Fishing Locations and Access
Otago has a range of fishing opportunities set in diverse landscapes, from pristine high country and barren Central Otago, to the lush lowland pastures of coastal Otago. The region caters to all anglers and methods.
The large southern lakes - Wanaka, Wakatipu and Hawea - hold good stocks of salmon, rainbow and brown trout and are popular with boat anglers. But if smaller fly fishing waters are your preference, then productive smaller coastal streams and the Taieri or Pomahaka rivers are worth a visit.
The Southern Lakes – Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea – hold stocks of landlocked salmon, rainbow and brown trout and give anglers a world class experience, whatever type of method they use.
The Clutha catchment supports several reservoir fisheries (Upper Manor Burn and Onslow, for example) and the river has a number of major tributaries such as the Pomahaka, which is a famous fishery in its own right protected by a Conservation Notice. The Waipahi, itself a Pomahaka tributary, gives anglers a quality fishing experience in a farmland setting. There are also many small tributaries, which enter the Clutha system.
The Taieri River catchment offers different angling qualities throughout the system and its tributaries. In its headwaters is the Loganburn Dam, an irrigation reservoir with a stable brown trout fishery. All fishing methods are used throughout the catchment with bait fishing the most popular in the lower reaches closer to Dunedin.
Angling Guides & Access Brochures:
Otago region has an excellent guide book on angling in the region, the Guide to Trout Fishing in Otago. This 128-page book covers 140 waters throughout Otago (including Waitaki Valley and Eastern Southland). It gives good information on access, the best angling methods to use, and the best time of the year to use them. The guide retails for $25 plus $2 for postage and packing in New Zealand.
Access pamphlets including maps are available for the following waters: Poolburn and Upper Manorburn Dams, lakes Dunstan, Onslow and Wakatipu, Waters of the Maniototo, lakes Wanaka and Hawea and Lower Clutha Catchment and Dunedin’s Trout Fishing Spots. See also the following list of downloadable access brochures for the region (click to download a printable document).
Fish & Game New Zealand’s Otago region extends from Shag Point on the South Island’s East Coast south to The Brothers Point in the Catlins area.
The region runs inland to include the whole of both the Clutha and Taieri River catchments, as well as a number of smaller coastal river catchments such as the Catlins, Tahakopa, Tokomairiro, Kaikorai, Waitati, Waikouaiti and Shag.
Some of the best trout and salmon angling waters in New Zealand are found in Otago and residents and visitors alike enjoy the many angling opportunities the region has to offer.
Dunedin is Otago’s main city and trout fishing close by is maintained by stocking Sullivan’s Dam, Southern Reservoir (both water supply reservoirs) and Tomahawk Lagoon with trout. The water reservoirs are open year round and anglers can use fly or spinning methods. The mouth of Leith Stream in the central city is a popular spot for spin anglers.
Coastal estuaries and tidal river reaches on the Waikouaiti, Taieri, Tokomairiro, Puerua, Clutha, Catlins and Tahakopa rivers all have good numbers of sea-run and resident brown trout that anglers can target using all methods.
These waters are open for fishing throughout the year. Salmon run into the Clutha and Taieri Rivers from January to April. The most popular spot for salmon fishing on the Clutha is downstream from Roxburgh Dam to Millers Flat near the main Road from Milton to Alexandra.
Lowland coastal lakes such as Waihola, Waipori and Tuakitoto provide angling for perch, brown trout and contain a spectacular variety of waterfowl and wading birds.
Larger electricity and irrigation reservoirs in Central Otago provide an abundance of still water fishing, often at higher altitude. Lake Onslow, Poolburn Reservoir, Fraser Dam, Falls Dam and Loganburn Reservoir all hold good stocks of brown trout. Upper Manorburn is a rainbow fishery and Lake Mahinerangi, closer to Dunedin, has stocks of browns, rainbows and perch.
Medium-sized rivers such as the Taieri, Manuherikia, Pomahaka, Catlins and their tributaries all support brown trout. Examples of important tributaries include the Deep Stream (Taieri) and the Waipahi River (Pomahaka). The Shag and Waikouaiti Rivers, north of Dunedin, are smaller streams characterised by high water clarity making them suitable for fish spotting.
In the Maniototo, in addition to the main Taieri River, there are some excellent irrigation dams. These smaller reservoirs are put-and-take fisheries and Fish & Game regularly stocks them with trout. They provide reliable angling relatively close to Dunedin. At Mathias’, Rutherford’s and Blakely’s Dams permission has been granted to cross private land. Coalpit and Hoffman’s Dams, close to Naseby, are on public reserves. These waters can produce some amazing trophy fish and are very similar in character to English reservoir fishing.
Further inland Lake Dunstan provides a very accessible lake fishery for brown and rainbow trout. It is popular with boaties and all angling methods can be used making it ideal for family angling. At the top of the Clutha River catchment Otago’s three large glacial lakes – Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea – all support excellent mixed fisheries for brown and rainbow trout, and quinnat salmon. This is Otago’s summer playground whether you are fishing from the shore or a boat. Known as the Southern Lakes area it gets many visitors from throughout New Zealand and overseas.
Lake outlet fisheries on the Kawarau River at Frankton, near Queenstown, and the Upper Clutha near Wanaka are well known and productive. The Hawea River between Wanaka and Hawea townships is worth a visit but watch out for fluctuating river flows. The Upper Clutha between Lake Wanaka and Lake Dunstan offers challenging angling on a major river.
Flowing into the Southern Lakes are pristine high country fisheries for brown and rainbow trout. For example the Lochy, Von, Greenstone, Dart, Hunter, Dingle Burn, Timaru Creek, Matukituki and the Makarora with its tributaries, the Wilkin and the Young. Many of these high country rivers contain some of the clearest water in the world where rainbow and brown trout are easy to spot but not always easy to catch.
Public access to rivers and lakes may exist in the form of riparian reserves adjoining river and lake margins, but public access does not exist in all cases. In many high use areas there are formal marked public access areas so look for the signs.
Elsewhere angler access may be at the discretion of landholders. Remember that they live and work on the land and the nature of the land in some cases can create particular problems with stock management.
Cooperation and understanding are important for both residents and visitors. Obtain permission unless defined legal access exists or established local practice does not require landowners' permission. The onus is on you to find out if this is the case.
If you want to use vehicles on properties, or take dogs or firearms with you, make this clear when seeking permission. With dogs remember to carry a current dog dosing certificate.
Access to waterways in Otago is widely available. Many areas are marked with reserve or ‘Angler’s Access’ signs. Where specific areas are marked sometimes it has been possible with cooperation from landowners. Anglers should take every care when using these access points. Sometimes ‘closed’ notices temporarily cover the access signs. Please respect these, as there are valid reasons (such as during lambing or mustering) why farmers deny access. Accept refusal with good grace and discuss with the farmer when would be a better time to visit that area in future.
In addition to signposted access points, there are hundreds of others where permission to pass through private land is readily given to the angler who takes the trouble to ask. While it's rare for an angler’s presence on a river bank to be disputed, anglers are advised not to assume that they're on a river bank reserve.
River bank reserves do exist in many places but not always on both banks and they're not always continuous. Some rivers such as the Shag, Waikouaiti and Meggat Burn for example have very little legal access at all. So access to them is at the discretion of the landowner.