FISHING IN CENTRAL
by Monty Wright - Fish & Game Officer,
Otago Fish & Game Council
& LAKES - RIVERS & STREAMS - FISHING
The rivers and dams of Central Otago provide a wide range of angling
opportunities in a variety of surroundings. The contrast between the willow-lined
Manuherikia in mid-summer and the rugged windswept heights of Lake Onslow,
Poolburn and Upper Manorburn Dams provides a typical example of scenic
diversity which the area has to offer. As if this were not enough, the
fishing can also be very good. There is an abundance of safe, easy access
spots suitable for family outings, and yet some of these lakes, rivers
and dams provide areas more for the hardy types who are prepared to do
some extra walking. Some excellent fish are found throughout the river
systems of Central Otago.
DAMS & LAKES
The Otago fish and game region has a number of excellent
dams. These are all self-sustaining (ie spawning streams are available
for the trout). Many of these dams are, of course, built for irrigation
In some seasons, unfortunately, some suffer from low levels towards the
end of summer when higher water temperatures will reduce the good feeding
areas for the trout. However, despite this, some of the large lakes and
dams are very productive and the more popular of these are listed below.
The close proximity to Alexandra and ease of access contributes to
this dam's popularity. Butchers has a self-sustaining population of small-
to medium-sized brown trout. Although a small dry fly or nymph fished around
the raupo margins is probably the most productive, small bully imitations
fished through the rocky edges is also productive from the New Year on.
Another dam handy to Alexandra but which in dry summers becomes very
low. It has a self-sustaining population of brown trout which receives
little angling pressure. Methods as for Butchers Dam. A feature of Conroys
is the number of large koura (fresh water crayfish) and children have a
lot of fun trying to catch them.
Again it supports a self-sustainable population of brown trout and receives
steady angling pressure. The Upper Manuherikia provides the spawning potential
for the dam and a feature of this tributary is a small population of salvilinus
fontinaulus (brook char) in the headwaters. Some of the best fishing at
Falls Dam is around the upper margin where the Manuherikia enters the dam
This water has a reasonable population of brown trout. This its another
dam which suffers from fluctuating levels but probably not to the extent
where the fishery is affected. Access is by a dry weather road off Earnsdeugh
Road. In the headwaters above the Fraser Dam in the river, - there is a
small population of good-sized fish but to fish up through past the mine
site is only for those anglers who are very fit.
This lake has continued to fish exceptionally well with all methods
in the Clutha Arm. Although the lagarosiphon is causing some bad effects
around the Bendigo Wildlife Area, it is an advantage in one or two places
among the banks. where small masses have started to grow. Trout will continually
come to the edges of this weed to feed on many of the insects darting around
off the waterweed. Beware of these and fish around them carefully with
whatever method you are using. This also occurs where the Kawarau Arm meets,
down to the dam wall along the State Highway. Look for these places and
if you are a bait fisherman, set up as close as possible to the weed. The
lake has a population of both browns, rainbows and quinnat salmon, so you
can be in for an exciting time wondering what you have on the end if you
hook a fish. Check any rainbow trout that you catch for the adipose fin
being removed as these will be fish that have been released by the Clutha
Fisheries Trust. If you do catch one, there are head depots available at
the Alexandra Town and Country Club.
Formed by damming of the Teviot River, if it is situated above Millers
Flat. It contains a large population of small- to medium-sized brown trout.
Bait fishing is the most popular method early in the season, but all methods
generally have good success. During late January/early February, the cicada
hatch on this lake is one of the many phenomena that occur in our high
country and should not be missed as all anglers have a succe:ssful time.
Anglers should also be aware that weather conditions at this height change
dramatically, so if going there with family or friends, take good clothing
and be prepared.
THE UPPER MANORBURN
Access to this dam is via the Ida Valley. The Poolburn Hotel is situated
on the corner of the road which leads to this dam. It contains a good population
of rainbow trout and is quite unusual in NZ as it is only a rainbow trout
fishery. All methods are used in the dam but because rainbow are keen on
red, often lures with red have the most success. The access around the
dam is a little difficult but there are some good picnic spots on the left
side up from the dam wall. Bait anglers have the most success fishing on
the edge of the rock shelves. Again, the cicada hatch in late January is
This dam is situated at the east end of the Ida Valley and is one of
the most unusual areas for rock tor scenery throughout this region. The
trout are of medium to large size arid all methods have success. For spin
anglers, black and gold generally works by far the best, but if you are
trolling on these waters silver, traffic lights and cobras are often the
fish catchers. Access is signposted from the same road as you travel down
from the Poolburn Hotel.
This small dam, just before Oturehua, has a small population of brown
trout and the occasional brook char. It is affected, some years, early
in the season by water drawn down for irrigation making it difficult to
fish, but on those calm, balmy days during summer, it is often well worth
WEST EWEBURN DAM
This dam is situated at the west end of the Naseby Forest and access
is off the Alexandra-Ranfurly highway. It has a large population of small
brown trout and can be quite a fun place to fish. Again all methods are
used in this dam.
This is situated at the east end of the Naseby Forest, before you reach
Naseby township and is well sign-posted. It is an excellent picnic spot
and popular with families. It has both brown and rainbow trout in its waters
and the rainbow are exceptional fighters. Although it is not a deep dam
all methods are used, with spin anglers having the best success using very
small wobblers and veltics.
This dam has no vehicle access and you have to walk in 300m from the
carpark. It is stocked with both brown and rainbow trout, and some of the
brown trout grow toexceptional sizes. It is very deep and bait anglers
should fish close to the edge. Again, all methods are used but for the
fly angler, this dam is better fished in the evening using small sedge
This dam is on private land and should be respected as in all other
dams at all times. It is a stock dam and has some very large brown trout
and a wide range of rainbow trout in its waters. It has a tendency to weed
up during the summer period and anglers should remember not to wade in
this dam as often it contains the bug called duckitch. Many fish grow to
double figures in this dam making it quite aft exciting place to hook a
This waterway is situated above Waipiata and again is on private land.
Access is granted but at present vehicles have to be left at the gate.
All methods are used, but it weeds up considerably during the summer period.
There are some amazing hatches of damsel flies on this dam and fish often
feed on them, violently crashing through the surface of the water. It has
a mixture of both brown and rainbow trout in its waters.
The productivity of the Central Otago streams is largely
dependent on the severity of the summer. In a particularly dry year natural
low flows coupled with water extractions for irrigation has a significant
effect on some of the fisheries and the same applies to the small tributaries
which often supply the spawning facilities necessary to re-populate the
THE CLUTHA RIVER (BEAUMONT TO THE ROXBURGH DAM)
Fluctuating flows seriously impede the production of trout food in
this stretch, but a brown trout population is resident throughout. Quinnat
salmon enter the river about January and are caught up to the end of the
season in early May. Naturally enough, the most popular spot is immediately
below the Roxburgh Dam where the fish congregate. Quiet holes further downstream
and at the confluence of some of the tributary streams also supply some
LAKE ROXBURGH TO THE CLUTHA RIVER AT CLYDE
The physical features of Lake Roxburgh detract from its value as a
fishery but brown trout, rainbow and occasional landlocked quinnat salmon
are usually present. From December through to early February anglers have
good success fishing off the dam when schools of landlocked salmon and
a few rainbow mill about trying to get downstream. Spinning is the most
popular, although the fish will take a dry fly in the late evening. At
the confluence of the Manuherikia with the Clutha there is some excellent
bait fishing to be had and also some sedge fishing in the late evening
for the fly angler. Spin angling is quite common throughout the reach from
Alexandra to the Clyde Dam wall with a number of quite large fish being
caught nowadays below the dam itself. Both rainbow and brown trout are
present in this section with the occasional quinnat salmon being caught
on its downstream migration.
THE LOWER FRASER RIVER
Irrigation extraction totally dries the stream on some occasions. Despite
this, a brown trout fishery exists in some sections between the confluence
with the Clutha River and the power station. Occasionally the angler will
catch a small rainbow in this section.
THE MANUHERIKIA RIVER
This is another stream which suffers from water extraction in the lower
reaches. In other areas there is not sufficient deep water to hold many
large fish but along under its willow-banked margins in many places there
is some good fishing to be had. Both brown trout and the occasional rainbow
are caught throughout the river's length to the base of the Falls Dam.
The most successful method by far is by fly anglers stalking fish that
they observe. Some good worm fishing does exist in some of the deeper holes
and spin angling using small lures can also be successful, especially on
dull overcast days.
THE TAIERI RIVER (FROM WAIPIATA TO PATEAROA)
This is a very popular section of the river and supports a population
of medium to large brown trout. The numerous oxbows and backwaters always
produce a few cruising fish. Waterboatmen, snails and sedge imitations
are very successful. Spin anglers do well fishing the downstream and across
method, while bait angling is also popular throughout the entire length.
THE TEVIOT RIVER
This stream is particularly suitable for all learning anglers. It has
a large population of small- to medium-sized brown trout and is a good
place to take junior anglers as the fish only have to be 20cm in length
to be taken from this water. Access is quite difficult in some places but
bridge huts and below the Lake Onslow Dam are very popular places.
Fishing licences are available from sports shops