Fishing is one of the most popular activities for visitors to the Waimate District. The area's lakes and rivers have some excellent trout fisheries. Kahawai, seasonal whitebait, and the occasional salmon also lure hopeful fishers to the water.
The Waitaki was once the most well-known salmon river in New Zealand but like other big East Coast rivers, the fish population has dropped. They're still present in the rivers, and at Bells Pond and the Waitaki Lakes, but in much smaller numbers.
Volunteers are restocking the Waitaki River from a salmon hatchery near Glenavy, run by the Waitaki Riparian Enhancement Society. In 2017, seven of their tagged fish were caught in the Waitaki.
Salmon season: October to March.
Waitaki River and Hydro Lakes
There are good numbers of brown and rainbow trout, of good size, in the Waitaki River from Kurow down to Bells Pond. If you want to fish the lower reaches of the river and around the SH1 bridge, you need lower flows around 250 cumecs.
The Waitaki is a large braided river. Flows can fluctuate quickly because it’s part of the Waitaki hydro-electric generation system. The upper reaches of the Waitaki River have been converted into hydro lakes but most offer good trout fishing. The Waitaki hydro lakes within Waimate district are Lake Waitaki, Lake Aviemore (holds trout in good numbers), and Lake Benmore (troll for the numerous trout and salmon).
An under-rated fishery. Try fishing for brown trout from the shore in the summer, early in the morning, or late evening. There are some landlocked salmon in here on the north side, where the old river channel used to flow prior to the lake being filled.
This river is the largest tributary of the Waitaki River and is world-renowned for fly fishing. Good trout fishing, with fly and spin. It was once a major spawning ground for salmon and you may see salmon in the river.
Trout season: October to April.
Fishing with children
The Waihao Box and Bells Pond are both good places to take kids fishing. Brown trout and rainbow trout are caught in the Waihao lagoon behind the Box. Please note that the Waihao Box is a dangerous environment because of shifting gravel. Children must be closely supervised because of the natural movement of gravel sliding under the box.
Bells Pond has lots of rainbows and browns, and have been surprise catches of salmon as well. It’s one of the best areas for a child to fish, especially if you use a little bit of cunning. On a nice day find a place where the wind isn’t blowing on the pond; when you see the fish come to the surface and make a ring-shaped ripple, cast the spinner at the ring, and you’ll probably get that fish!
The season for this delicacy runs from the middle of August to the middle of November on the east coast. The Waihao Box and the Waitaki River mouth are popular whitebaiting spots.
Whitebait season: August to November.
Hook Beach, near Makikihi, is one of South Canterbury’s best fishing beaches. Along with the Waihao Box beach it’s a popular spot for elephant fish and rig. The months of October to December are the prime time for elephant fish. The best time for going after rig is in the evening, when the light is going from dusk to dark.
Known as ‘the people’s fish’ the kahawai show up at the Waitaki River mouth between November and February. When they’re shoaling at the Waitaki you can catch a fish without too much trouble.
The Waitaki Salmon Hatchery
The Waitaki was once the most well-known salmon river in New Zealand. Volunteers are restocking the river, with a salmon hatchery near Glenavy, run by the Waitaki Riparian Enhancement Society. In 2017, seven of their tagged fish were caught in the Waitaki.
Guided tours of the hatchery are available by arrangement for groups of four upwards.
Phone the society secretary Linn Koevoet 027 625 0397 for details.