Caught, hooked, netted, trapped, trolled, gathered or just eaten … fishing tales are legendary around the West Coast.
Take your pick. Wild trout, tasty sea-run salmon, superb crayfish, an ocean of fish and other seafood — not forgetting delectable West Coast whitebait — the Coast is a fishing hotspot with 600 km of coastal beaches, dozens of back country rivers spilling into the ocean, and a multitude of accessible lakes and wetlands.
Surf cast from the beaches, dive for crayfish or gather shellfish, troll or fly fish the lakes and rivers for trophy-sized trout and salmon.
Lake Brunner, the largest lake on the West Coast, is a fisherman's paradise.
Anglers love the West Coast. Less populated than most of New Zealand, it is endowed with sublime lakes, streams and rivers — from the Grey and Buller rivers and their tributaries to the north to the many coastal lakes to the south — providing the perfect conditions to hone or test angling skills.
Spot sporty brown trout in clear mountain streams or stalk the wily ones hiding in the dark forest-stained lakes.
Lake Brunner has good stocks of brown trout and plenty of quiet places to cast a line out.
Word has it that after a few quiet years, the fish are fit for a fight so there's never been a better time for a fishing expedition, weekend or short break on the West Coast.
Fishy tales are legendary around Lake Brunner. At the little lakeside resort of Moana the locals dine out on the one about 31 brown trout caught on the fly in a single day. The trolling is every bit as good with a record 44 hooked on one day.
Moana is an excellent base for a fishing escape as there’s a range of accommodation from Hotel Lake Brunner to campsites, and an endless supply of fishing spots on the lake and its tributaries. Not forgetting Lake Brunner Eco Lodge sitting pretty on the opposite southern side of the lake. Look for West Coast Fishing Guides here.
With 12 pristine rivers close by, the old gold mining town of Reefton is also a fishing destination rich with promise.
Reefton is famous for some of the best brown trout fishing in the South Island, no wonder as there are 12 pristine river systems to choose from within a 40-minute drive. These include the Inangahua, Waitahu and Larry’s Creek. Local fishing guides offer everything from first-timer lessons to backcountry heli expeditions into remote fishing spots.
For insider knowledge on Reefton’s top secret spots, check in with local fishing guide Bryan Wilson. Or purchase a fishing licence at Reefton Sports Centre, and have a chat to the owner who is a keen fisher.
Imagine casting your line into a breathtaking limestone canyon filled with turquoise blue waters. Flowing 64 km from the high Southern Alps into the Tasman Sea at Hokitika, the Hokitika River provides a beautiful setting for great backcountry fishing, notably for good sized rainbow and brown trout.
Salmon also swim up the Hokitika River between January and April while larger sea-run brown trout can be spotted chasing whitebait in the lower reaches around September to December. The river and its tributaries offer a range of different fishing experiences for all skill levels. Nearby Lake Kaniere and Lake Mahinapua are good fishing spots for brown trout and perch.
Hokitika has plenty of accommodation, guides, rental vehicles and helicopters to access the perfect fishing spots.
On the road to Franz Josef, Lake Mapourika is a sheltered jewel for fishing, kayaking and boating.
When fish aren’t biting, there’s a visual feast for fishers on lovely Lake Mapourika, just north of Franz Josef township in Glacier Country. Somewhat under the radar compared to other West Coast lakes, Mapourika has some of the most impressive mountain reflections and stunning views along with some of the best year-round brown trout and seasonal salmon fishing on the Coast.
Lake Mapourika is part of the wild sea-run salmon spawning route from the Tasman Sea into the lake via the Okarito River, plus introduced lake salmon which are present year-round.
If you don’t have a boat, Franz Josef Wilderness Tours has the perfect solution for a fun family or friends fishing expedition. The comfortable, fully-covered, all-weather fishing charter boat comes complete with a knowledgeable fishing guide, all fishing equipment and a bbq so you can cook your catch for lunch. There may be a few kayaks around but you’ll likely be the only boat on the lake.
Take the scenic route all the way to the end of the road at Jackson Bay — a working fishing port and great fishing spot.
Jackson Bay — a scenic 32 km drive south of Haast and the last settlement on the West Coast — is a working fishing port with a lobster cool store right on the waterside. Catch your own lunch off the long wharf, the West Coast’s only natural deep-water wharf, or dine at the iconic Craypot Cafe beside the beach which reopens each September after the winter hibernation.
This is a popular fishing spot for crayfish, groper, blue cod, and tarakihi, along with kilometres of surfcasting beaches for snapper, kahawai and gurnard. Goes without saying but just about any beach on the West Coast is good for surfcasting.
Try your luck on a fishing tour on Lake Mapourika with Franz Josef Wilderness Tours.
While trout fishing is year-round on the West Coast, the salmon fishing season runs from spring until autumn (1 October to 31 March). Freshwater fishing licences are available online or from local sporting or hunting stores. If you just want a feed of salmon (you can feed them too) then visit the Salmon Farm and Cafe, just south of Fox Glacier.
February is the best month for salmon fishing in the West Coast lakes; deep trolling is recommended by the locals. Further south, Lakes Paringa and Moeraki are also good fishing grounds for sea-run salmon. Guests at Wilderness Lodge on the shores of Lake Moeraki can hire fishing gear to try their luck on Lake Moeraki.
In addition to lakes, the West Coast has many good salmon rivers, such as the Taramakau, Hokitika and Haast. Fishing the surf is also an option at river mouths along the coast.
For more information on freshwater fishing on the West Coast region visit: Fish & Game NZ
West Coast white gold means the delectable little whitebait netted in river mouths during the short spring fishing season.
You will need to be equipped and quick to go after the most treasured of all the fish found on the West Coast, because the whitebait season has been shortened from 1 September until just 30 October. This is a new nationally consistent season to help protect fish stocks.
In season, thousands of West Coasters can be found at the river mouths and waterways trying their luck with nets and buckets in the pursuit of the main ingredient for a delectable whitebait pattie. Spot colourful little whitebaiters huts at many spots on the coast, including the Wanganui River mouth, on the Harihari Coastal Walkway, south of Ross.
The good news is that many West Coast cafés and restaurants feature whitebait on their menus.