Kaikoura Coast Fishing Part 2 – Salmon fishing, tips, spots, species

Kaikoura Coast Fishing, Part 2 – Tips, spots, species

Kaikoura Coast Fishing part 2

A big groper caught of the Kaikoura Coast while fishing aboard the Albatross.

A big groper caught off the Kaikoura Coast while fishing aboard the Albatross.

Kaikoura Coast Fishing part 2, follows on from part 1. Where to Catch Fish at Kaikoura. The best spots and what to expect there are listed below. Here are some of the fish species you can expect to find along the Kaikoura Coast. You can also expect to catch moki, gurnard, piper, yellow-eyed mullet, jack mackerel, and other fish along with many different shark species attracted to the rich array of prey species found all along the coast. Kahawai can be found often very close to shore during the summer months. At any time of year, it is always worth casting a ticer for a kahawai. See also Kaikoura Coast Surfcasting for plenty of Kaikoura kahawai fishing tips. Also, there is good surfcasting for elephantfish about 50 km’s south of Kaikoura at Conway Flat.

Lloyd from Kaikoura Fishing Centre caught this 57 lb groper off Kaikoura.

Lloyd from Kaikoura Fishing Centre caught this 57 lb groper off Kaikoura.
Groper and large trumpeter fishing along the Kaikoura Coastline is not as good as it once was. Nowadays you are more likely to catch sea perch than any other species. However big groper are still caught but you have to go further out and know the best spots. There spots are generally out of reach of smaller trailer boats

Trumpeter and Groper

These two species are great eating and tremendous fighters when hooked in reasonably shallow water. There are several hot spots for the trumpeter, one being Bushett Shoal which is a reef system further to the south of Claverley. Many of the campers with larger boats head down the coast to this area where the reef rises to within only a few metres of the surface. Some very big trumpeter have been caught there over the years. It is roughly halfway between the only available boat ramps at Kaikoura and Motunau. Perhaps it is this inaccessibility that causes it to fish well.

Trumpeter is usually found over rough ground in much the same place as you would expect to find grouper. Larger fish are resident in an area and so tend to be fished out closer to shore.

From memory, I think only one person in our camping ground at Goose Bay managed to land a groper over the holidays suggesting that they are to be found further out. The fishing for both these species is far better off Kaikoura than it is in the Pegasus Canyon.

l strongly recommend that you switch to braided lines instead of monofilament. At Kaikoura, you are fishing in deep water. Braid is very fine in diameter and has only about two percent stretch making it possible to feel bites even in water over 100 metres deep.

Shark Fishing at Kaikoura

Every year big mako sharks weighing in excess of several hundred kilos are caught off Kaikoura. To their credit many sport fishing anglers are now tagging and releasing most sharks to fight again another day. See a 370 kg mako shark taken off Kaikoura back in 1999. 

Blue sharks are also regulars off Kaikoura. Two years ago a 40 odd kilogramme blue was caught from shore during a surfcasting contest held on the beach along from the “Whaleway Station.”

There is also good rig to be caught while Surfcasting at Kaikoura.

Sea Perch and Blue Cod

Perch are often rubbished by anglers in search of blue cod. They are found in the same rocky areas as the more favoured cod but I suspect are less shy about taking a baited hook should one invade their territory. Anglers annoyed at catching the “wrong” species have come up with a series of derogatory names for sea perch such as; Bo Whacker, poor man’s Orange Roughy and Scarpie to name just a few. There are however easy to catch and very good eating. The flesh is firm and white. In my opinion tastes just as good as blue cod. Another tip is that blue cod are caught off Kaikoura by fishing in a slightly different spot. Some anglers would return to the camping ground with plenty of blue cod whilst others, myself included, were vastly better at catching sea perch instead!

Tuna taken on lure off kaikoura.

Rick Vader Zwet of Christchurch with a fine looking 7kg tuna taken off Kaikoura on a lure. The exact species of tuna we are unsure about. It could be a slender or even a Bluefin?

There seem to be so many fish at Kaikoura that as soon as the line hits the bottom you feel a tug and a fish is hooked. Maybe some species find it hard to get a look in.

Albacore Tuna

These speedsters of the sea put in a regular appearance at Kaikoura from Christmas through to just after Easter weekend. Some years they come quite close into Kaikoura Peninsula while other years anglers and commercial fishermen report that the schools are at least 20 miles or more offshore.

Albacore tuna are caught by trolling at about 8 knots with a variety of lures. The most common of these are rubber skirts over lead heads. The treble hooks used are similar in size to that used for salmon at around 1/0.

Catching albacore involves attracting them to your boat by making plenty of commotion by trolling at least half a dozen lures at once. Teasers are also a good idea. The tuna often take the lures right in close to your prop wash! So it is a good idea to spread you lures both far back and up close to the stern. Once a school has shown interest you can then catch them on cast lures as well.

These species are tremendous fighters for their size. Sports anglers from Christchurch have taken record fish on light lines chasing albacore tuna at Kaikoura. Albacore tuna taken off Kaikoura.

Vast school of mackerel photographed off Kaikoura.

Vast school of mackerel photographed off Kaikoura.


The best way to catch a salmon is to spin fish with a silver lure rather than use baited hooks. The salmon prefer to chase their food! A ticer lure (also called a hex wobbler) weighing about 55 to 68 g is the best lure to use. Just cast out from the beach as far as you can and wind it back in close to the bottom. Wind faster if there are kahawai present as they seem to go for faster bait fish.

Efforts have been made to release salmon into Lyell Creek, which runs through the middle of town, in the hope of bolstering the salmon fishery. Time will tell if this will be successful to any measurable extent. Salmon have long been caught along this coast and in particular from the beach in front of the railway station. Most likely because this beach is quite heavily fished over summer and generally offers good fishing. The salmon caught by anglers along here are thought to be fish that are returning to their home rivers in Canterbury further south.

A good tactic for surfcasters fishing the Railway Station Beach, and at South Bay, is to fish two surf rods with baited hooks, while casting for kahawai, and or salmon, with a spin rod.

A brace of salmon caught off the beach next to the railway station, Kaikoura.

Surprisingly salmon are caught by anglers spin fishing from the beach right next to the middle of town in Kaikoura. They are usually caught as a bi-catch by anglers spin fishing for kahawai off the beach in front of the old railway station. However, in the last couple of years efforts have been made to liberate salmon fingerlings into the Lyell Stream in the hope of boosting salmon fishing at Kaikoura.

This Chinook salmon was caught by my son Mark in late August 2009 suggesting it was probably feeding at sea. Kaikoura Coast Fishing part 2

This Chinook salmon was caught by my son Mark in late August 2009 suggesting it was probably feeding at sea.

Surfcasters on the beach behind the railway station, Kaikoura. Kaikoura Coast Fishing part 2

Surfcasters fishing on the beach behind the railway station in the middle of Kaikoura township. Big schools of kahawai come right into the beach over summer. Salmon are also caught from this beach, along with moki, skate, sevengill sharks, dogfish, and other species.

Rock Fishing and Surfcasting

Spin fishing on the main beach at Kaikoura behind the railway station near the middle of town. The main catch for spin anglers is kahawai but there is always the chance of a salmon.

Spin fishing on the main beach at Kaikoura behind the railway station near the middle of town. The main catch for spin anglers is kahawai but there is always the chance of a salmon. Click on picture to enlarge.

Many surfcasters fish the steeply shelving shingle beaches close to the peninsula. Popular spots are in front of the race course at South Bay and in front of the old railway station. Surprisingly many salmon are caught by anglers spin fishing for kahawai from the beach in front of the old railway station. This is right near the middle of town. I’m not sure why this should be. If you think you know please write and tell me! Kaikoura Surfcasting.

Surfcasters also regularly catch skate weighing 5kg or so, along with kahawai and sharks.

Almost anywhere is good for rock fishing. Wrasse seem to be the most easily caught species, and some of them are quite big. When climbing over the rocks in search of a fishing spot watch out for fur seals. They sleep in the sun sometimes causing great fright for both parties when you catch them by surprise.

Looking along the Coast: From north to south:

Kahawai taken on the Kekerengu ccoast.

Kahawai taken spin fishing in the surf along the Kekerengu coast some 50km north of Kaikoura. This area is sparsely populated. The state highway runs for the most part close to the beach affording easy access in many places for surfcasters. Kahawai schools working baitfish are often sighted from the road. Having the whole beach to yourself as far as you can see in either direction is the norm when surfcasting at Kekerengu.


56 Km north of Kaikoura. Takes its name from a Ngati Ira rangatira, Te Kekerengu. During a series of raids on the South Island in 1827 and 1828 by the Ngati Toa war chief Te Rauparaha, his nephew Te Rangihaeata captured Kekerengu’s mother Tamairangi for his wife and spared her young son’s life. He took both of them back to live on Kapiti Island. Later Kekerengu became involved with one of Te Rangihaeata’s other wives and both mother and son made a run for it down the South Island’s east coast.

There are few houses along this coast and no public boat slipways. Instead many anglers launch dinghies and small boats from the beach using them to fish or lift craypots. This stretch of coast is truly wild and rugged. No place to be in a big sea.

Clarence River

Thought to have been named after the Duke of Clarence who later became King William IV. The Clarence Rivermouth is best known as the site of the wreck of the Taiaroa in 1862. In all 34 lives where lost as the 438 ton steamer travelled from Wellington on route for Lyttelton smashed into the rocky shoreline. Fourteen souls made it safely to shore. Later the captain had his master’s certificate suspended for two years for failing to take proper cross-bearings.

Just past here is the home of Clarence Fishing Charters vessel F.V. Albatross. This huge boat is launched and retrieved with the aid of a large bulldozer, surely an added treat for the occasional deep-sea angler. The fishing out from here is some of the very best to be found around the South Island. Clarence Charters Phone Suzie or Sam on 03 575- 8989.

Birds working over schools of baitfish and whalefeed or krill.

Birds working over schools of baitfish and whale-feed or krill. It isn’t unusually to see birds flying back and forth between the shore and the schools of fish.

Blue Duck

48 km north of Kaikoura. Blue Duck Creek is almost certainly named after the blue duck, whio. The coastal road affords tremendous views the whole way.


Situated 22 km north of Kaikoura. The Maori word for stream being: manga. The meaning of: maunu is uncertain. The scenery is fantastic. You’ll have great fun spotting birds working schools of fish!

There is a freedom camp ground running along the beach at Mangamaunu which is popular as an over-night stop for travelers in campervans. What ever you do be sure to take all of your rubbish with you. Don’t even leave behind a used tea bag! Don’t give responsible campers a bad name.

In this video: Crazy Kahawai – Hapuka River Mouth – Kaikoura, New Zealand


Hapuku River

10 km north of Kaikoura. Hapuku being the Maori word for groper.

South Bay, Kaikoura, boat ramp. Kaikoura Coast Fishing part 2

There is an excellent public concrete launching ramp at Kaikoura’s South Bay. Most of Kaikoura’s commercial fishing boats are launched here.

Surfcasters at South Bay, Kaikoura. Kaikoura Coast Fishing part 2

Surfcasters at South Bay. Members of the Canterbury Kayak club tell me that the sea here in South Bay is shallower than the beach in front of the railway station, on the northern side of the peninsula, so the fishing isn’t quite as good. However, over summer large schools of kahawai chase baitfish right into this beach.

South Bay

Located on the southern side of the Kaikoura Peninsula, South Bay is relatively shallow. Cruise liners stand well off and run a shuttle service of small boats back and forth with passengers to the jetty. A friend of mine who regularly fishes along the Kaikoura coast from a kayak tells me that South Bay is not his preferred fishing option in the area.

There is a good beach for surfcasting at South Bay the highlight over summer is the schools of kahawai which can be caught easily from the steeply shelving shingle beach.

Commercial fishing boat at South Bay, Kaikoura. Kaikoura Coast Fishing part 2.

Along with the Whale Watching vessels there is also a small fleet of commercial fishing boats that operate out of South Bay, These boats are all launched from trailers as there are no substantial wharves at Kaikoura.

Kaikoura Coast Deep Sea Fishing, Surfcasting, Kayak Fishing, Part 1

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- Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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