Lake Ohau Trout Fishing – in the Mackenzie Country near Twizel

Lake Ohau Trout Fishing

Lake Ohau straddles the boundary between Canterbury and Otago. This high country lake (520m above sea level) covers 54 square kilometres. Expect it to be cold at night – even in summer. A popular area with holidaymakers over summer. The lake offers good trout fishing in a remote area. Also, expect snow and freezing temperatures in winter.

Jetty at the southern end of Lake Ohau. A four-wheel drive is necessary for launching a trailer boat.

Lake Ohau is situated some 20km by road to the east of the Mackenzie Country town of Twizel. It is an easy drive taking the Glen Lyon Road to arrive at Lake Ohau on the south-west side, where the both the Ohau Canal and the Ohau River drain the southern end of the lake. Both of these outlets are blocked by control gates which form part of the extensive Mackenzie Basin Hydroelectricity Generation Scheme. To fish on the eastern shoreline of Lake Ohau travel from Twizel heading south-east on SH 8 and turn right at Clearburn on to Lake Ohau Road. It is well worth casting a line in the Ohau Canal, especially if the gates are open, as some very big fish are caught there. Big rainbow trout wait to pick-off food items in the torrent of water pouring through the gates into the canal.

Wild berries around the shore of Lake Ohau.

The southern end of Lake Ohau is dominated by the towering Mt Ben Ohau at 1522m. Spin fishing is a popular method when fishing the lake edge. The other most popular method on this lake is trolling. There is good access by shingle road around the almost all of the eastern and western shorelines, which also means good boat launching as well. Even a modest boat will open up many extra fishing opportunities such as drift fishing over weed-beds, trolling, and access to the Hopkins River mouth where very loose shingle makes wading potentially quite dangerous.

Ohau A intake with Lake Ohau behind it. The intake wall can provide good mid-winter fishing when the intake is open.

The Dobson joins the Hopkins River approximately 7km above the lake before entering at the northern end of a broad shingle delta. During rain, and snow-melt, the head of Lake Ohau can become very discoloured and unfishable from the inflowing Hopkins River. However, providing conditions are fishable this is the best place on the lake to fish. Both rainbows and browns can be caught over the drop-off as they wait for anything eatable to flow down into the lake. Spin and lure rod fishing is popular at this spot and can be very productive and exciting. The Hopkins River mouth is best fished from a boat because the bottom is very soft as mentioned above.

Lake Ohau is often fished by trolling from a boat with Black Tobys, green and gold Tasmanian Devils and Tillins Cobras, or something similar. Softbaits are also good for lake fishing. Keep in mind this is mostly deep water so extra weight will be required.

This view is from the deeper southern end of Lake Ohau. The towering Ben Ohau rises almost straight from the water with the snow-capped Barrier Range in the distance. The blue colour of the lake water is caused by “glacial flour” and is typical of the Mackenzie Country lakes. A narrow winding shingle road follows around the base of the hill. This section of road is in Canterbury while the lake itself is in Otago.

Like all New Zealand high country lakes, you must keep a close watch on the weather as the lake can cut-up quickly when the wind gets up. Over the years there have been several large floods in this lake following heavy rain. At such time Lake Ohau can be dirty and unfishable for several weeks. So if travelling any distance you might want to check on the fishability of the lake with Fish & Game or one of the local tackle stores.

The sign at the southern end of Lake Ohau warns of the narrow winding road with few spots for passing vehicles coming the other way. The sign is located at the end of the tar seal road from Twizel.

There are also Atlantic salmon in Lake Ohau although they are not often caught. There are also vast weed-bed areas at the southern end of Lake Ohau. These are easily and productively fished with natural baits including shrimp, prawn and huhu grub.

View of Lake Ohau from the southern end. The Ohau A intake and canal are just out of sight to the right of this picture. It can get very hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. Snow to the lake edge is not uncommon.

With fishing very popular nowadays in the nearby Ohau A Canal it may be that most anglers will not bother travelling all the way to the end of the road to fish this lake as much as they used to. Lake Ohau is a big water measuring about 16 km in length by 5km wide.

The Mackenzie Country is a wonderful area for a fishing holiday with plenty of excellent places to fish all quite close together. Conditions are generally dry and hot over the summer months. A guy I spoke to one day at the canals said that as a child his family would holiday at Lake Ohau. He said they would catch many trout trolling from their boat.

Lake Ohau Map. Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright Reserved

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Sockeye salmon taken on the flyrod by Jamie Blair. Photograph courtesy of Jamie Blair. See Sockeye Salmon article. There are sockeye salmon in Lakes Ohau and Benmore. They are very difficult to catch, however.

This post was last modified on 22/03/2018 4:24 pm

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