Canterbury Summer Fishing Options

Canterbury Summer Fishing Options

By Peter Langlands

The next few months will offer the best range of fishing opportunities available on the South Island during the year. In this article I will outline fish species worth targeting at this time of year, the locations to fish and techniques to use. All of the information I will outline is from personal experience. Here are just some of the Canterbury Summer Fishing Options.

Never before has such a wide range of fishing options been available to local anglers, with an increase in charter operations over the last year or so being particularly pronounced.

SALTWATER Canterbury Summer Fishing Options

Kaikoura Coast

This salmon was caught from the beach behind the Railway Station on the 20th of November. Ask the guys at Hunting and Fishing Kaikoura for the latest info on the salmon being caught.

Salmon are still being caught by anglers spin fishing from the beach behind the railway station right in the middle of Kaikoura. The steeply shelving shingle beach is also a top spot for surfcasting, especially for rig and gurnard. Big schools of Kahawai come right up to the beach and can be taken on spinners and surfcasting gear.

The Kaikoura Coast is the ideal venue to use the long summer days to the max, and you can visit Kaikoura for the day and fish offshore. In the past many anglers have gone up to the Marlborough Sounds for offshore fishing, but this normally involves a 2-3 day trip.

Kaikoura offers opportunities to catch large blue cod and sea perch in good numbers, therefore providing some dependable white fish fillets.

From mid-February onwards there will be opportunities to troll for albacore tuna off the Kaikoura coast. For deep-water anglers, there are opportunities to target bluenose, groper and ling from offshore reefs and deep-water canyons.

With six charter operators available, Kaikoura charters for anglers’ requirements, from a two-hour fishing trip to catch a few sea perch and blue cod for dinner, to 14-hour days working deep water reefs for trumpeter, groper and tarakihi.

There was even a 50kg bluefin tuna taken off Kaikoura recently, on 25 October. You can check it out here on the Kaikoura Hunting and Fishing Facebook page.

Crayfish for dinner. Photo courtesy of Top Catch Charters.

Top Catch Charters – Kaikoura. Operates a purpose-built 6.2m Osprey boat out of South Bay Marina. Your host is experienced skipper Malcolm Halstead. Fishing trip details and contact number on their website: Top Catch Charters.

Kaikoura Fishing Tours. Operates a 12-metre, custom-built charter vessel. Skipper Tomo, has had years of experience at sea, taking fishermen and women on fishing adventures in the beautiful Kaikoura area. Website: Kaikoura Fishing Tours.

Kaikoura Fishing Adventures. Skipper Tomo, has had years of experience at sea, taking fishermen and fisherwomen on fishing adventures in the beautiful Kaikoura area. Website: Kaikoura Fishing Adventures.

The Rodfather – Fishing Trips and Charters. The vessel is an Osprey 850 Hard Top with a 300 hp 4 stroke Yamaha. The RodFather crew has been running fishing and diving charters out of Kaikoura for over 12 years. Website: The Rodfather 

Seamist Fishing Charters Kaikoura. The vessel is a 14-metre, purpose-built aluminium charter boat. Very experienced skipper and crew. The  Website: Seamist Fishing Charters.

Fish Kaikoura. Skipper Ian has decades of experience fishing and diving the Kaikoura coast. A modern spacious 10-metre boat powered by twin 150 hp Yamaha 4-stroke engines. Website: Fish Kaikoura.

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

Kaikoura Coast Deep Sea Fishing, Surfcasting, Kayak Fishing, Part 2

Marlborough Sounds Snapper

Late summer and early autumn (February to mid-April) is my favourite time to fish the shallower parts of the Marlborough Sounds. The largest number of snapper move into the shallows of Kenepuru Sound at this time. While the average size of the fish is below that of the fish found in the area before Christmas, there are good numbers of smaller school snapper of around 2-3 kilograms.

Use a stray line with no added weight and a fresh mullet. Cast the bait just over the edge of the shelf into the deeper water. Portage is an excellent base for snapper fishing. Remember, that the new fishing regulations only allow three snapper per day per angler.

A small dinghy is ideal for accessing some of the remoter and less-fished beaches. A dinghy is also ideal for fishing some mussel rafts. Remember, that when snapper fishing, it is important to move around, as generally once a few fish have been caught from a certain spot, the fishing quietens down. If possible avoid going to Kenepuru if there are strong nor ’westers blowing. Snapper Fishing in the Marlborough Sounds.

New Brighton Pier

The New Brighton Pier is another exciting fishing opportunity. The pier is an excellent place to catch bait supplies for fishing at other locations. There are large numbers of paddle crabs around the pier, and many people are using crab traps (fishermen using the crabs as surfcasting baits for rig and elephant fish on the southern beaches at Taumutu and Birdlings Flat with great success), however, I think the crab traps have been banned by the council because of the ropes used to lift them have been cutting into the wooden handrail.

Yellow-eyed mullet (herrings) are also easily caught from the pier and make good bait in local waters for red cod and kahawai.

Reasonable numbers of kahawai have been caught at the pier, and overall there appears to be better numbers of kahawai in local waters this summer.

Using paddle crab baits off the pier will result in the capture of both rig and elephant fish, despite commercial fishing pressure in the area. A fun place to fish in the evening. Hector’s dolphins swim around the wharf.

Motunau Boat Fishing

Motunau can produce outstanding catches of blue cod, due to persistent north westerlies. The reefs about 15 miles to the south of Motunau Island are particularly productive. The blue cod are on the edges of the reefs (the position of which is indicated by crayfish floats). Motuna Fishing Tips.

Eddystone eels (plastic jigs) baited with a small piece of kahawai or squid is particularly effective.

FRESHWATER Canterbury Summer Fishing Options

Rakaia Rivermouth – Sea-run Trout:

Enormous sea-run brown trout taken on the lure rod from the lower Rakaia River. Photo, Peter Langlands.


Late January to the end of February is the best time of year to target sea-run brown trout at the Rakaia Rivermouth. Large fish up to double figures are usually caught at this time of year. Lure fishing gear is the best way to target sea-run trout.

Fish a yellow lure pattern during the day (Yellow Rabbit or Parson’s Glory) and a dark pattern at night (such as a Black Rabbit or Fuzzy Wuzzy).

The river mouth itself, or the lower reaches of the gut are the best places to fish. Because of the high possibility of hooking a salmon, use a 20-pound line for traces. Remember to re-tie traces every half hour, and constantly sharpen hooks.

Releasing a big sea-run brown trout near the mouth of the Rakaia River.

The best tide for targeting sea-run brown trout is the outgoing tide, and the low tide is a very productive time. Sea-run browns are more active at night and during dawn and dusk. The Rakaia River is fishable for sea-run trout when the river flow is 200 cumecs or less Canterbury Regional Riverflow Service up to date data).

The Rakaia Rivermouth is located about halfway between the North and South Rakaia Huts but can move along this line when a flood causes the river to punch a new hole through the shingle bank separating the lagoon from the sea.

If you do not have a four-wheel bike, then it is about a 45-minute walk to the river mouth again depending on its current position. I have generally preferred fishing from the south side of the Rakaia Rivermouth.

Remember that there are prize categories in the upcoming Rakaia Fishing Competition for sea-run trout, so if you get some practice in using the lure rod, you stand a good chance of winning a prize.

In the past, keen anglers have salmon fished during the day and lure fished at night for sea-run trout to maximise chances of winning prizes. Sea-run trout are far more responsive to feathered lures than metal spinners.

Limit bag of landlocked salmon taken on spin fishing gear at the Harper River end of Lake Coleridge.

High Country Lakes Dry Fly Fishing

Late January to the end of February is the height of the dry fly fishing action on Canterbury’s high country lakes. Dry flies such as the Black Gnat, Love’s Lure and Green Beetle are the three main fly patterns.

By mid-February trout will energetically rise from damselflies, and can be seen and heard jumping out of the water.

I generally prefer fishing two dry flies at once, a larger attractor fly (such as a size 12 Lover’s Lure) which is also easy to see and therefore minimises eyestrain, and a smaller fly which sits lower in the water – usually a foam green beetle (which is tied by my brother Martin Langlands) and is an extremely effective pattern.

Rising trout are generally line-shy, so I prefer using a 4-pound Maxima line.

Lake Selfe rainbow trout.

It is important to pause momentarily when the trout rises for the fly before striking. Trout rising activity can change dramatically as the weather changes. Ideal conditions are a light nor’wester or easterly wind and clear skies.

Most Canterbury lakes produce the best dry fly fishing between 9 and 11 am. Dry fly fishing is an exciting and very visual way of fishing. Suddenly the location of the trout in the lake is shown by telltale rings in the water. Both brown and rainbow trout rise freely in most Canterbury lakes.

A summary of some options:

Lake Lyndon – Accessible dry fly fishing. Use a green beetle pattern. Rainbow trout, with lots of small fish less than a pound, but expect larger fish up to three pounds. Best fished in the mid-morning.

Lake Pearson – Flock Hill Bank produces excellent fishing if there is an easterly wind blowing. Use a large Lover’s Lure and green beetle on a dropper. There is a mix of brown trout and rainbows averaging 2-3 pounds, but a good chance of larger fish around 6 pounds (brown trout). More about fishing at Lake Pearson.

Lake Emma – Easily accessible lake on a tussock plateau just inland from Mt Somers township. Use a large Elk Hair Caddis and green beetle. An early morning hatch of caddisflies blows onto the lake. Emma has a high population of brown trout averaging less than two pounds, although a few fish of 3-4 pounds are caught. An excellent lake to start on if you are a beginner, given the large population of fish.

The fish rise freely to dry flies. Deep fishing a dragonfly nymph is a successful way of catching the rainbows in Lake Selfe. There are also browns in Lake Selfe up to 6-pounds. High Country Lake Fishing in Canterbury.

While it looks like the salmon season will only be mediocre this year, there is a wide range of other options for the keen angler.

Finally, remember to apply sunscreen to all exposed parts of your body, reapplying sunscreen every three hours. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

The north westerlies will probably be persistent through the summer, but that should provide good sea fishing opportunities on the South Island’s east coast. These are just some of our Canterbury summer fishing options. With the seawater off the Canterbury coast now warmer than in past years, we are also seeing more northern species like yellowtail kingfish being caught.

This post was last modified on 13/03/2024 3:27 pm

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