The Ohau River Controlled Backcountry Fishery

The upper section of the Ohau River from its confluence with Lake Ruataniwha upstream to the Lake Ohau Weir, commonly known as the Upper Ohau River, is a backcountry fishery and controlled area. Special licencing requirements apply to this river.    

Backcountry Licence Requirements

Ohau backcountry fishery map3All 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. 

Controlled-Period Licence Requirements

To help maintain high-country fishery aesthetics and angler satisfaction, three ballots are held to distribute a limited number of controlled period licences to fish the Ohau River for the month of September and October only (1st Saturday in September to 31 October).

Winners of the ballots are issued with a Controlled-Period Licence. 

How does the ballot work? 

The Ballot

The upper Ohau River is balloted for the month of September and October to limit angler use of the fishery to maintain high-country angling values and limit angling pressure.

Anglers holding a valid whole season licence and a valid Central South Island Region backcountry licence for the Ohau River are eligible for the ballots.

Three ballots will be held, the first for the Opening Weekend through to the second Sunday of the season, the second for all allocations remaining in September, and the third for all allocations in October.

Within each ballot, party leaders must identify allocations they wish to ballot for in order of preference. 

There are three types of allocations:

  1. Opening Weekend - first Saturday & Sunday of September. Controlled Period Licences will be issued for up to a maximum of 30 anglers.
  2. Mid-week, Tuesday – Wednesday (2 days). Controlled Period Licences will be issued for up to a maximum of 12 anglers.
  3. Long weekend, Friday-Sunday (3 days). Controlled Period Licences will be issued for up to a maximum of 20 anglers in September and the first weekend in October and then 12 thereafter in October.

A party leader and up to three companion anglers can be included on a ballot entry but each angler can only appear on one ballot entry, regardless of whether they are a party leader or companion angler.

If an angler enters any ballot more than once, all their entries will be void for that ballot. Applications with incomplete or incorrect information will be void for that ballot.

Information required for all anglers on the ballot entry form includes:

  • Full name
  • Current season licence number for the applicable ballot (21/22 licence for September ballots and new 22/23 licence for October ballot)
  • Valid email address        

The ballot will be drawn at least two weeks before its earliest allocation start date.

Anglers will be advised by email if they are successful with their ballot entry and issued with a Controlled Period Licence.

To enter the Ohau River ballot, applications will open on July 15, 2022 - check back here then for the application form.

For more information please contact Central South Island Fish and Game on 03 615 8400 or 

2022 Ballot entry dates and allocations schedule:

Ballot Fishing Dates Allocation name Ballot entries open Ballot entries close Approximate notification
1 3 - 4 September Opening Weekend 1 15-Jul 1-Aug 2-Aug
1 6 - 7 September mid-week 1 15-Jul 1-Aug 2-Aug
1 9 - 11 September long weekend 2 15-Jul 1-Aug 2-Aug
2 13 - 14 September mid-week 2 10-Aug 24-Aug 25-Aug
2 16 - 18 September long weekend 3 10-Aug 24-Aug 25-Aug
2 20 - 21 September mid-week 3 10-Aug 24-Aug 25-Aug
2 23 - 25 September long weekend 4 10-Aug 24-Aug 25-Aug
2 27 - 28 September mid-week 4 10-Aug 24-Aug 25-Aug
3 1 - 2 October weekend 5 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep
3 4 - 5 October mid-week 5 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep
3 7-9 October long weekend 6 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep
3 11-12 October mid-week 6 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep
3 14-16 October long weekend 7 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep
3 18-19 October mid-week 7 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep
3 22-24 October Labour weekend 8 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep
3 26-27 October mid-week 8 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep
3 28-30 October long weekend 9 27-Aug 7-Sep 8-Sep

Ballot entry page

To enter the Ohau River ballot, applications will open on July 15, 2022 - check back here then for the application form.

Fishery Monitoring

A short survey will be made for all controlled period licence holders to evaluate their controlled period angling effort, catch and experience during September.

Please be sure you have provided your correct email address. Your contact information will be confidential and is strictly for Fish & Game survey purposes only.

Central South Island Fish & Game look forward to the cooperation of all anglers and your assistance to help manage this unique fishery for current and future licence holders.

Compliance Monitoring

These regulations have been adopted to manage angler use of this high valued one-of-a-kind fishery.

While we appreciate it won’t suit all anglers, we urge people to ensure they only fish these waters in September and October if they have the correct controlled period licence.

To maximise the benefits of these changes, Fish & Game will be monitoring compliance on the Ohau River during the season.

Non-compliance with the backcountry licence and controlled period licence requirements is an offence under the Conservation Act and subject to a maximum fine of $5,000 and will be treated the same as fishing without a licence offence.

We look forward to your cooperation in the management of these fisheries and hope you enjoy your season.  


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