The Travelling Campervan Angler and Fishing in New Zealand

The campervan angler in New Zealand.
The campervan angler in New Zealand.

The Travelling Campervan Angler in New Zealand

Photograph of small camper-van used for fishing.
A small camper-van greatly extends your fishing range and makes camping away from home much more enjoyable. Nowadays it is possible to mount solar panels on the roof of your van to power auxiliary batteries which can power a 50 or 80-litre freezer. This is an ideal setup for white-baiters who can freeze their catch immediately to keep it in top condition. Perfect when baiting in a distant isolated area.

One of the good things about getting older, especially after your kids have all left home, is that you have more time for fishing.

When I was younger most of my fishing would involve getting up early and heading off on day fishing trips from Christchurch to places like Lake Coleridge, and salmon fishing at the mouths of the Hurunui, Waimakariri, Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the benefits and challenges for the Campervan Angler.

Although these trips were very enjoyable they were often exhausting. It would frequently take me most of the following day to recover physically.

When the salmon were running I would think nothing of fishing the Hurunui River mouth on Monday and then the Rangitata River mouth on Tuesday. Diesel was only 52 cents back in the 1990s. In those days we were catching much larger salmon too. The fish almost always in the 20 lb range.

Those days were a lot of fun. Nowadays I prefer to travel around by camper-van fishing at a much more leisurely pace. Nothing beats waking up fully refreshed after a good night’s sleep, peering out the window across a lake in the early morning light at the sight of trout rising as far as the eye can see! Climbing out of bed to put the kettle on you see the who fishing experience in a completely different, and much more relaxed way. You see things, to talk to more people, and learn things that as a young man in a hurry you miss completely.

Travelling around and fishing from a camper-van has its benefits but you do need to be much more organised than you were as a day-tripper. The camper-van greatly extends your range which means you soon find yourself a long way from home; too far to go back and get some item you may have forgotten. Everything you will need while away on an extended trip needs to be taken with you. The secret is in the list.

Before packing anything at all in your camper you first need to make a list of all the items you are going to need. The size of the list will depend on the sort of fishing you enjoy, along with any other interests you might have. This is how they do it in the military. All the items required for the mission are added to a list.

When preparing to leave all the items are assembled and ticked off the list. Only then are items allowed to be loaded into the truck. The gear that will be required first will be loaded last. If you just start loading stuff into your campervan as it comes to mind, you soon forget what you do and don’t have loaded aboard.

Unless you have an enormous vehicle you also have to give a lot of thought to weight and bulk. Each item on your list must be scrutinised to confirm that it is really needed. Especially if you have a smaller campervan where you don’t have a lot of storage space.

You need to get tough and only carry what you are going to use. The bigger, heavier and bulkier an item the harder it is to justify its inclusion on the list. An outdoor table and chairs are a good example. Do you really need them? Is it possible to find folding chairs that take up less space.

I like to have all my fishing gear, food, clothing, cameras, and the like within easy reach. It soon becomes annoying when you have to search through plastic containers and piles of stuff just to find your hat! Try to keep everything very neat and tidy.

Put each item back it’s designated place. Wash dishes immediately after using them and put them away. I have made this mistake in the past. After just a few days the inside of your fishing waggon can easily become a mobile junk pile.

You can get started straight away by making a list and assembling what you’ll take with you. This requires a bit of thought and is best done well in advance. If heading south on a fishing trip towards the end of a long hot summer you need to be prepared for a sudden cold snap. Gloves, beanie, and a warm coat are easily forgotten when you are heading away in 30-degree heat.


When travelling around fishing by campervan in New Zealand you really do need to have a self-contained van. By this I mean your vehicle has to pass an inspection by an authorised officer of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association.

The blue Responsible Camper sticker is issued by a Self Containment Officer of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association following a successful inspection. Having one of these allows you to camp in restricted freedom camping sites across New Zealand.

Provided your vehicle passes the test the officer will issue you with a Self-Containment certification which lasts for four years. The cost is $55.00. To get your vehicle certified as self-contained you need a number of things. The most important of which are a self-contained toilet, a sink and sealed waste water tank system, and a seal-able rubbish container. A certified vehicle will have a blue sticker on the rear showing that it complies with the New Zealand standard for self-contained vehicles.

Why you might ask is it necessary, and desirable, for anglers travelling around New Zealand by campervan. There are many free camping sites throughout New Zealand that only permit self-contained vehicles. Often these spots are close to good fishing areas.

Local councils, under pressure from ratepayers, and campground owners will issue $200.00 fines for those found camping in such places without a self-containment sticker. In part, at least, this crackdown is also caused by a small minority of backpackers who leave human waste where they shouldn’t.

These backpackers, often tourists from overseas (but not always), may not have onboard toilets and wastewater systems.

Something else which baffles me is that some travellers who do have portable toilets don’t use them because they don’t want the job of emptying them after use. If the proper chemicals are used it breaks down the waste in the tank. You can wear disposable gloves and the job only takes a few minutes.

An example of the obvious value of being self-contained is that you can travel to the Mackenzie Basin to fish the canals while parking at night around the shore of Lake Ruataniwha (20 meters back from the water). Without self-containment, you could be fined by the local council for doing so. Self-containment, or not, be sure to never leave any rubbish behind at any fishing or camping spot. To do so is unforgivable and gives all users a bad name. 

The 61,000 members of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association receive a huge list of benefits: 29 association owned or leased parks for exclusive member use, overnight parking spots, discounts on things like fuel cards, Cook Strait Ferries, tires, insurance, and so on. It is well worth joining!

Solar Powered Freezers

A small camper-van greatly extends your fishing range and makes camping away from home much more enjoyable. Nowadays it is possible to mount solar panels on the roof of your van to power auxiliary batteries which can power a 50 or 80-litre freezer. This is an ideal setup for white-baiters who can freeze their catch immediately to keep it in top condition. Perfect when baiting in a distant isolated area.

The freezers made by firms like Powertech and Waeco are super-efficient and very quiet when running. They are much better than the old three-way 12 volt, 240-volt mains, and gas-powered fridges of the past. The addition of a modest solar power system transforms the travelling fisherman’s camper-van. You can charge your cellphone batteries, and run a freezer to store food and keep your catch from spoiling. You can even run a small, low-power drain LCD television.

JayCar Electronics stock everything you need to set up your van with a solar freezer. You can install a good solar system even in a small van.

Ideal setup for the Campervan Angler with a small 4x4 to get to those fishing spots the bigger vehicle cannot reach.
Even with a big campervan like this one you still need to put a lot of thought into what to take with you and what to leave behind. Note the small 4×4 vehicle towed behind the camper on an A-frame. This is a popular setup, especially with the campervan angler. It avoids parking problems in town and improves access to shingle beaches, riverbeds, and rough tracks. With your big camper set up at a campsite the small vehicle on the A-frame is great for day trips, going shopping, and getting to places that would be difficult to reach for the bigger vehicle.

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