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What You Need to Know About Fishing in New Zealand

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Guide to fishing in New Zealand.

The world is your oyster when it comes to fishing in New Zealand – a lot more bad fish cliches to come, we’re afraid. New Zealand’s excellent fishing scene has been recognised since the country’s very first discovery. So much so, that New Zealand itself was said to be fished out of the sea according to the Maori legend of Maui.

From the inland rivers, stacked with brown trout and rainbow trout, all the way to the fish-filled ocean that moves along more than 15,000km of coastline, New Zealand is particularly exciting for experienced anglers and beginners alike. Check out the two “Trout Capitals of the World” or take to the shallow rivers and lakeshores to discover a love for the sport. As being out on the water and having “fish n’ chips” is all part of the Kiwi culture, its not difficult to find commercial charters and locals who are happy to take you out on the water for a relaxing afternoon of fishing. Because New Zealand aims to be a sustainable country, there are a few fishing laws in place, which are essential to be aware of before heading off on your fishing trip. That way you’ll realise that you “cod-n’t” find a better place to fish!

10 Fish you can catch in New Zealand

  • Brown trout
  • Rainbow trout
  • Pacific blue marlin
  • Black marlin
  • Broadbill
  • Mako shark
  • Thresher shark
  • Hammerhead shark
  • Yellowtail
  • Yellowfin tuna
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New Zealand’s top freshwater fishing locations

Trout, trout and more trout. Trout fishing is so big in New Zealand that two towns have claimed to be the “Trout Capital of the World”. Venture to the South Island and you will even find plenty of salmon to fish. What’s more, a lot of excellent fishing spots are easy to get to. All you need is a fishing license (see the New Zealand Fishing License section below). Without further ado, here are some top freshwater fishing spots in New Zealand.

  • Rotorua, Bay of Plenty – The Ngongotaha River has a year-round population of rainbow and brown trout. The best time to fish is April-May
  • Lake Taupo, Waikato – A great place if you have little experience or for a spot of fly fishing. There’s a good selection of fishing charters on the lake
  • Turangi, Waikato – The “Trout Fishing Capital of New Zealand” has the renowned Tongariro River passing through ideal for catching brown and rainbow trout. Visit the Tongariro National Trout Centre and hatchery for a great insight in the region and its world famous rainbow and brown trout.
  • Motueka River, Nelson/Tasman – The river is great for beginners and fly fishing. You’ll find 2-5 pound brown trout
  • Haast River, West Coast – Catch 10-pound brown trout in the estuary and whitebait in the early season
  • Upper Clutha River, Otago – There are many entry points to the fastest flowing river in New Zealand between Lake Wanaka and Lake Dunstan. This river is recommended for experienced anglers
  • Gore, Southland – The “Brown Trout Fishing Capital of the World”. The Mataura River is recognised for its highest population and catch rate in New Zealand which attracts anglers from all over the world during October-April.

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New Zealand’s best saltwater fishing locations

With more than 15,000km of coastline, no closed season restrictions and, of course, an abundance of fish species, New Zealand hosts some spectacular saltwater fishing opportunities. You are bound to catch something somewhere! (With the exception of restricted areas, which you can read more about in the “Play by the Rules” section below). Here are a few noteworthy places any keen angler should check out.

  • Bay of Islands, Northland – A good choice of fishing charter activities to catch marlin fish, snapper, kingfish and hapuku. Albatross V Expeditions encourages cruise guests to join them fishing before preparing the catch for lunch
  • Whakatane, Bay of Plenty – Its waters a particularly known for the fighter yellowfin tuna, which is best fished December-April
  • Inner Hauraki Gulf, Auckland – More fishing charters can take you to catch snapper. Be aware of specific enforced restrictions here
  • Coromandel, Waikato – Large snapper and kingfish can be caught from boat and land. Try Fantail Bay for good land-based fishing
  • Gisborne, Eastland – Good all-round fishing by both boat and land. Try Okitu, Wainui Beach, Tatapouri Beach and Pouawa
  • Wellington Harbour, Wellington – Shore fish for blue and red cod, kahawai, kingfish, snapper, elephant fish, tarakihi, rays and sea trout. There are good boat fishing opportunities too
  • Marlborough Sounds, Marlborough – There’s excellent fishing in mainly sheltered water. Try Keneperu Sound, Tory Channel and Maud Island
  • Kaikoura, Canterbury – Renowned for its variety of sea life. Try Clarence, the Kaikoura Peninsula, South Bay and Conway
  • Dunedin, Otago – Sheltered water for salmon fishing makes the sport very popular in Dunedin
  • Invercargill, Southland – Particularly excellent boat fishing at Pig Island, Te Waewae, Howells Point, Omaui and The Dog and Ruapuke Islands
  • Stewart Island, Southland – Great for groper, blue cod and trumpeter, with lots of sheltered bays and coves for boat and land fishing.

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New Zealand fishing licence

Everyone who is going freshwater fishing in New Zealand must purchase a fishing license to legally fish in New Zealand. Fishing licenses can be purchased either from local fishing stores, visitor information centres or online at the Fish & Game website. These fishing licenses let you fish anywhere in New Zealand, except Taupo.

There is a range of licenses to choose from, ranging from NZ$34 for the day to NZ$169 for the whole season for non-resident.

If you are fishing in the Lake Taupo district of the North Island, you can purchase a license from local fishing stores, visitor information centres or from the Department of Conservation website. Licenses range from NZ$20 for the day to NZ$129 for the season for non-resident.

Although there is no license required for saltwater fishing, there are set rules and regulations to follow, which you can read up on below.

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Play by the rules

To keep fisheries sustainable, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) sets recreational fishing rules. Failure to comply leads to hefty fines, prosecution or property confiscation. Bad times. Such rules cover:

  • daily bag limits (how many fish you can keep)
  • legal size limits (the size of fish you can keep)
  • species restrictions (the type of fish you can keep)
  • and closed and restricted areas (where you can legally fish).

Make sure you also check out the fishing rules of an area before you venture out on a fishing trip. Because these rules differ from area to area and change frequently, the best way to check the rules is via the MPI’s website, download the free NZ Fishing Rules app with Android or Apple which work even when there is no network coverage, or free text the name of a species you are fishing to 9889.

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Sustainable fishing

Don’t be a dick to the fish and future anglers that would like to fish these waters: practice sustainable fishing methods! Having a good grasp on fish handling or releasing unwanted or unlawful fish can increase their chances of surviving to be caught legally another day. Here are a few ways to fish sustainably:

  • use wet hands or wet gloves when handling fish
  • be gentle – slide fish back into the water as close to the surface as possible
  • return fish to as near to where you found them as possible
  • if you are catching lots of undersized fish, change location or use a larger hook or mesh size.

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Fishing near seabirds

An awesome advantage of fishing in New Zealand’s ocean waters is the opportunity to spot an array of sea birds, such as gannets that can dive at 145km/hour, black petrel that fly between New Zealand and South America every year, royal albatross with a wingspan that can reach more than 3 metres, and, of course seagulls.

Better yet, New Zealand’s seabirds make a great indication for the best fishing spots, however, you need to be careful when fishing around them. Remember to keep decks clean, put bait scraps and fish waste in covered bins. Seabirds mostly fish within 6 metres of the surface so sink bait well below 6 metres with the reel in your gear set quickly. When reeling the gear up around birds, distract the birds by tying streamers to an outrigger or a spare rod. Throwing a bucket of water towards the birds works too.

More fishy business

If you like fishing and wildlife, perhaps these articles will make your day

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