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 each year residents and visitors alike enjoy the many angling opportunities the region has to offer.
Dunedin is Otago’s main centre of population and trout fishing close to the city is maintained by stocking Sullivan’s Dam, Southern Reservoir (both water supply reservoirs) and Tomahawk Lagoon with trout. The water reservoirs are open all 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 searun and resident brown trout for which anglers can fish 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 array 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 still water irrigation dams. These smaller reservoirs are put-and-take fisheries and Fish & Game regularly stocks them with trout. They provide reliable angling opportunities 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 a very good water 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 from a boat. Known as the Southern Lakes area it gets many visitors from throughout New Zealand and from 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 are 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.
Co-operation and understanding are therefore important for both residents and visitors. Obtain permission unless defined legal access exists or established local practice does not require landowners permission. But the onus is on you to establish this first.
If you want to use motor 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 co-operation 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 (particularly 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 the future.
In addition to signposted access points there are hundreds of others where permission to pass through private land will be readily given to the angler who takes the trouble to ask. While it is rare for an angler’s presence on a riverbank to be disputed, anglers are advised not to assume that they are on a river bank reserve.
Riverbank reserves do exist in many places but are not always on both banks and are not always continuous. Some rivers such as the Shag, Waikouaiti and Meggat Burn for example have very little legal access at all. So when you are there it is at the discretion of the landowner.