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Fishing in New Zealand

  • Fishing on a beautiful lake
  • Caught fish
  • Small fishing boat
  • Local fisherman

Seventy years ago, author Zane Grey dubbed New Zealand an "angler's El Dorado," and the country has been proving him right ever since. Clients will find some of the world's best fresh and saltwater fishing in locations as breathtakingly beautiful as nature has ever devised in crystal-clear waters for fish that are bigger and wilder than anywhere else.


Since the introduction of trout from California in the latter part of the last century, anglers from all over the world have realized their finest fishing dreams in New Zealand. Copious rivers and streams, dubbed "clear as gin," crisscross the North and South Islands and offer excellent stream fishing for both browns and rainbows. The majority of trout are still caught on the artificial dry or wet fly, followed by trolling, thread lining, or baitcasting. Anglers can fish the very best dry-fly waters in the world with guides who are internationally recognized leaders in their field.

In addition, literally hundreds of pristine lakes are all worth visiting. The average size of the trout taken is 4 to 4.5 pounds, but trophy fish ("double-digit") are caught with remarkable frequency.

They have even made "catch and release" a regular practice. Ninety percent of the North American fly-fishers visiting New Zealand practice this too.

Regulations vary throughout the 26 different fishing districts, but basically, fishing starts at 5 am and finishes at midnight on any day. As a guideline, treat all rivers and streams flowing into lakes as a fly only, this precludes the use of a spin rod, fly, and bubble. Also, fly only includes the area within a 300-metre radius from the point where a stream joins a lake. Streams flowing from lakes or mountains to the sea are generally open to all methods.

Equipment, such as waders, rods, reels, lines, tackles, and lures, as well as some cold and wet weather gear, is provided when hiring a guide.

Licenses, including whole season licenses, week licenses, and day licenses may be purchased for use in any area of New Zealand with the exception of Taupo. To fish in Taupo you must pick up a local license. Licenses can be bought at gas stations, sports stores, fishing shops or local fishing and game councils. Reputable fishing guides also have licenses for sale.



On the North Island, the summer trout fishing season runs from October to April in most districts. Winter trout fishing is available in the Taupo/Rotorua regions, with April/May and September/October being the best months. The Tongariro River is considered one of the best trout fishing rivers in the world. Its best fishing times are from May to October.

Trout fishing in the South Island can also provide world-class brown and rainbow trout dry-fly fishing. Dry-fly, nymph, streamer, or lure fishing is best from October to May (spring through to autumn), although good, year-round fishing is available in some designated lakes and rivers. The Mataura River is famous for its wily brown trout.

For the spin fisherman, there is both trout and quinnat (chinook salmon) fishing in late summer and autumn. Fly-fishing float trips can be arranged. Helicopter fly-outs can take anglers deep into the back country to remote and magnificent trout streams, rarely visited by humans.



The main fishing rivers for salmon are the Rakaia, Waimakariri, Rangitata, Ashburton, and Waitaki Rivers on the east coast of the South Island. The season for salmon is from 1st October- 30th April and a fishing license is required (same price as a trout license). Guides operate mainly on the Rakaia river and provide all tackle, transport, and refreshments.



Saltwater boat fishing takes place year-round. Guided saltwater sportfishing from charter boats is available all around the coast, but particularly from spots such as Whangaroa, Bay of Islands, Tutukaka, Auckland, Mercury Bay, Tauranga, Whakatane, the Marlborough Sounds, and Milford Sound. There are no closed season restrictions, and you do not need a fishing license.



The sport of surfcasting can be found all around coastal New Zealand. Most camping grounds and stores around the coastal areas sell bait, but many people use shellfish gathered right on the spot. Equipment can often be hired.



Big game fishing has no seasonal restrictions and no fishing license is required for sea fishing. While the Bay of Islands is the most well-known base for game fishing, charters from Whakatane, Coromandel Peninsula, East Cape, and Marlborough Sounds are also available. The best time for big game fishing is during January, February, and March. Game fishing involves the charter of a big game boat and skipper. Species fished include striped marlin, Pacific blue, and black marlin, and broadbill swordfish. Yellowtail (kingfish), mako, hammerhead, and thresher sharks are also popular catches.



Hiring a guide with local knowledge is recommended. Guides in New Zealand may be booked before you leave home by contacting a travel agent.



Feel free to bring your own fishing equipment. However, all of the fishing lodges and most guides can also provide gear free of charge. Local sporting shops will rent equipment if you want to fish on your own.



New Zealand Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to New Zealand. 

Learn about the history and culture of New Zealand, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about New Zealand's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, and 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering New Zealand for yourself. Start exploring...book one of our New Zealand tours today!


Extend Your Stay

Consider an additional stopover to your New Zealand vacation at one of Goway's South Pacific destinations. You can choose from our selection of Australian vacationsTahiti vacation packages or stay at one of our Fiji resorts or perhaps take a Cook Island vacation. This can be done by stopping over en route to or from New Zealand. 



Book your New Zealand tour with Goway!

With more than 150 New Zealand tours and experiences, Goway’s Downunder wizards can offer you many ways to explore and enjoy New Zealand. Choose from a simple city stopover, see the country highlights on one of our classic itineraries, a self-drive holiday, a Holiday of a Lifetime, and more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to New Zealand.

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