A Look At Sport Fishing In New Zealand

Photo of Roxanne de Bruyn
5 January 2017

With world-renowned game fishing, beautiful fishing spots, and a local culture of fishing, New Zealand is a must for sports fishing enthusiasts. While the country is known for the size of its fish, there are many other reasons why sport fishing in New Zealand is a truly remarkable experience.

An on-water fishing experience | © Fuel 360

The diverse fishery caters for every experience

Whether you prefer game fishing, fly fishing or just relaxing close to the city, there’s an option for you. New Zealand’s game fishing is world-class; most of the world’s striped marlin records came from its waters. Yellowfin tuna and kingfish are also popular for those who want a challenge.

However, you don’t need to spend thousands going game fishing to enjoy New Zealand’s fisheries, nor do you have to be an expert. For something a little bit more laid back, head 15 minutes out of Auckland, put a line over the edge, and wait for a snapper to bite. If you’re seeking a greater challenge, try fishing in a kayak or off the back of a jet ski.

It’s about skill

If you want to try something a bit different and perhaps learn some new skills, saltwater fly fishing offers a great experience. There are a numerous spots available in the north of the country, and saltwater fly fishing gives you the option to use advanced fishing techniques to catch fish in shallow water.

Beginner? Try a day out at Waiheke Island, off the coast of Auckland, to learn the basics. For the more accomplished saltwater fly fisherman, trevally or kahawai offer a challenge.

If that doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, consider jigging or using soft baits. By focusing on the technique, fishing becomes more about the sport and the art, and less about catching the trophy fish.

Sunset fishing | © John Rafferty

There are great native options… and not all of them are big

Snapper is the main goal for most New Zealand fisherman, and you don’t have to go far to find them. Common in the North Island and the upper South Island, snapper are New Zealand’s most popular sports and table fish. While they average one to two kilograms, it is possible to catch some in excess of 10 kilograms.

On the smaller end of the scale is a tiny, freshwater fish called whitebait or inanga. From September to November, you’ll find these small fish at the mouths of large rivers. Often cooked in fritters, these are still considered a traditional food by the Maori.

The quality of freshwater fish is superb

Introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s, salmon and trout have thrived in local rivers and lakes. In the summer months, the North Canterbury’s untouched rivers are the best spot for fishing sea-run salmon while surrounded by stunning views.

Rainbow and brown trout can be found in most streams and lakes around the country, and some waters in the North Island are home to the purest stain of brown trout in the world. New Zealand’s brown trout are legendary to fly fishers worldwide, and Lake Taupo has an especially good global reputation for trout fishing.

Trout is also unavailable commercially in New Zealand – it’s only allowed to be caught recreationally –, so if you want to try the local trout, you’ll have to catch it for yourself!

The beautiful Lake Wanaka | © Roxanne de Bruyn (Faraway Worlds)

The landscapes are stunning

With over 15,000 kilometers of coastline, New Zealand has a plethora of fishing spots to choose from, many with spectacular scenery. The Bay of Islands in the north of country is best discovered by boat – just imagine chasing big game fish surrounded by crystal water and unspoiled beaches!

In the South Island, blue cod are a popular choice in the Marlborough Sounds, a series of ancient river valleys filled with seawater and studded with long, jagged ridges. Trout and salmon are also plentiful in Lake Wanaka and Lake Hāwea in Otago, two of the country’s most picturesque spots.

You can get a local restaurant to cook your fish for you

If you’re wondering what to do with your nice, fat trout, there’s an easy solution – take your fish to any restaurant in Taupo, which will gladly cook it for you.

Saltwater fisherman can do the same. If you’re heading out on a charter boat, ask the skipper where to take your catch. Otherwise just try a local restaurant – just keep in mind that it’s illegal to sell recreationally caught fish.

If you’re after something a bit simpler, local fish and chip shops will usually be happy to batter and cook a couple of fillets for you. Just sit on the beach, eat your catch, and reflect on your day to have the quintessential Kiwi experience.

Jumping Marlin | © NZ Fishing News

Fishing is integral to the cultural heritage of New Zealanders

Even the earliest stories of New Zealand include fishing. In Maori mythology, the North Island was the outcome of a fishing trip, when the demigod Maui pulled it up out of the ocean on the end of his line. As a result, the North Island is called Te Ika a Maui, which translates as ‘the fish of Maui,’ in Maori.

Fishing is still an intrinsic part of the lifestyle of many New Zealanders. Next to gardening and walking, it’s the most common recreational activity in the country, and access to fishing is considered a customary right. Catching a fish and sharing the resulting meal with your friends and family is part of what it is to be a New Zealander – and a great way to experience the local culture.

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