Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll discover a whole new world of holiday destinations!
Fishing can be relaxing or competitive, a solo activity or a bit of family fun. However you prefer it, New Zealand is one of the world’s best fishing destinations for keen anglers and novice fishers alike. With its abundance of rivers, lakes and seas – and plenty of fish for the taking – it’s the perfect place to throw in a line.
Bay of Islands
Described by American author Zane Grey as “the angler’s El Dorado”, New Zealand’s spectacular Bay of Islands region is a year-round fishing destination offering ample opportunities to take home a prize catch. The region is best known for its big-game fishing, with many visitors lured by the prospect of snagging a swordfish, marlin, kingfish or tuna, but there’s also plenty of snapper, kahawai, trevally and john dory to be found in the area’s fertile waters.
Those wanting to head out into deeper seas can choose from numerous charters, with companies offering everything from kayak fishing to salt water fly fishing and big game trips. Most provide bait, tackle and hotel transfers for varying prices. When on a charter, there’s every chance you could also spot some of the dolphins, whales, penguins and sea birds that call the beautiful Bay of Islands home.
If setting up on dry land with a rod and esky is more your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to fishing spots. Paihia Wharf and the nearby Waitangi Wharf are easy options, with both featuring plenty of kahawai. For a spot of freshwater fishing, you can try your luck with rainbow trout in the Waitangi River.
Globally-renowned for its bubbling mud pools and steaming geysers, Rotorua is better known in angling circles for it excellent freshwater fishing and the trophy-sized catches that are up for grabs in its numerous lakes and tributaries. The North Island town attracts anglers from across the world looking for the rainbow, brown and occasional tiger trout.
Fishing enthusiasts are spoiled for choice in Rotorua; there are more than 10 well-stocked lakes. Open year round, Lake Rotorua is the region’s biggest fishery. It boasts the best catch rate and has been known to produce trophy trout over 10lb (4.5kg). Lakes Tarawera, Okataina and Rotoiti are also considered good spots for hooking a prize fish, and the smaller, more secluded Rotoma, Rotomahana and Rerewhakaaitu lakes are also popular. The Ohau Channel, which runs alongside Ramada Resort by Wyndham Rotorua Marama, is open for fly fishing from October through to the end of June.
If the kids are keen to get amongst the action, they can have a go at fly fishing at Ngongotaha Trout Hatchery, which holds regular children’s events hosted by Rotorua Anglers Association. Specially-designed fishing tackle is supplied, as well as a plastic bag for their catch, safety glasses and a certificate to celebrate the young angler’s achievement. Visit fishandgame.org.nz for more information.
Few places provide a more spectacular backdrop for fishing than the alpine town of Wanaka. Its glacial lake is ringed by the stunning Southern Alps mountain range, and you’ll be blown away by the beauty of the landscape as much as the quality of the fishing. The region’s waterways include the titular Lake Wanaka, as well as Lake Hawea, Dingle Burn, and the Clutha, Matukituki, Makora and Wilkin rivers. You’ll find an abundance of brown and rainbow trout and landlocked salmon, although fishing conditions can be challenging for inexperienced anglers.
Spin, fly and bait fishing all work well in this region and trolling is also popular; you might like to try your hand at walk and wade fishing (sometimes known as sight fishing). This technique is more akin to hunting than fishing, with anglers stalking their prey in clear water before dropping a lure in front of the fish and hoping for a bite! Walk and wade can be an exciting way to catch trout, especially if you’ve never tried it, and several companies offer tours in the Wanaka region.
Some of the prime fishing locations around Wanaka are best accessed by boat and there are hires and charters available around town. Every professional guide will have a secret spot, but so will many locals, so don’t be shy – ask around! If you don’t want to pay for a boat, there are also excellent opportunities for fly and bait fishing in some of the smaller streams and around the river mouths, but some access may be at the discretion of landowners.
Know the Rules
New Zealand has several fishing areas, each with its own specific rules, so make sure you read up on the regulations for the area you’re fishing in. You must have a licence to go freshwater fishing.
Visit mpi.govt.nz for rules about fishing New Zealand’s coastal waters.
Big game fishing: A recreational form of fishing targeting large fish such as tuna and marlin.
Fly fishing: An artificial ‘fly’, cast using a rod, reel and specialised weighted line, is used to catch fish.
Jigging: A fishing technique where the “bait” is moved in a vertical motion by raising and lowering the fishing rod in order to trick the fish into biting.
Trolling: Baited lines are drawn through water, either by a boat or by slowly winding the line in when fishing from a static position.
Spin fishing: Fishing with a spinning reel and rod.