Wairarapa Trout – Kopouranga, Waipoua and Mangatarere Streams

Rural scene near Martinborough and Ruamahanga River, Wairarapa, Wellington Region 1958. Photo "Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library". Discription at bottom of page.
Rural scene near Martinborough and Ruamahanga River, Wairarapa, Wellington Region 1958. Photo "Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library". Discription at bottom of page.

Waiarapa Trout Fishing by Catherine Morrison

“These were lake trout, which upon release all headed for the nearest lake, the Pacific Ocean.”

Wairarapa rivers may not have the quality of the rainbow trout caught in the central North Island, nor perhaps the brown trout equivalent of those caught in the headwaters of the South Island high country – but for variation and opportunity offered to anglers, few areas in New Zealand could beat the Wairarapa.

From the trophy browns in the headwaters of the Tarauas; through to delicate, dry fly fishing in the smaller Kopouranga, Waipoua and Mangatarere Streams; and the rainbow trout in the Ruamahanga and Waiohine Rivers, the Wairarapa is fast becoming an important trout fishing area.

Actually, the history of trout fishing here is an important one. During the 1880s Masterton, ran New Zealand’s main brown trout hatchery situated in what is now the main shopping street.

Some half-million trout a year were transported the width and breadth of New Zealand in cream cans.

A smaller hatchery in Pownall Street, which was opened in 1926, is still in operation. Run by the Wellington Fish and Game Council it produces some 3000 rainbow yearlings annually and most of these are placed in Masterton’s Henley Lake on a “put and take” theory. Now closed and since occupied by the Wairarapa Woodworkers Guild.

Ian Buchanan, Field Officer in Masterton for the Fish and Game Council explained that 2000 yearlings had been introduced to the lake each year for 10 years.

“The bulk stayed in the lake, grow, and get caught. Henley Lake has become an excellent small lake fishery, especially for young anglers.”

Mr Buchanan said, “most get caught before they reach a kilo in weight, but there is a side benefit not planned for.”

“A certain proportion of fish have escaped through the outlet grids into the Ruamahanga River where they have established a very good rainbow trout fishery, especially in the stretch of river between Masterton and Gladstone.”

There are a good number of fish weighing up to two kilos in the river, some in schools up to 20 strong. There is no evidence yet, however, that these fish are successfully spawning.

During the mid-1930s millions of rainbow trout were introduced into all Wairarapa rivers

The fact they have remained at all is of importance to the Fish and Game Council. During the mid-1930s millions of rainbow trout were introduced into all Wairarapa rivers – not one established. These were lake trout, which upon release all headed for the nearest lake, the Pacific Ocean. Bearing this in mind the Council have tried an experiment which, while continuing, may just be showing signs of success.

For three years from 1990, they flew 1000 yearlings a year into the headwaters of the Waiohine River. But these are river strain stock taken originally from the Raukaturi River north of Gisbourne and Ian Buchanan says that while monitoring is not scheduled to be done for several years yet, it appears that stocks are establishing.

“The question remaining is whether these fish are simply growing, or whether they are replacing themselves. It will be interesting to see if spawning conditions in the Waiohine are good enough.” Mr Buchanan said. Already the Waiohine boasts trophy brown trout over the magical 10 pounds in pools from the headwaters down through to Walls Whare. The waters are crystal clear most of the year and provide a great challenge.

The waters of the Ruamahanga, through the central Wairarapa valley, are home to quality fish too. These waters, especially in the middle to lower reaches of the river, offer big, slow-moving water with deep long pools and easier fishing. But the area is not highly regarded by anglers outside the Wairarapa – a situation appreciated by local fishermen. Yet for ease of access, less than two hours from Wellington, the rivers of the Wairarapa must offer some of the best fishing in New Zealand. Even a tramp into isolated headwaters of the Tararua Ranges need take only an hour, and many provide huts for overnight anglers.

The Wairarapa may not have the rainbows of the Taupo and Tongariro or the browns of the inaccessible high country of the South Island, but for ease of access, for the variety of fishing opportunities, it sure runs a close second.


Ref. Photograph at top of the page. Rural scene near Martinborough and Ruamahanga River, Wellington Region 1958. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-48549. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/32057743

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