Dunedin Wharves Salmon Fishing Rig – Otago – When, Where, How?

Dunedin Wharves Salmon Fishing Rig

by Chris Dore

Lowering a drop net. Otago harbour salmon fishing. Position the net under the fish and lift up to the wharf by the rope.
A salmon being lifted up to the wharf in Otago Harbour. If you tried to lift it with your rod it would likely be a disaster. The hook could pull out, your line could break, or your rod could snap!

Dunedin Wharves Salmon Fishing is really quite popular, with hundreds of people in quest of the Quinnat salmon which is mainly targeted for its excellent eating qualities but can put up a decent fight. There is an annual salmon fishing competition that takes place each year in the harbour.

There are some very good salmon caught in Otago Harbour.

Fishing Tackle

The average salmon angler uses a rod, not less than seven feet in length, which can hold a genuine 10kg.

Graphite-Composite is a popular material which the majority of rods are made from, although one does see the occasional fibreglass or old cane “poles.”

Surfcasters are popular, as they have the ability to cast a fairway and still have enough power to subdue a 20-pound salmon. Large thread-line reels or surf reels are the norms with Daiwa, Silstar and Shimano being the most popular brands.

Dunedin Wharves Salmon Fishing Rig.

Any reel will suffice, as long as it has the ability to hold at least 100 metres of 10kg line and has a reliable drag.

Line strength varies between anglers, but 20-25 pound (9-11kg) seems to be the average strength. The rig used consists of a sliding float, one sliding bead, one three-quarter ounce weight, two number 1 snap swivels, two 2/0 hooks and a 25-pound trace (see diagram).


Now all you need is the bait!

Sprat is the most commonly used bait for salmon and can be caught on small “sabiki” rigs which can be purchased from your local tackle retailer.

Your sprat rod will need to be flexible, no longer than six feet and reliable. Your reel has to hold about 50-100 metres of 6-10 pound line. No drag is necessary. Simply drop your jig down to the bottom, wind up about a foot and begin jigging.

Dunedin Wharves Salmon Fishing -When, Where, and How to Catch them?

Once you have a supply of sprat, you can either use them while they are fresh or take them home, salt then free-flow freeze them in an ice-cream container.

The best time to catch salmon is tide-turn. That, along with the incoming tide, is when the majority of salmon are caught.

January, February and March are the peak months, when the salmon are in superabundance. The calm days seem to be when most salmon are caught. Otago Harbour Salmon Fishing in the Heart of Dunedin.

I recall one super-calm day in late January. There were about 20 salmon landed, with an average weight of 11 pounds. A great day by any standard!

As for location, the entire Dunedin Basin is highly productive, with the Fryatt Street Wharf as a hot-spot. The Birch Street Wharf near the Otago Harbour Board building is a hot-spot for sprat, which are in abundance from January-April. The Port Chalmers Wharf is probably the best spot in the entire harbour for salmon, with fish being caught all around its perimeter. The main method of salmon fishing is threading your sprat onto the hook so that the fixed hook is positioned near the head and the keeper hook near the tail. The point of both hooks should point towards the tail.

Then just cast out and wait! If your float slowly moves away or goes under, you have a salmon inspecting your bait. Don’t strike until the float goes completely under, out of sight. From then on, it is up to you. Whatever you do, don’t wind against the pull of the fish. That creates line twist, which weakens your line considerably.

It is a good idea to purchase a drop net, as lifting a salmon 10 or more feet above the water gives you a 50-50 chance of securing it, but that chance is greatly increased with a net.

There is a size limit on salmon in the Otago Harbour, set at 45cm and a bag limit of two.

Salmon caught trolling in Otago Harbour.

This post was last modified on 23/01/2020 6:58 pm

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