Salmon fishing at Moeraki lighthouse, North Otago
Salmon are caught below the lighthouse both from boats and by shore based anglers fishing from the rocks. For reasons that are not at all clear salmon seem to come very close to the rocky shoreline where they are caught mostly on zed spinners.
The old lighthouse was built in 1877 following the loss of several ships on a nearby reef. The loss of ships around the coast of New Zealand was not at all uncommon during the early years of European settlement. The Moeraki lighthouse is 8.5 metres high and sits 51 metres above sea level. It could be seen by passing ships as far away as 30 km.
Salmon fishermen can launch their boats from the nearby fishing village at Moeraki. This is good as it saves having to run 50 km up the coast to the Waitaki River in search of a salmon off the river mouth.
Salmon fishing at Moeraki takes a different form to anywhere else around the South Island. Good fish are taken each summer by a dedicated band of anglers casting in into the relatively deep water off the rocky point. To get there just follow the track down to the southern side of the point from the lighthouse.
Unfortunately as often is the case with rock fishing there isn’t a great deal of room. There is space for perhaps only a couple of dozen anglers to fish at any one time. For most of the year this isn’t a problem but at Christmas and on some weekends following space can be at a premium. The general rule is “first up; best dressed!” So it pays to be early.
Most salmon are taken at Moeraki by shore based anglers fishing with zed spinners. Many of the anglers who fish for salmon at Moeraki also fish for them in the Waitaki River and as such tend to use the same tackle. Let the spinner sink for at least ten seconds before winding. You don’t have to cast far as most salmon are taken close to the rocks.
Some anglers also use the method of drifting a pilchard or yellow-eyed mullet down under a float. This works well. It is common practice in Otago Harbour but needs plenty of space and should only be used at Moeraki when there are few other anglers present if tangles are to be avoided.
A long handle gaff is a must if you are to lift your salmon safely from the swell at Moeraki. Usually there will be a pair of willing and able hands present to assist in this operation.
Some very big salmon have been taken at Moeraki over the years with the record standing at just over 18 kgs (40 lbs). Most of the fish landed would be in the order of 5 to 12 kg. This spot has had its fair share of excellent days with as many as four dozen plus salmon being caught on a single tide!