Brunner, Lake – Brown Trout Fishing – Westland, South Island
Lake Brunner is situated on the main highway between Canterbury and Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass, in the South Island of New Zealand. It is a large lake being some 10 kms across at its widest point. Brunner is also quiet deep (over 100 metres in parts) and drops off rapidly around much of the shoreline. Set in spectacular bush-covered mountains it is a scenic delight.
Lake Brunner is named after the European explorer Thomas Brunner who came upon the lake after traveling up the Arnold River in 1847. The name Lake Brunner was bestowed by John Rochfort. The Maori name for Lake Brunner is Kotukumoana or Moanakotuku.
The fish population is mostly brown trout weighing between 1 – 1.5 kilograms. Big fish weighing above this are rare. Perhaps the very large numbers of these smaller fish create excessive competition for food preventing fish reaching their growth potential.
The water is tea coloured from the dense bush that surrounds the lake and its catchment rivers and streams. The buttery colouration of the browns match the water colour well making them hard to spot from the lake shore or river banks. As such blind fishing is the norm.
This big lake is popular with yachties and power boaters. Over the summer months groups will often set out by boat from the camping ground and hotel at Moana for a day’s picnic on a distant secluded shoreline. There is also good motel accommodation available at Moana.
Trolling and harling are also popular and productive. The best spots are close to the willows of Howitt Bay, Iveagh Bay, and off the Orangapuku and Crooked Rivers. Troll close to shore within 20 metres of the bottom. If fishing a downrigger set the release clip pressure low so that the smaller browns can pull the line free. When harling a lead-line also be aware that the strike from smaller fish may go un-noticed. I have also had success drifting in close to the beech trees and casting green and gold Cobras and Tassie Devils.
There is good access around the shoreline of Lake Brunner for fly and spin fishing provided the lake level is low. It is surprising just how high the lake can rise following heavy rain. Some times water even covers the jetty at Moana!
The Arnold River flows out of Lake Brunner at Moana joining with the Grey River at Stillwater some 28 kms(as the crow flies) away. This is justifiably one of New Zealand’s best trout waters. Though there are plenty of fish again they are difficult to spot in the tea coloured river. I have spent several wonderful evenings with the fly rod and light spinning gear fishing the Arnold near the lake exit. The browns being around 1.2 kg are very quick and inclined to jump!
As you can see from the accompanying photographs there are some big trout in Lake Brunner, its tributaries, and in the out-flowing Arnold River. However I’m sure it would take expert local knowledge to catch one of these bigger fish!