Story: Freshwater fishing

Trout and salmon were introduced by settlers from Britain, who wanted fishing in New Zealand’s waterways to be available to all. Today, most rivers and lakes are home to sports fish populations, and anglers spend many happy hours waiting for a bite.

Story by Carl Walrond
Main image: Tourist poster, 1936

Story summary

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Most freshwater fishing in New Zealand is for trout. People also fish for salmon in the eastern South Island.

A British sport

Freshwater fishing for sport was introduced by British settlers. In Britain, the best trout and salmon streams were privately owned, and only the wealthy could fish on them. Settlers wanted anyone to be able to catch sports fish in New Zealand.

Trout and salmon

Trout and salmon were brought to New Zealand and released in the rivers and lakes. Brown trout were the most successful, and are now found throughout the country. There are also rainbow trout, and some quinnat salmon in the eastern South Island.

Spin fishing methods

Spin fishing involves a spinning rod and reel, with a fine nylon line. The fish are caught using a spinning metal lure, perhaps because they mistake it for an injured fish.

Bait fishing also uses a spinning rod and reel, with a worm on a hook.

Fly fishing

Fly fishing uses a longer rod and a thicker line. The fish is caught using a fly – thread, fur, feathers and other materials tied onto a hook so it looks like an insect, a small fish or something else that trout eat.

Anglers often let trout go after catching them.

Licences and seasons

People fishing for trout and salmon need a fishing licence. Different areas have different rules and fishing seasons.

Fishing and tourism

Since early times, fishing has been popular with tourists. Some New Zealand rivers are world famous for their fishing – including the Mataura for brown trout, and the Tongariro for rainbow trout.

How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Freshwater fishing', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 July 2024)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 24 November 2008