Weekly Fishing Report for Central South Island and North Canterbury for March 16 2023


A weekend of sunshine and fishing after Friday’s rain

This Friday (tomorrow) a massive wet and windy storm will hammer the main divide while further East on the Canterbury Plains there is only a little rain forecast and some strong winds.

The storm will pass early Saturday morning providing a classic sunny and mild autumnal weekend to enjoy on the water.

Sunday will be the pick of the weekend’s days with lighter winds forecast. 

Above Right: A sunny day at a high-country lake - put yourself in the picture this weekend Photo by Rhys Adams

Lakes, tarns, and lowland rivers will be the most reliable fishing options this weekend and for lowland rivers and streams the fishing there will likely benefit from a bit of rain.

The Waitaki River has a relatively late sea-run salmon fishing peak period, that has now started. I had heard a report of 10 or so salmon being caught over the past week. 

WFR2223.60 Late March is a great time to target sea run salmon on the Waitaki River photo by Rhys Adams

Late March is a great time to target sea-run salmon on the Waitaki River' photo by Rhys Adams

The Waitaki River generally fishes best for salmon below 350 cumecs – keep an eye on the ECan flow recorder at Kurow – flows at the Kurow recorder take about 10 hours to reach the SH1 Bridge.

Any rivers draining the main divide like the Rangitata and Ahuriri will most likely be high and discoloured — the Havelock River in the upper Rangitata Catchment has about 130mm of rain forecast combined for today and Friday. 

Rivers with their headwaters in the central high country, like the Twizel, are unlikely to receive enough rain to flood.

However, many of these rivers and streams, mainly the Twizel, Fraser and Lower Ōhau rivers are chocka full of spawning sockeye currently being the peak of the sockeye spawning run. 

Our team have been on the rivers counting spawning sockeye this week; numbers are yet to be tallied up, but it is looking to be another strong sockeye spawning run.

During the peak of the sockeye spawning run, trout fishing is near-on impossible as thousands of sockeye swimming in all directions disturb the trout from their normal feeding behaviour. The peak spawning runs are short-lived, lasting through till about the last week in March. 

A reminder, fishing for sockeye salmon is prohibited in streams and rivers in March and April. However, trout fishing remains open in these same waters. 

Wherever your heading this weekend, be sure to check out river flows on the ECan river flow webpage before heading out.

What is fin clipped?

WFR2223.59 Anglers are required to identify whether they have caught a fin clipped sea run salmon image courtesy of WDFW

Anglers are required to identify whether they have caught a fin-clipped sea-run salmon' - image courtesy of WDFW

Fin clipping or fin removal is one way fish are marked to assist fisheries managers in tracking the growth, movements, and survival of fish stocks.

The diagram displays the location of the adipose fin and how it appears both intact and clipped (removed).

Two volunteer-run salmon hatcheries operate in the CSI Region being McKinnon’s Creek Hatchery on the Rangitata River and the Waitaki voluntary salmon hatchery on the Waitaki River.

These hatcheries clip the adipose fin of their salmon smolt (juveniles) before they are released to the rivers and make their way to the sea.

If you’re keen to volunteer your time to help operate these hatcheries, including fin clipping, please email  Phil De Joux from McKinnon’s Creek (phil.dejoux@xtra.co.nz) and Linn Koevoet from Waitaki Salmon Hatchery (linnkoevoet@msn.com).

Sea-run salmon bag card holders must identify if any salmon kept are fin clipped and record that in the space provided on the card. 

The records of angler caught fin-clipped salmon combined with those fin-clipped salmon that return to the hatcheries during spawning are used to monitor the success of annual releases of salmon smolt from the hatcheries. 

Although most fin-clipped salmon will return to their river of origin, a small number are known to stray so be sure to look for fin clips no matter where you catch your sea-run salmon.


Recreational Spill for Pukaki River – 19th March

Meridian have notified an intended recreational spill flow to the Pukaki River via the Lake Pukaki Spill Control Structure (Gate 19).

Angler fishing and accessing the Tekapo/Takapō River below the junction with the Pukaki River may be affected. 

The flow will start on 19/03/2023 at 06:00 at 35 cumecs for a minimum of 4 hours, increasing to 45 cumecs until 16:00.

River works – Upper Ōhau River – 23-24th March

Meridian has notified instream works will be undertaken to improve fish passage at the weir located near the mouth of the Upper Ōhau River.   

Tight Lines

Rhys Adams, Central South Island Fish & Game Officer

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Rangers competition finalised 

The annual Fish & Game Rangers fishing competition has been finalised, and the date has changed from previous fishing reports: It will now be held on Friday, April 21 at Kairaki beach, at the Waimakariri River Mouth.

The competition is held to celebrate the end of the summer fishing season with anglers and is quite a social event, with a spot prize draw, a free sausage sizzle and a touch of fishing thrown in for good measure. 

We have over $2000 in fantastic spot prizes, with more still to arrive from our generous sponsors: Hunting & Fishing Tower Junction & North Canterbury, Kilwell, Desolve Supply Co, Hunters Element, Stoney Creek, Amazing Baits 

After seeing the NZ Salmon Anglers Association competition cancelled due to the Waimakariri River rising and becoming unfishable, we opted to delay the Rangers competition in the hope of more stable weather, but we will hold the event rain or shine. 

Delaying the competition and factoring in the tides enables the competition to be held on the last Friday of the school holidays, so perfect for a morning out with the family. 

There is a trophy for the heaviest salmon caught on the day; click here for more details.

Outlook for the weekend

There’s another nor-wester lining up Friday which will likely make our big rivers unfishable; in times like these it’s our lowland streams and lakes that offer the best places for anglers. 

Caleb Ryder has sent us a pic of Jake Shields, above, with a beautiful rainbow trout from Lake Grasmere. 

Lake Grasmere is a great spot for a day’s fishing and is part of our Upper Waimakariri Lakes fishery which offers some great angling opportunities only a short drive from Christchurch. 

Otukaikino Creek Wednesday evening on a green and white softbaitOur lowland fisheries also offer some great fishing; Kel-James Devon sent in this pic of a rainbow trout caught on the soft bait in the Otukaikino Creek last Wednesday. 

An awesome effort by both anglers and thanks again for sending in the photos to share with our readers. 

Caleb is one of our tireless team of honorary rangers that undertake a great amount of compliance work across the region. However, he wants to point out that some anglers are getting their regulation information from the wrong sources. 

The one accurate source of regulation info is the regulation book which you can get here from the Fish & Game website

The Fish & Game website is the only place with up-to-date copies of the regulations, there are some websites such as nzfishing.com which have out-of-date copies of the regulations often leading to confusion amongst anglers. 

Rakaia Salmon 

My colleague Harry Graham-Samson is still the sea-run salmon whisperer, yesterday whilst Harry and I were checking licences at the Rakaia Gorge bridge, we observed three salmon surfacing whilst we were talking with anglers.

On our trip back after doing a reconnaissance of the salmon spawning streams in the Upper Rakaia, we encountered a couple of anglers who’d arrived from the North Island and were heading south. 

They had called into the Fish & Game office the day before to get their sea-run salmon endorsement and some fishing spot advice. 

At the bridge, Harry gave the husband-and-wife team of Scott and Jan Fisher some salmon fishing tips, and it seems to have worked. Scott sent the email below last night to us: 

Hi Fish and Game Team
Just a quick email to show our appreciation of your efforts. Yesterday we swung by your office chasing access maps and advice. You were as helpful as you could be in the situation; finding some, printing a few out etc..
Today we were fishing at Rakaia Bridge and provided our licences to two of your rangers (Harry and another ranger). Again they were polite and helpful given their compliance task. Then they were positive about our novice’s methods and approach and informative about salmon in the area and their habits. 
My wife-just fishing to keep me company- hooked and landed a salmon in the pool just above the bridge in their recommended spot. Absolutely stoked.
Cheers team, and thanks for your work.
Scott Fisher

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The Rakaia Gorge is proving popular with anglers as the salmon progress up river.


Rangers Competition

The Annual Rangers Fishing Competition will be held on Friday, April 21 see above for more details.

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.