Lake Argyle – Trout Fishing – Marlborough – New Zealand

Lance Gill with a big Lake Argyle rainbow trout, Marlborough, New Zealand. Photograph courtesy of Lance Gill and Fish The Drift NZ.
Lance Gill with a big Lake Argyle rainbow trout, Marlborough, New Zealand. Photograph courtesy of Lance Gill and Fish The Drift NZ.

Lake Argyle – Well-Stocked Trout Fishing Lake – Great for Kids

By Allan Burgess

Rainbow jack trout taken on a soft bait worked close to the edge. Lake Argyle, Marlborough, New Zealand. Photograph courtesy of Lance Gill and Fish The Drift NZ.
Rainbow jack trout taken on a soft bait worked close to the edge. Lake Argyle, Marlborough, New Zealand. Photograph courtesy of Lance Gill and Fish The Drift NZ. The soft bait is a Savage Gear Craft Cannibal, available from most good tackle stores.

Lake Argyle – Marlborough, Stocked with Rainbow and Brown Trout and Sometimes Salmon

This small hydro lake was created by diverting water along a canal from the Branch River, a tributary of the Wairau River.  The water storage reservoir for the Branch hydroelectric scheme was completed and came into operation in 1984. Water is taken from the northern end of the lake to feed the turbines at the Argyle Power Station. A tailrace canal then carries the water approximately 3km downstream to the Wairau Power Station, and from there the tailrace discharges into the Wairau River.  

It was previously called Argyle Pond but Lake Argyle seems to be the more accepted name nowadays.  

How to get there

The small lake sits 69km west of the town of Blenheim. It takes about 52 minutes to get there from Blenheim by car driving along State Highway 63 up the Wairau Valley. 

If you are coming from the other direction Lake Argyle is south of Nelson. The 103km trip by car will take about 1 hour and 29 minutes according to Aunty Google. Drive south-west out of Nelson on SH6 through Hope, Brightwater and Wakefield. Travel along SH6 and turn off south into Wai-iti Valley Road, Stock Road, Kerr Hill Road, Korere Tophouse Road, then left onto SH63. Finally, turn right into Moore Road. 

Lake Argyle measures 1.3km in length and 220m at its widest point. It is only about 3.5 meters at its deepest point. It is a great fishing lake for kids, novices, and experts alike to cast a line with a very good chance of catching a good size eatable fish. 

This is excellent access with a gravel Rd following most of the shoreline. There is a good concrete boat launching ramp and limited camping facilities on the south-eastern side of the lake. 

Stocking

Nelson/Marlborough Fish and Game do a great job keeping Lake Argyle and the lower canal well stocked with both brown and rainbow trout. There are plenty of 1 kilogram brown and rainbow trout that have been released along with big rainbow trout weighing up to 6 kg (13lb). There are also naturally spawned fish in the lake and canals as well. 

Summary of the Sports Fishing Regulations for Lake Argyle and canals for 2021/2022

Always check your latest South Island Sports Fishing Regulations booklet before fishing any water. 

There is no minimum size limit for trout and salmon in the Nelson/Marlborough region.  

Argyle Pond and lower hydro canals from where powerlines cross at the head of the lake and downstream to Wairau River confluence: Open Season is from 1 October to 30 September (all year). Fly, spinning and bait fishing are all permitted. Only Child licence holders may baitfish. The daily bag limit is 2 sports fish.  

Argyle Pond Headrace from Branch River hydro intake to powerlines at the head of Lake Argyle Open Season is from 31 October to 31 May (closed over winter). Fly, spinning and bait fishing are all permitted. Only Child licence holders may baitfish. The daily bag limit is 2 sports fish. 

Boats in Lake Argyle

Trolling from motorized boats is permitted on Lake Argyle. Downriggers are permitted when lake fishing in Marlborough. Downriggers can be quite effective even when fishing relatively shallow lakes.

Another good boat fishing method is to motor up the lake into the wind. Switch the motor off and cast spinners as the boat gentle drifts back down. With this method, several anglers can cover a lot of water. When Lake Argyle is clear you will easily be able to see rainbows swimming over the weed beds and out of the way of the boat. 

Spin Fishing in Lake Argyle

Trout will take many different types of spinners. Well worth a shot are Tasmanian Devils, black and gold Tobys, blade spinners, and Rapala minnows especially. Your lures are more likely to attract a bite if fished close to the bottom just above the weed beds. Try casting out and allowing your lure to sink down near the weed before retrieving. 

Fishing early morning and evening change of light is the best time of day to fish. Night fishing could also be productive here. 

Check out the excellent video about spin fishing on Lake Argyle by Fish and Game ranger Bruce McKenzie included on this page. Bruce has some really great advice that will definitely increase your chances of catching a fish. If you are just starting out, I think it would be a good idea to play the video back a couple of times to absorb as much info as possible.  

Nowadays soft baits are all the rage and for good reason; they work. Just as it is important to have a range of different coloured soft baits, it is equally important you have a range of different weight jig heads. If you cast out and your soft bait is constantly getting stuck in the weed then you need to switch to a lighter jig head. Conversely, if your lure is not diving deep enough so that you catch the weed occasionally, you may need to use a slightly heavier weight.  

Also, try a slightly heavier jig head if casting into the wind. 

Try 5-to-7-centimetre paddle tail soft baits as these will be the best size to use. As for jig heads a range of 1/16th ounce, 1/12 ounce, and 1/8 ounce should be all you’ll need. 

You might also want to check out Spinning for Trout with Lures, Soft Baits, Flies and Bubble Floats for more tips. 

A notable feature of Lake Argyle is the excellent walking and driving access all around the shoreline.
A notable feature of Lake Argyle is the excellent walking and driving access all around the shoreline.
Argyle Power Station at the northern end of Lake Argyle, Marlborough, NZ.
Argyle Power Station at the northern end of Lake Argyle, Marlborough, NZ.
Head of Lake Argyle, Marlborough, NZ. The water is clear enough to see trout from quite a distance.
Head of Lake Argyle, Marlborough, NZ. The water is clear enough to see trout from quite a distance.
The canal running between the Argyle and Wairau Power Houses pictured here is wider than the canal supplying water from the Branch River to the head of Lake Argyle. Photograph Allan Burgess

Fly Fishing

In my experience on a very calm day when there is little wind and the lake’s surface is flat with the odd trout rising here and there fly fishing is likely to be more effective than spinning.  

Sunken lures like black, grey and olive Woolly buggers are usually effective when there is a bit of ripple on the surface. Wading out waist-deep and casting over weed beds with nymphs and lures is also a sure-fire winner when trout aren’t feeding on the surface. 

Should the fish be feeding on the surface then very small dry flies will be the go. 

You might like to try fishing dry flies, nymphs or lures (streamers) with a bubble float. Click this link and check out the video at the bottom of the page to see how it’s done. Spinning for Trout with Lures, Soft Baits, Flies and Bubble Floats

Fish & Game Ranger Bruce McKenzie with some tips and trips for how to tackle Lake Argyle. This popular fishery is located in the middle of the Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game region and is often frequented by anglers of all ages and abilities. Bruce gives you some detailed tips and tricks to make your trip to Lake Argyle more profitable.


View Larger Topographic Map

Lake Argyle also known as Argyle Pond. Click on map to zoom in and out.