Fishing Locations and Access
The West Coast Fish & Game Region extends from Kahurangi Point, north of Karamea, to Awarua Point south of Haast.
In between lies some 2m hectares, much of it wilderness. With the pressures of modern life, increasing numbers of anglers rate isolation, peace and solitude almost as highly as the opportunity to fish for wild trout. On the ‘Coast these attributes exist in abundance' along with a surprising diversity of angling opportunity.
While the Region offers abundant opportunities for specialist methods such as fly fishing for sighted trout, there are also excellent prospects for novice or intending anglers using bait or spinning gear.
Brown trout and Salmon occupy a diverse range of habitats between the mountains and the sea including lakes, rivers, spring fed river tributaries and estuaries. With almost 90% of the Region in public ownership barriers to access for anglers are, for the most part, dictated only by climate and terrain. In the case of waterways with private land adjoining, where there is no marked access please ask at the nearest farm house.
The following guide, by necessity, is limited to more popular or accessible waters. It represents only a fraction of the region’s angling opportunities. A good West Coast Map is recommended for visitors intending to get the most from a fishing trip to the ‘Coast'.
Located 25km from Greymouth. Follow SH7 to Stillwater then turn off on to the Arnold Valley Rd to Moana. Lake Brunner contains brown trout averaging 1.1kgs and is the most popular angling water in the region.
Foot access is available over the Arnold river foot bridge at Moana village.
To reach Iveagh Bay continue past Moana and turn off onto Cashmere Bay Rd. This leads to the lake edge. Various access points are available at Mitchells, a 38km drive from Moana to the South end of the Lake. Foot access is available to Carew Bay and Bain Bay via track, starting at boat ramp.
Boat launching facilities are available at Moana, Iveagh Bay and Mitchells.
Methods: Successful trolling can be had along the margins of Lake Brunner, mainly from the foot of Te Kinga Hill through to Clematis Bay. Trolling near the outlet during summer is popular. Fly fishing from shore at the lake outlet during early morning or late evening or at the mouth of Crooked and Hohonu Rivers during the day for cruising fish works well. Fly fishing from boat over the shallow weed beds between Orangipuku and Te Kinga is recommended. The best spinning is at the lake outlet or along the western shore where the water is a little deeper.
Lake Poerua is a 24km drive from Moana or 8km from the turn off at Jacksons SH73. Brown trout average 1.8 kgs and are normally well conditioned.
Access: There is only one access point for the launching of small boats. Foot access is available to the right of the boat ramp along the lake edge.
Methods: Trolling and harling is successful over most of the lake. Fly fishing is productive but a boat is a definite advantage. Popular locations are near the narrow neck half way down the lake and around shallow margins.
Haupiri contains brown trout and is located 42km from Greymouth. Follow SH7 to Ngahere, turn right onto Nelson Creek Rd.
Access: Foot access is limited by a forested margin and a boat is recommended. Launching ramp is located towards the eastern end of the lake.
Methods: Fly fishing off the mouths of the few small feeder streams located on the southern side of the lake is the most successful, followed by general trolling.
Mapourika is fringed by SH6, 10km north of Franz Josef, and is a productive brown trout and quinnat salmon fishery. Lake resident salmon (1-3kg) are available October to March, sea run salmon can be expected from January to the end of March.
Access: A boat ramp is located at Jetty Bay. Foot acccess is limited to McDonalds Creek mouth and off SH6 at various obvious points. Please note that McDonalds creek is closed to angling year-round.
Methods: In calm conditions (generally early morning and evening) large brown trout are easily spotted cruising lake margins. Spinning for cruising browns can be successful but wet fly fishing is best. Deep water trolling is most productive for salmon along the western fringe south of the lake near the outlet, off the entrance to Jetty Bay where the main boat ramp is located, or off the roadside edge from Jetty Bay to the mouth of Redjacks Creek. Popular sites are off the mouth of McDonalds Creek and by boat, in areas referred to above. Because most fish are hooked close to the bottom, a slow retrieve is recommended. Refer to regulations for season details.
Adjacent to SH6 south of Fox Glacier. Paringa is well stocked with 1 to 2kg brown trout. The lake resident salmon population is smaller than in Mapourika, but sea-run salmon appear from January on.
Access: Boat ramp at Jamie Creek camping area. Foot access is limited to the area around from the mouth of Jamie Creek.
Methods: The shallow margins suit wet fly fishing (#6-8 Mrs Simpson or similar) or light lures for spinning. Small bullies are the primary food source although trout will take an unweighted nymph and often rise freely to a large dry fly. Salmon are mostly taken off the mouth of the Windbag Stream. Lead line is generally used to reach sea-run fish down deep. For salmon white or silver lures are recommended or black/green and gold when the water is discoloured.
Turn off SH6 at Mahinapua Hotel 12km south of Hokitika. Perch up to 1kg abound in the lake and outlet creek providing excellent angling for kids. Brown trout are present but are seldom caught before hooking a perch.
Access: Boat launching available at Shanghai Bay. Foot access is limited to the foreshore at the bay or part way around the Lake Mahinapua Walkway.
Methods: A boat is necessary to fish the lake successfully. Soft bait jigging or bright spinners work best for perch. Fishing from the shore is limited to the jetty and a small beach behind the Girl Guides Hall. The weedy margins make shore angling difficult, but good fishing on deep side of weed beds.
Lake Ianthe is south of Ross on SH6 near Pukekura and is an excellent brown trout fishery. This lake produces beautifully marked fish up to 2.5 kg.
Access: A boat ramp is available off SH6 at southern end of the lake. A forested margin generally prevents foot access.
Methods: Prolific weed beds make deep trolling difficult near the edges, but harling with a feathered lure is a popular method. The deeper water is suitable for trolling a spinning lure with light nylon. Fly casting to cruising fish under the bush fringed margin is a good method in suitable conditions. Watch for subtle rises near the weed beds and fish an unweighted nymph, otherwise bully imitation fished wet.
As with Paringa a boat is useful, but lake-edge fishing is available at various points adjacent to S/H6 and, in low conditions, around the Northern margin. Good fishing for cruising browns with wet (bully) imitation most successful.
Rivers (North of Greymouth)
Access: Lower reaches of the Karamea River up to the gorge may be accessed via farm land on either side of river but please leave gates as you find them. North River mouth access available via Karamea Holiday Park or South from Flagstaff Rd. Mid river reaches accessible from the Karamea gorge walking route.
Little Wanganui River offers good fishing from the Wangapeka Valley or Blue duck. (Sth bank) Please ask landowners permission for access. Mouth accessible from Little Wanganui Hotel (Nth. bank) or via the subdivision Rd. Upper catchments of these rivers are truly wild and scenic and difficult to reach. (Call at Karamea information centre for more on this area).
Methods: Larger holes and runs in mid – lower sections of these rivers are more suited to spin fishing although during normal flows great opportunities for spotting feeding fish, particularly early morning/evening. Mid-late summer ‘blind’ dry fly fishing can also be rewarding.
The Arnold exits Lake Brunner before joining the Grey River 15kms from Greymouth at Stillwater. It holds a high population of medium sized brown trout and is usually fishable in all but extreme flows.
Access: Watch closely for signs at marked access points along the Arnold Valley Rd. between Stillwater and Moana.
- Kokiri Bridge adjacent to the freezing works. Access is available up and downstream.
- Old Arnold Road between the Arnold River and Arnold Valley Rd. Two access locations are marked along this road.
- Upstream of Arnold Creek (signposted).
- Below the Arnold Dam.
- Aratika, sign posted on the gate. Contact R.L. or D.M. Milne on 03 738 0038.
- Arnold River Bridge near Aratika. Fish either up or downstream.
- Kotoku; turn off the road following the true right of the Molloy Creek.
- Moana Footbridge at the outlet of Lake Brunner.
Methods: The Arnold is popular with fly anglers especially during the prolific evening hatches of Oct/Nov and March/April. Fly fishing is favoured but all methods are successful.
Lower Grey River
Excellent access is available to the Lower Grey from roads on both sides up to Ikamatua. Popular access points are Greymouth, Omoto Racecourse, Taylorville, Stillwater Bridge, Matai, Blackball, Ahaura, Totara Flat and Ikamatua. Where the river does not run alongside the road, permission must be obtained from landowners. Please respect property, fasten gates and leave no litter.
Methods: Spin fishing is popular all along the mid and lower Grey River. Bait fishing is also productive in the lower river, but is best early in the season up to late November. Fly fishing is best in the evening when trout often rise to hatches at dusk. Fly fishing with nymphs can be productive during the day, particularly in shallow riffles.
Upper Ahaura and Haupiri Rivers
The Haupiri and Ahaura Rivers both carry populations of medium to large trout, although numbers are typically fewer in the upper reaches. The best fishing in the Ahaura River is from the Nancy River confluence downstream. In the Haupiri River fish density is highest in the first few kilometres downstream of the lake outlet.
Access: Turn off the Greymouth – Reefton highway at Ngahere, travel through Nelson Creek and on to Kopara (sign-posted). The Haupiri River is crossed 1km past Lake Haupiri. Further on this road leads to the upper Ahaura and tributaries such as the Trent and Waiheke.
Travellers on this route also have the opportunity to fish the Haupiri River. To gain access to the upper reaches of both rivers, landowners must be contacted in advance. Upper Haupiri River, Gloria Vale Christian Community Ph 03 738 0224.
Upper Ahaura, Mr Bill Perry Ph 03 738 0221. Access to the Upper Ahaura is rough and best suited to the fit angler.
Methods: These waters are influenced by heavy floods and fish numbers vary, however the mid – Haupiri normally supports good trout numbers and the upper Ahaura consistently produces good sized fish.
Mawheraiti River (Little Grey River)
This is a Grey tributary joining at Ikamatua (between Greymouth and Reefton). The Mawheraiti is a smallish tea coloured stream usually holding good numbers of medium sized trout.
Access: Available from the Atarau Road Bridge or where SH7 crosses the Mawheraiti River. Where the river does not run alongside the road, permission must be obtained from adjacent landowners.
Methods: Nymph and dry fly both work well here. Spinning is effective during freshes, particularly in lower reaches.
The Rough also enters the Grey River at Ikamatua and provides challenging fishing for predominantly large brown trout.
Access: The lower reaches are accessed from the Atarau Road Bridge and the upper reaches via Mirfins Road on the true left. Access to the river may be gained via the old sawmill.
Methods: Water is usually very clear and best suited to dry fly and nymph techniques for fish that become more wary as the season progresses.
Scenic bouldery bush clad Buller tributary accessible from S/H 6. Suitable both spinning and fly fishing in lower reaches, dry or nymph from about 1 hour's walk upstream. Recommended that at least a full day be set aside to fish this river.
The Buller enters the sea at Westport after its long journey from the Nelson Lakes. Upstream of Lyell the river lies within the Nelson/Marlborough Fish & Game Region. Good numbers of medium sized brown trout are plentiful in the early to mid part of the season and sea-runners inhabit lower reaches before migrating up river later.
Access: True Right (Westport town side): Easy access is available from the picnic area at the bridge and above to the domain area. Good access is also possible from Reedy’s Road which is the only turnoff at the end of Victoria Rd. Alternatively, turn left off Victoria Road to Te Kuha.
True Left: The Buller River is easily accessible for many kilometres off the adjacent SH6.
Methods: Bait and spin fishing are the preferred methods in the larger holes and runs, but fly fishing can also be productive especially at evening when trout often feed near the surface on hatching nymphs. Side braids, shallow runs and the edges may be fished with a heavier nymph such as Hares Ear or a large stonefly imitation. The Buller near Westport is popular, with good sea run trout regularly taken during the spring as they enter the river during whitebait season. Spin fishers do best with a bully or smelt imitation, although standard patterns such as the silver slice and toby can also be effective. Large wet (streamer type) flies such as Parson’s Glory, Hopes Silvery, Dorothy and Grey Ghost can be effective in the right conditions, especially at night.
The Inangahua River flows through forest and farmland to the Buller River near the Inangahua settlement. It is a medium to large river, generally clear with a slight brown tinge during freshes. The Inangahua contains a very good population of trout, mainly small to medium sized but many larger fish in late season.
Access: Angling is most popular in the middle reaches, both above and below Reefton. Above Reefton, SH7 follows close to the true right of the river and there are many locations where easy access off the side of the road is available. Although there are medium sized fish in the upper section, they are usually outnumbered by smaller trout. Access downstream of Reefton is more difficult, although landowners are helpful if asked and ‘Anglers Access’ signs are located in places where access has been negotiated. Brazils, O’Grady, Golf links and the Perseverance Road provide easy access roads directly to the River. The Landing Bridge is another and following the Larry or Waitahu rivers down to the confluence also provides quick access.
Methods: All methods work well, with spinning the most popular when the river is high. The mid-section around the Stony confluence is most suited to a heavy nymph fished near the edges. A large dry fly in any popular pattern, will often produce a fish from the deeper runs.
This is the largest of the Inangahua River tributaries approximately 4.5km north of Reefton. The Waitahu provides opportunities for spotting and stalking trout in a particularly scenic setting.
Access: The main access is along Gannons Road off S/H 69. A 4WD is advisable beyond the bridge at the end of the tar seal and the track maintains good contact with the true right bank enabling easy access upstream for 9-10kms. For the more active a walk further up to the Montgomerie is recommended. The Waitahu holds good sized fish throughout, while the Montgomerie is a mid-sized tributary offering excellent headwater angling prospects.
Methods: Some spin fishing is possible in the larger pools following freshes but high water clarity during summer means it is more suited to the fly fisher. Heavy nymph in deeper runs most effective, but don’t overlook the fish in seemingly impossibly deep holes. They can sometimes be tempted to rise.
Larrys (Awarau) River
Another tributary of the Inangahua, located approximately 15km north of Reefton along SH69. The Awarua supports good numbers of medium to large trout and some of 'trophy' size.
Access: Turn right off SH69 onto a forestry road. If you prefer to fish upstream drive to picnic area at the road end. Continue by foot along the track that eventually leads back to the river. For downstream fishers, access is available directly in front of the picnic area or from the SH69 Bridge.
Methods: As for the Waitahu River, fishing is good all season but as the season progresses so does the required skill level level.
Rivers (South of Greymouth)
Part of the appeal of South Westland is its 'wildness', which while providing for scenic values, often makes access to good fishing challenging. The following information barely scratches the surface of what is available. However, for visitors it is a quick guide to some of the more accessible waters. Anglers intending to fish back country rivers are recommended to get information on impending weather conditions from Doc offices at Haast, Franz and Fox Glacier.
Fishing Techniques: Many of the rivers mentioned support trout populations which fluctuate depending on the time of year. The usual pattern is for the lower reaches of the major rivers to carry more fish in spring and early summer, after which trout move upstream to occupy mid-headwater habitats. Smaller streams generally fish best in early season before water temperatures increase and trout become active for shorter periods. Evening fishing is usually best in mid to late summer when insect hatches peak. Sea Run Salmon turn up in the regions lakes and rivers from January with numbers peaking in March. River fishing and trolling in South Westland lakes is popular.
Spinning: Spin anglers are advised to use light line (3kg max.) and small (7g) lures where circumstances permit, especially in clear water and during low flows. Popular colours are green and gold, black and gold, black, and white or silver near river mouths.
Bait Fishing: Bait fishing is permitted in all waters. Smelt and large bullies are often very effective in tidal areas.
Fly Fishing: A range of nymph sizes and weights is recommended depending on the water. Heavy hare and copper, stonefly or similar bead head patterns are useful for deeper headwater pools and riffles, while size 12-16 is necessary for spring fed streams and side braids where a more delicate presentation is required. Good streamer patterns for estuary fishing include Parsons Glory, Grey Ghost and Yellow Dorothy. After dark try Red Shadow, Black Hairy Dog or Dark Hopes Silvery. Commonly used dry flies include Deer Hair, Mole Fly or a similar good floater for big water, Adams, Khaki Queen Coachman or Blue Dun for smaller water. As always fly size and presentation are the keys to success.
Boat Fishing: A popular method for trout and salmon in lakes. In South Westland lakes deeper trolling is recommended for both trout and salmon when surface temperatures are warm. A down rigger or 4-6 colours of leadline is useful. For salmon large zed-spinners in silver, yellow or white are a popular choice. For trout a toby type lure in black or green and gold is commonly used. Harling a large streamer type lure over shallow weed beds can bring success, especially in low light conditions.
Good access for most of its length off SH73. Brown trout are resident throughout, some rainbows are present in upper section. Salmon from January to April. The stretch of river between Jacksons and Kumara is ideal for quick stops.
Easy access is available in the lower reaches which usually hold 1-2kg browns and sea-runners in early season. Some sea-run salmon arrive between January and April. The middle reaches are accessible off Kokatahi Road which leads through Kowhitirangi to the Hokitika Gorge. Rainbows are present in the upper reaches and in the Whitcombe tributary, 1-2 hour's walk from the road end. Accessible mid section tributaries include Kokatahi, Styx and Toaroha River.
Murray and Harris Creeks
Smaller spring fed streams accessible from Kokatahi/Kowhitirangi Rd. Permission from adjacent landowners essential. Brown trout between 1-3kg are typical. This is a popular fishery close to a population centre so catch and release is requested.
Enters the Hokitika near the mouth on south side. The best access is via Golf Links Road. Turn hard right over Mahinapua Creek Bridge and follow dirt road to confluence. Good early season tidal water for sea-run browns, especially when main river is in flood. Large perch inhabit the creek above tidal reach.
The lower reaches are best for the casual angler. Easy access can be gained to the tidal portion of Mikonui from SH6 Bridge. Upper reaches are accessible by taking first right turn Nth. of Ross. This road also gives access to Totara River Gorge.
The section of river from the bridge down 2-3km to the mouth is best. Turn west at the north end of bridge on SH6. Good sized trout may be expected, also salmon from January - April.
The lower reaches are best with access via Wanganui Flat Road (turn off at Harihari). Brown trout are common in early season and some salmon appear from January. To access upper river take road to quarry off North end of SH6 bridge.
The best water is downstream of SH6. Peterson Road (turn off at Harihari) follows the lower river giving access to tidal water, a short walk from road end. River mouth often provides good fishing for sea-run browns, and in some years, salmon.
A delightful spring fed tributary of the Wanganui River. Access is available at various marked points off La Fontaine Road (turn off at Harihari). The upper section is accessible off Petersons Rd. If in doubt about access ask at nearest farmhouse. An abundance of brown trout around 1 to 3 kg but for inexperienced anglers can be challenging.
A medium sized river, which flows crystal clear in normal conditions. Good trout numbers in the lower section which is easily accessible from the Lower Whataroa Flat Rd. Turn off at Whataroa and the follow signs to ‘White Heron Sanctuary Tours’ boat launching ramp. Approximately 4 to 5km of good water are available above and below this point.
Contains a resident brown trout population and sea-run salmon from December to March. Access is difficult due to the forest terrain and steep river gradient but try near the source (Lake Mapourika outlet) and near Zalas Creek (Power house) confluence, 15mins drive from Franz Josef.
Recommended rivers further south include the Paringa, Jacobs, Okuru, Turnbull and Jacksons. Most major river mouths and estuarine areas in South Westland fish well for sea-run browns during spring and early summer. Feathered lures representing whitebait, smelt and other forage fish are effective. Darker patterned lures work best in discoloured water or at night. Access to upper and lower sections of most rivers south of Fox Glacier is complex and usually only possible with the benefit of local advice.