Fishing in New Zealand

The clear unpolluted waters of New Zealand both inland and offshore, coupled with the relatively low level of commercial fishing, has the result of offering tremendously diverse and bountiful sport fishing for the angler.

I’ll describe some of the most popular species and methods, but there are further opportunities and information, as can be seen from my major sport fishing species list. (See link below).

Trout fishing is widely regarded as some of the best, possibly the best available anywhere in the world.

The water purity and food source results in these fish packing on the weight and condition resulting in the resources to put up a tremendous battle when hooked.

The total commercial ban on the sale of trout and catch limits for anglers ensure stable stock numbers for all to enjoy.

Wilderness fishing in breathtaking scenery, casting a fly after sighting a wily, huge brown trout must rank as the ultimate challenge for the skilled enthusiast.

Rainbows to great size are also available, as are rivers holding both species but more suited the more moderately experienced or even learner fly fisherman.

For those less practised, spinning is possible in some waters and the many lakes offer trolling opportunities where even the complete novice can experience the fun.

Salt Fly fishing continues to grow in popularity and the diversity of species offer many potential thrills. Kahawai prove a highly popular choice with their speedy runs and aerial leaps, and the comparison to sea trout in both looks and performance has often been made. Trevally, Snapper and smaller examples of Yellowtail Kingfish are also frequently targeted; the reason for suggesting smaller Kingfish will become evident later. For those with bigger quarry in mind, Marlin can be teased up within casting range of suitably upgraded tackle as well as the aggressive and highly unpredictable Mako sharks for those with an abundance of adrenaline.

Snapper are the most popular target of Kiwi salt water anglers, many hoping to join the “20lb (or even 30lb!) club”.

Being widely available over a lengthy season and providing good sport on appropriate tackle, they also supply a tasty feed at the end of the day.

Natural baits combined with berley, livebaits, jigs, flies and more recently softbaits, will all account for these obliging fish. Change of light is usually the most productive method, especially inshore.

Yellowtail Kingfish are another step up in the angling stakes and, as a true game fish, present an exciting challenge with their blistering runs and “never-give-up” attitude.

They have a reasonably long season, especially further north.

Reefs and foul are their usual haunt and although live-baiting was the preferred method, fast jigging is becoming increasingly popular, highly successful and very productive… but makes the arms ache if you’re not used to it! These fish grow big and powerful and, although smaller specimens can be handled on fly tackle, you’ll be amazed how big specimens will take line against the drag of 80lb class stand-up tackle.

Of the larger Tuna species, the Yellowfin is the most commonly encountered. They usually precede the arrival of Marlin and if targeted on lighter tackle at this time of year the best sport can be had.

They will also happily pack attack the larger Marlin lures as the season progresses and this is when and how most fish are caught.

The larger, stronger Big Eye Tuna will put up a lengthier battle on Marlin tackle and have the potential to be specifically targeted in certain areas by a change of usual tactics.

Three Marlin species appear off the New Zealand coast, with only the smaller White being absent. Striped Marlin are the most abundant and large enough here to represent the majority of world record captures. Trolling lures, skip baiting, switch baiting, live baiting and even fly casting are productive. Pacific Blue Marlin, reputed to fight harder than their Atlantic cousins, are better targeted by a slight change in tactics and certain areas seem to attract larger numbers of these highly desirable fish.Black Marlin require a more radical change in approach, and are rarely targeted; indeed most captures of both Blue and Blacks occur as a thrilling bonus when fishing for Stripies.

As an apex species, Marlin fishing is typically characterised by periods of inactivity and anticipation rudely interrupted by a screaming reel and an immense adrenalin rush… an unforgettable experience. Pack attacks happen though, especially when extended live aboard trips access hot spots and, for those fortunate to have a high budget, the relatively newly discovered but distant Wanganella Banks have provided pack attacks as the norm!

Fortunately, most Marlin are tagged and released and cannot legally be caught and sold commercially within 200 miles of the coastline.

Broadbill Swordfish are present around most of New Zealand and as the ultimate prize available in the ocean, are best sought by only the most determined and hardy angler. This is specialist, extreme fishing and whilst they can be caught by deep drifting in the daylight the most productive method is slow trolling during the hours of darkness. Commercial demand around the entire world for this awe-inspiring fish, begs the question of how many anglers will be able to proudly acclaim the capture of a big sword in years to come.

Bluefin Tuna have been increasingly targeted over the last few winters, mainly over the continental shelf off the west coast of the South Island. Deadbaiting, cubing and trolling have both proved effective, especially when deployed close to the large commercial fishing boats as the retrieving nets release an unintentional but massive berley trail. Fishing methods are likely to evolve each season.

This can also be classed as extreme fishing, with long hard battles likely plus a fine weather dependency. As with Broadbill, there are few places left in the world where the most ambitious anglers can pursue big specimens of these species, which are so hugely valuable on the commercial market, so it wouldn’t pay to wait too long.

Sharks have been depleted worldwide, especially by the cruel finning practise which offers high financial reward for this poor tasting oddity.

They are not commonly targeted these days, but to keen shark angler there remain good opportunities.

Slow trolling or berleying up near reefs is quite likely to attract a speedy, acrobatic Mako plus the possibility of several other types of shark as mentioned in major sportfish.

It is recommended that sharks are tagged and released whenever possible.