mistreated which has caused some fish to die.

So we are wanting to provide some advice on a good catch and release method so we aren’t harming the fish so they can either get to the spawning waters or provide another opportunity for an angler to catch who could harvest that fish.

When you are out fishing a nice piece of water and hook up on a salmon, whether you have one fish written on your card or not as soon as you see the fish you should make up your mind straight away on whether you want to harvest your fish or not.

If you are sure that you want to harvest it then that’s great, take your time and play it carefully, so you don’t lose it, but if you don’t want to harvest it then get the fish into the bank as quickly as possible.

Once you’ve got it into the shallows then wet your hands as touching the fish with dry hands actually injures the fish; grasp it by the base of the tail and lay the fish on its side with the hook facing you, so it is in an easy position to remove.

I’d suggest carrying a set of pliers with you so you can get the hook out quickly.

Once the hook is out get a quick photo with it and release into the deeper water facing the fish upstream so the fish can get water flowing through its gills and quickly it will swim off to carry on with its journey.

Rakaia Salmon Competition

As mentioned earlier, the Rakaia Salmon Competition is on this weekend; we wish the 450 entrants the best of luck, and hope the river remains fishable all weekend.

Sea-run salmon episode 5 

Screenshot 2023 02 23 at 4.08.23 PMEpisode five of our sea-run salmon fishing series has been released.

In this the fifth and final episode of our five-part series we explain the workings of the sea-run salmon harvest card, which has been required since 2021 if you want to go sea-run salmon fishing in Canterbury, New Zealand. 

Check it out here.


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; keep an eye out 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, 

Harry Graham-Samson & Richie Cosgrove, North Canterbury Fish & Game Officers.