New Zealand’s fishing grounds are world class and are the sixth largest in the world and extend to 4 million square kilometres, making the fishing area 14 times bigger than the country’s land mass.

Being located in the isolation of the South Pacific, there are 15,000 species of fish, many not found in other parts of the world. Out of this number, 130 species are commercially collected.

Apart from deep sea fishing, the 15,000 kilometres of New Zealand coastline offer many other fishing opportunities. Mussel, oyster and salmon farming have become profitable in the past decade. Altogether, the local fishing industry employs 7,200 people.


Fishing has long been an integral part of New Zealand’s heritage and was a social and recreational outdoor activity undertaken by large numbers of Kiwis. At weekends, wharves and beaches at most of the nation’s coastal towns and cities attracted children wanting to learn how to fish. However, today this activity has largely disappeared as internet entertainment has become part of most children’s lives. Family outings to catch and enjoy a feed of fish is now mainly reserved for Maori families. Those who enjoy big game fishing hire state-of-the-art boats to venture away from the shore to test their skills behind heavy duty rods.


New Zealand is recognized as one of the finest places in the world for recreational fishing, attracting fishermen from around the world to the numerous rivers and lakes that can be found, especially in the South Island.  It is estimated that 25,000 tonnes of fish are annually caught at the end of a fishing rod. More rainbow trout in the 2 to 3kg category are caught in New Zealand than in any other country.

Known as the best sited fishing grounds in the world, trout are big and plentiful in the streams, rivers and lakes the length of New Zealand. The North Island is recognized as rainbow trout territory, while the top of the South Island is noted for the prime brown trout found there. The famous rivers of the lower South Island teem with wild fish that attract anglers from across the planet.

Experienced local guides and tranquil fishing lodges make it easier to catch the magnificent fish that have made NZ one of the world’s best fishing destinations.


Mataura River – Southland

The Mataura River is one of the South Island’s most popular fishing rivers. With a gentle gradient, accessible tributaries, and a good fish density, it’s been patronised by generations of anglers and some would fish nowhere else. There have been no hatched fish placed in the river. All the stock of brown trout are wild, a fact that makes this river so popular and special. Flowing for 245kms (152 miles), the Mataura River passes a number of small Southland towns as well as flowing through the centre of Gore, the province’s largest town.

Ahuriri River

Flowing 70km (43 miles) through the spectacular McKenzie Country, the Ahuriri River is one of the international angler’s most loved trout rivers. From where it enters Lake Benmore and starts climbing into the Southern Alps, there is enough fish to make any fisherman’s mouth water.

Oreti River

Also in the South Island, the Oreti River rises in the Southern Alps to the east of the Mavora Lakes, and flows 130km (80 miles) through the Southland towns of Mossburn, Lumsden and Benmore before entering the sea near the city of Invercargill. The river passes through wind-parched high tussock land, then down through flattish farm land. Wide gravel beaches, intriguing deep water holes and good picnic spots make it popular with anglers. This river has some amazingly large fish so attracts the most skilled fly fishing connoisseurs.

Tongariro River

The Tongariro River is classed as one of the best trout fishing rivers in the world and is New Zealand’s most fished river thanks to its accessibility. State Highway 1 follows the river for a number of kilometres providing anglers with easy access to the numerous pools and rapids. Famous among fishermen for the spawning runs that enter it from Lake Taupo from April to November, this North Island river is a particularly popular river for summer fishing for both trout and fat lake fish that come into the river to banquet on cicadas.

Ngongotaha Stream

Flowing into Lake Rotorua, the popular Ngongotaha Stream is smaller than the other fishing destinations mentioned here and offers a rather intimate experience to the angler. The stream has a year-round population of both brown and rainbow trout. In April and May when the runs are coming up from the lake, catch rates can go through the roof. The brown trout average 7-8 pound in weight and often reach a staggering 15-18 pound when growing conditions are optimal. They are some of the biggest wild fish to be found in the country and will test the ability of the very best anglers on the planet.


Each year from late December until March, chinook salmon ascend the rivers of the South Island’s eastern regions. The best known salmon fishing rivers are the Rakaia, Rangitata and Waitaki rivers.

The chinook salmon, also known as the king or spring salmon, is one of five species of Pacific salmon. It is New Zealand’s largest freshwater fish and the largest species in the salmon family. The breed was introduced into Canterbury and Otago rivers more than 100 years ago. While the chinook is now scarce along the Californian Pacific coast, it has thrived in New Zealand waters.


Fishing competitions have been held in New Zealand since the 1880s. Currently, one of the most popular is the salmon fishing competition at the mouth of the Waitaki River as it enters the Pacific Ocean. I have been to this event to film it for television and was amazed at the number of anglers taking part. There was fierce juggling for the best position but help was always at hand when a fish was caught. It was a matter of many like minded people, both male and female, gathered in the same place with the same aim who share the same passion for fishing. The cold wind and light drizzle only added to the unique atmosphere of this enduring competition.

Waitaki Fishing Competition

Visitors flock to New Zealand to see the mountains, lakes and volcanoes, along with the Lord of the Rings locations that have made the country a favoured destination. They also come for the country’s famous adventure tourism – and the fishing.In 2009, New Zealand was voted the best out of 52 countries for its marine resource management.

Please leave a comment to let me know how I’m doing.

Ceidrik Heward


  1. Nice article!

  2. The best thing about your article is the rivers you don’t mention – best keep them a secret thanks…….

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes, there are many other great fishing rivers in NZ but to mention them all would require a few more blogs. The ones I mentioned are recognized as offering good fishing with relatively easy access.

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