Lake Heron – at 6.3 sq kms is by far the largest of the Ashburton Lakes
Lake Heron Map (scroll down).
Lake Heron is the largest of the Ashburton lakes covering 6.3 sq kms. The distance around the shoreline is 19 kms. The average depth is about 35m. The lake was named by early pioneer T.H. Potts after the white herons that he found on the lake. The Maori name is Oturoto.
It is shaped like a letter Y and sits in a valley between the Taylor Range and Wild Man’s Brother Range. Mellish Stream and the Swin River flow into Lake Heron. While the outlet is Lake Stream at the northern end, which is a tributary of the Rakaia River. There is good fishing access along the lower part of the western shoreline from the road. A four-wheel-drive is very useful for reaching the shoreline around the southern end of the lake.
The southern shoreline of Lake Heron now lies within the boundries of the new Hakatere Conservation Park which is administered by the Department of Conservation. Hakatere Conservation Park protects nearly 60,000 hectares of land in Ashburton Lakes District, mid-Canterbury, South Island. The spectrum of recreation activities possible in Hakatere Conservation Park is covered in this brochure. A map of the area helps identify where activities can take place.
Lake Heron holds brown trout, rainbow trout, and quinnat salmon that move into the lake from the Rakaia River to spawn in the Mellish Stream. The lake also contains small landlocked quinnat salmon which are offspring of searun fish that for some reason take up residence in the lake instead of going to sea. These small salmon not much over a pound or so make up the majority of the catch. There are some excellent fat rainbow trout in the lake as well as browns which as usual are harder to catch.
As with the other Ashburton lakes the fishing season opens from the first Saturday in November to April 30. There is no winter extension for Lake Heron.
The minimum length for salmon killed in waters of the Central South Island Region shall be 300mm except in Lake Heron where the minimum length shall be 250mm and for the period 1 March to 30 April the maximum length shall be 450mm. The bag limit in Lake Heron, and its tributaries, is 6 trout or salmon in total, and no more than 4 to be trout or 6 to be salmon.
Motor boats are not permitted on Lake Heron but trolling or casting from rowed craft is permitted. One must be very careful of the strong nor’west wind which can make the lake very rough very quickly. If taking a dinghy be prepared not to use it if conditions are marginal. In recent years fishing from kayaks has gained in popularity. Although you could walk around Lake Heron in a day, that would be 19 kms or so, and would take you all day. A dinghy or kayak permits fairly easy access to water that could otherwise not easily be reached.
For trolling behind a rowed dinghy, or kayak, I recommend you try a bibbed minnow such as a Rapala Shad Rap SR5 or Fingerling Hi-Catch. These sort of lures are very effective as they dive down a couple of metres. The water is very clear in Lake Heron making the use of smaller spinning and trolling lures more successful.
The most efficient fishing method, given the water clarity, is certainly harling a smallish fly such as an olive Woolly Buggar or small Rabbit Lure in size 4 to 6.
Though you often see the swirls of big trout taking insects off the surface the fish are difficult to spot when fly fishing from the low shoreline or when wading. This can be a bit frustrating and leaves you mostly blind casting.
With the wind blowing trout are generally difficult to spot when sight fishing with the fly rod. Therefore most of the trout and landlocked salmon fishing in Lake Heron is done by spinning. Most anglers spool their spinning reels with 6 lb monofilament line. This line weight makes for good casting distance and the ability to cover plenty of water while blind fishing. For spinners try a black and gold Toby or Glimmy. Other good spinning lures include green or brown Tassie Devils or the No.10 Super Kobra.
The period 1 March to 30 April is when searun salmon will be present in Lake Heron having returned up through the Rakaia River and Lake Stream, then across Lake Heron, to spawn and die in Mellish Stream.
Lake Heron is a truely wonderful part of New Zealand. You really need to allow at least two or three days to fish it properly as well as have a good look around. Avoid being in too much of a rush. This is winderness camping. Every thing you need for fishing and camping you must take in with you. The nearest service station where you can buy petrol is at Methven. There is a pub and a Holiday Park at Mt Somers 40 kms from Lake Heron. The Lake Somers Holiday Park has a camp store selling a limited range of items. They have very good cabins and powered sites for campervans.