Fishing Locations and Access
This page lists access and area information for the main freshwater fishing spots across the North Canterbury region.
Use the links below to download the printable maps and access brochures.
The Rakaia River
The Rakaia is a large braided river that supports the best salmon run in the North Canterbury region. Access to the river mouth is easy but the walk can vary as the position of the mouth does move significantly. Access by road is possible through settlements on both sides of the mouth.
Many anglers use fat-wheeled farm bikes to travel over the soft shingle between the road end and mouth. Boats can be launched at the North Rakaia Huts boat ramp and at times from the riverbed out from the South Rakaia Huts (4WD only). The South Rakaia Huts are reached by turning left at Rakaia and travelling down Acton Road for 23 kilometres. The North Rakaia Huts are reached by following the signs while travelling south out of Southbridge.
The Mouth to SH1
Access to this part of the river is best on the south side. All access roads run off Acton Rd (the road from Rakaia to the South Rakaia Huts). Some of the most popular are Dobbins Ford (16.2km from SH1), Griggs Road (an unformed shingle road directly opposite Griggs Road, about 11km from SH1), Maginisses (track marked by a sign “Maginisses” on the gate, about 8.8km from SH1), Golf Course (track runs along the eastern boundary of the golf course about 5.6km from SH1) and the Main Road Bridge (the road is a continuation of the Old Main South Road, about 1km east of SH1).
Rakaia Terrace Road (north side above SH1)
A number of good access roads lead off Rakaia Terrace Road including the Gun Club (6.2km from SH1), Darrochs Road (8.7km from SH1), Steeles Road (22.3km from SH1) and Sleemans Road (28.7km from SH1).
Above The Rakaia Gorge
A road leads up the south side of the river from which access is good. Take the turn-off to Glenfalloch a few kilometres on the south side of the gorge bridge. This road meets the river about 10km above the gorge.
The Waimakariri River
This river is similar in many respects to the Rakaia however it does tend to get more congested during salmon runs due to its close proximity to Christchurch. In fact, the Waimakariri is the most heavily used recreational river in the South Island. The Waimakariri River has salmon fishing during the season and also has good runs of sea-run brown trout. Access to the river is excellent.
The mouth can be accessed on the north side through the Kairaki settlement and is popular for salmon and kahawai fishermen. The south side of the mouth can be accessed on a motorbike or by a four-wheel drive vehicle through the locked gate at Spencer Park. Keys for this gate and beach permits are available (at a cost) from the Spencer Park Ranger.
A very popular fishing location. Take the shingle road (Ferry Road) on the right-hand side which veers off the Kaiapoi to Kairaki Road as it sweeps to the left, two kilometres short of the mouth. Park at the end of this track and walk over the stop bank to the rocks. A net is recommended for landing fish at McIntosh’s Rocks. Although best known for salmon fishing, McIntosh’s can also provide very good trout fishing, especially around dawn and dusk. There is a Wheelchair fishing platform at McIntosh's Rocks for the mobility impaired, you can get the key from Blackwells in Kaiapoi to unlock the gate.
North Side (SH1 to Browns Rock)
A system of riverside roads and stopbanks runs along the north side of the river between SH1 and Browns Rock which provides excellent access. This track starts underneath the old highway bridge and runs to Browns Rock, just a few kilometres short of the Gorge Bridge.
Old Main North Road -South Side
This track runs off the Old Main North Road next to Readymix Concrete and goes a short distance upstream to the confluence of the South Branch. It also goes a couple of kilometres downstream before ending at a locked gate just below Stewarts Gully.
SH1 to McLeans Island
Good access is available from the stopbank running along this stretch of river. The stopbank can be accessed from the top at McLeans Island or from Dickeys Road at the bottom.
McLeans Island to the Gorge
A number of roads running from Old West Coast Road lead to the river. The most commonly used are Weedons Ross Road, the Willows, Intake Road, Cooks Road, Courtenay Road and Kimberley Road.
The Waimakariri Gorge Bridge is on SH72 (Waddington to Oxford).
Access to both sides of the river can be gained here. The most popular is on the south side of the bridge where a shingle track leads down the terrace and out onto the riverbed. This is a popular boat launching spot.
Take the Harman Gorge Road, turn left into the shingle track at the bottom of the cutting near the Woodstock Homestead and follow the signs out to the river. This is also a popular boat launching spot.
Above the Gorge
Good access is available where SH73 gets close to or crosses the river. This stretch starts just past the Cass township and runs until the Bealey Bridge. Access to the north side can be gained by turning right into a shingle track just before SH73 reaches the Waimakariri. This track leads down the terrace to the Mt White Bridge.
The Hurunui River
The Hurunui has good fishing for salmon and brown trout. Salmon fishing is variable with excellent fishing in some seasons but with only fair fishing in others. The trout fishing is always good.
The north side of the river mouth is the easiest to access. Take the first road to the right while heading north out of the small town of Domett on SH1 and follow the road signs to the mouth.
A well-defined track at the road end leads down a steep hill to the north side of the mouth. To reach the riverbed by vehicle, turn right at the end of the road and drive through the camping area and out onto the river. Boats, which can be very useful for accessing the river mouth, can be launched here.
The south side of the river mouth is accessed via the road to Nape Nape. Turn right (signposted) off SH1 a few kilometres north of Greta Valley. Follow this road for about fifteen minutes and then turn hard right onto the road leading down the Blythe River.
A map will assist in finding this corner. Follow this road until it reaches the coast. A walk of twenty to ninety minutes is required depending on the position of the river mouth. The surf adjacent to where the river flows into the sea is where most of the salmon are caught. Sea-run trout are also present around the river mouth in the early part of the season.
The reaches above the mouth are easily accessed where SH1 crosses the river. A track leads off the road on the north side of the bridge. The river can also be accessed from SH7 on both sides of the Balmoral bridge.
On the south side, a track leads off the main road on the downstream side and out to the river. Access on the north side is had by taking the first right-hand turn past the bridge and turning back toward the river (signposted) a few hundred metres up the road.
The upper reaches of the Hurunui can be accessed above the gorge from Lake Sumner Road. To reach this road turn west at Waikari (signposted), travel through Hawarden and over a small pass. The road comes down right next to the river in a number of places before leaving the river at the Sister’s Stream. The river splits into a north and south branch partway up this road.
The north branch is fed from Lake Sumner and tends to be more stable and clear most of the time. The Lake Sumner Road follows the north branch as far as the Sister’s Stream.
The Waiau River
The Waiau is the most northern of the major rivers in the North Canterbury District and receives the least fishing pressure. The Waiau is the only major river in the region without good access to the mouth. Access involves either a long walk or a ten-minute jet boat ride. Vehicle access to both sides of the river mouth is possible but involves a long drive over private land for which permission must be obtained from a number of landowners.
The normal launching spot for boats accessing the mouth is a few kilometres east of Spotswood. Turn onto the East Waiau Road in Spotswood and drive a few kilometres east until a disused lime quarry can be seen on the right-hand side of the road. Turn left through an old iron gate opposite the quarry onto a track that leads out onto the riverbed. Launching here is suitable for 4WD vehicles only and is dependent on favourable river conditions. From here it is a very pleasant ten-minute boat trip down to the mouth.
On SH1 a track leads off the road 75 metres south of the Waiau Bridge and out onto the riverbed. Foot access and boat launching (4WD) are available here. Another track leads out to the river on the north side of the bridge. Good access is also available at the Waiau Township, Leslie Hills and Hanmer Ferry Bridges. Above Hanmer anywhere the road comes next to the river is a good starting point.
North Canterbury Lakes
Lake Coleridge is the largest and most heavily fished lake in North Canterbury. It supports one of very few New Zealand populations of landlocked chinook salmon which are the most common catch in the lake. Brown and rainbow trout are also abundant although rainbow trout tend to be more “catchable”.
Opening Weekend (the first Saturday in November) is a big event with hundreds on anglers on the lake and lots of fish being caught There are many well known fishing areas around Lake Coleridge:
Ryton Bay can be reached by following the Lake Coleridge Road to just before where it crosses the Ryton River. A left fork in the road here takes you to Ryton Bay where the river enters the lake.
The top end of the lake where the Harper enters is reached by continuing up the Lake Coleridge Road after crossing the Ryton Bridge, past Lakes Evelyn and Selfe, through the ECNZ village and turn left after crossing the Harper River. The first right leads to a camping area known as “The Boat Harbour” from which access to the southern shore of the lake is easy. Park at the Boat Harbour, cross the walk bridge and head down the south shore of the lake. The Harper confluence is another popular fishing spot.
Lake Lyndon can be accessed directly off SH73 just over Porters Pass. Access to the lake is excellent and good catches of rainbow and brown trout can be had. In the past, the lake has tended to hold large numbers of smaller fish. Today there appear to be fewer, but larger fish.
Pearson is one of the larger North Canterbury lakes. Mackinaw (American lake trout) are present in the lake but are seldom caught. Those that are caught tend to come from the eastern end of the lake. Brown trout are the most common catch. Lake Pearson is easily accessed from SH73 which runs along the southern shore.
Low Country Rivers
The Selwyn River
The Selwyn contains reasonable numbers of brown trout in the lower reaches but is often dry and flows underground in the middle reaches. Access is good from the Upper Selwyn Huts to the mouth and it is here that most fishing occurs. During daylight hours natural bait and spinning are popular with flyfishing coming into its own after dark.
Harts Creek is a good fly fishing stream, especially towards the mouth. Follow Lake Road to its intersection with Timber Yard Road (heading south), turn left down the latter and turn left again onto a small bridge not far from the corner. A car parking area is at the end of the track and a DOC walkway leads down to the mouth. Fishing at the mouth is good after dark but the river between the car park and the mouth can offer good flyfishing during daylight hours. Access to the river above the car park requires the consent of the landowner.
South Branch of the Waimakariri
The South Branch contains good populations of smaller fish and is a very popular “after work” fishery. Access may be had to the river at the Dickies Road Bridge or through the Groynes picnic area. From the Groynes, you can fish either upstream or downstream of the main picnic areas.