New Zealand is world-famous for our fantastic fishing opportunities, and, under normal circumstances, we welcome thousands of visitors every year who can’t wait to get out on the water and do battle with some of the amazing fish that live in our streams, lakes, rivers and oceans.

Of course, we are not living under normal circumstances right now with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting overseas travel around the world. This means that we can’t welcome international visitors who wish to come and fish in some of the best spots in New Zealand. What it also means, is that for Kiwis, there has never been a better time to get out and explore our truly beautiful country and head away on that fishing trip you have always dreamt of.

The best fishing in New Zealand is a hotly debated topic on forums across the web. The trouble is, we have so many amazing fishing destinations, picking the best one is pretty tricky.

Fishing is a very personal thing. Do you want sea fishing or freshwater fishing? What type of fish do you enjoy catching? Are you a catch and release sort of person or do you enjoy dining on your catch of the day?

Depending on the type of fishing you most enjoy will determine the best fishing region for you in New Zealand. To make things easier for you, we have pulled together a pretty comprehensive list of what we think are the best fishing regions in NZ but we would also love to get your input.

Drop us a comment below or message us on Facebook and let us know where you love to fish and why you think it deserves a place on our list of the best fishing locations in New Zealand and we will look to keep our list building and leave no stone unturned!

So, let’s get into it.

Fishing in New Zealand is about more than just the fish

Before we dig into the best fishing regions, let’s talk a bit more about fishing in New Zealand and why it’s about more than just the fish.

Wherever you go – river, bay, open ocean – New Zealand has some truly beautiful fishing spots and whether you have a great day out on the water, or your nets come home empty, you are pretty much guaranteed an amazing day out no matter the catch.

From deep water fishing to discovering a hidden spot on the river, fishing lets you immerse yourself in nature and brings with it a serene peace that is hard to find in most other outdoor activities.

And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, New Zealand is also home to some pretty amazing (and super luxurious) fishing lodges that will welcome you home after a day on the water with a comfy chair and some tremendous cuisine (hopefully caught by you!).

So, where can you find these amazing fishing locations we hear you say? Let’s GO.

The best freshwater fishing spots in New Zealand

Let’s kick things off with freshwater fishing where New Zealand has an abundance of quality locations thanks to the many rivers and lakes found throughout both the North and South Islands.

Central Plateau

 

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We wanted to kick things off in the central North Island which is widely regarded as the best place in the country to fish for trout. In fact, Turangi is dubbed ‘Trout capital of New Zealand’ and it’s for good reason. Turangi is located where the Tongariro River flows into Lake Taupo and here you will find an abundance of rainbow and brown trout.

All throughout the region, you will find a huge range of fishing lodges, from the more rustic to the more luxurious. If you are really looking to splash out, give the Huka Lodge a try – you will not be disappointed.

Also located within the Central Plateau and not far from Taupo is Rotorua – another hotspot for trout fishing. The lakes in and around Rotorua are shallow and the fish are found in abundance. Rotorua is another place with plenty of accommodation options to suit all budgets and is great for fishing all year round.

Nelson and Marlborough

 

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This is a region that caters well for those who are looking for freshwater or saltwater fishing but let’s first tackle freshwater fishing in the region.

Nelson is the best spot for freshwater fishing and the Motueka River is a great place for brown trout. The river offers up challenges for all experience levels with some testing rapids for the more experienced to some calm spots that are great for beginners.

There are plenty of guides to be found in the area who will be happy to take you out to discover some cracking spots that you might not find on your own.

The Nelson Lakes National Park is another great spot for trout fishing in and around the Nelson and Marlborough area, so you are spoilt for choice. With the Abel Tasman National Park and Kahurangi National Park all in close proximity, it’s a great place for a holiday no matter how much fishing you get to do.

West Coast

 

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The West Coast is well-known throughout New Zealand for its wild foods and fish definitely falls into this category. One of the things the West Coast is most well known for is whitebait. From September to mid-November, whitebait is in abundance all along the West Coast of the South Island and they are widely known as one of our most popular foods here in New Zealand.

If whitebait is not your thing (you catch them in nets and there are strict restrictions on quantities), then the Haast River is a great spot for fishermen that has been described as ‘wild’ and ‘challenging’. It’s also a spot where you can catch whitebait in season but most head here for the trout.

Otago


Another South Island fishing gem is Otago. The region has a number of excellent dams and rivers where once again, brown trout is the prized catch, and they are found in abundance throughout the region.

Of course, the Otago region is not only great fishing country but also one of the most spectacular regions in the country, set against the backdrop of the Southern Alps on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

The Upper Clutha River is one of the most popular places for brown trout fishing on the South Island and is the fastest flowing river in New Zealand. This means it’s really suitable for experienced anglers but the experience is one that you will not soon forget.

Rainbow trout, brown trout, chinook salmon and perch are just a few of the fish you will find in the Upper Clutha and whilst the river opens up into several lakes along the way, the upper part of the river is where the main action can be found.

Canterbury

 

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The South Island is definitely the best place for the variety of freshwater fishing and Canterbury is one of the most popular destinations. The region is known for its rivers and these make the perfect destination for freshwater fishing – especially fly fishing.

The Waimakariri River is one of the most popular spots, especially for those looking for a luxury experience. As well as an abundance of salmon and trout, there is also a luxury lodge and the opportunity to take a guided fishing tour that includes jet boating from one location to the next – a true Kiwi fishing experience.

The Rakaia River is another popular spot just south of Christchurch.

Southland


Fewer people usually means more fish and with no international tourists visiting the Southland region, there has never been a better time to head down here to experience the wonderful fishing that can be found in a number of locations.

The Mataura River in Gore is definitely a hot spot for brown trout and may even trump Turangi for the title of trout capital of New Zealand. You will also find smaller numbers of rainbow trout and salmon in the rivers of Southland and it’s a super-relaxing place to spend some time, especially during the summer months.

The best saltwater fishing spots in New Zealand

Moving away from the inland rivers and lakes and to the coast. New Zealand is blessed with over 15,000 kms of coastline which makes it the perfect destination for those who love to go deep-sea fishing or even just saltwater fishing off the rocks. No matter where you find yourself around our beautiful coast, you will usually find a local who knows a good place to go fishing or a charter you can join. Here are some of our favourite saltwater fishing destinations in New Zealand.

Northland


Perhaps more specifically, we should be talking about the Bay of Islands. If sea fishing is your thing and you would like to take a charter, then the Bay of Islands is your spot. Whether you choose a half-day or full-day experience, you will find plenty of fish just off the coast of this beautiful part of the country.

Charters leave from Paihia and Russell daily during the height of the season and you can expect to catch snapper, marlin, hapuku, and kingfish on your trip.

It’s also a stunning way to explore the Bay of Islands and there are a number of fish and chip restaurants that will gladly batter up your catch of the day.

Southland

 

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We’ve already touched upon the amazing freshwater fishing in Southland, however, a trip across the Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island will also take you straight into saltwater fishing territory.

The fish off Stewart Island are prolific so if you want to head out on a charter with about a 99.9% success rate, then Southland is your best bet. Here you will find blue cod, trumpeter, grouper and tarakihi in abundance so expect to come home with a big haul from a day out on a charter boat.

Waikato

 

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Whilst most people associate the Waikato region with inland destinations such as Taupo or Hamilton, the Coromandel Peninsula sits within the Waikato region and is up there with the Bay of Islands when it comes to saltwater fishing charters.

Whitianga is the best place to base yourself to catch a fishing charter and once out on the water, you will find some very big snapper and kingfish around these waters. In the summer months, you will also find game fish like tuna, marlin and the odd shark. There are also options to do overnight charters which are spectacular and a great way to discover the region.

If a charter is not your thing and you want to keep your feet on dry land, there are plenty of places to go sea fishing from the shore. Fantail Bay is one of the best locations for land-based fishing and people have been known to snag some sizeable snappers and kingfish here.

Bay of Plenty


Heading down the coast from the Coromandel, you will come across the seaside town of Whakatane which is widely regarded as one of the best all-round fishing spots in the country. Like the Coromandel, you have the option for land-based fishing or charters from Whakatane and during the summer months, there is a good chance you will catch some tuna – yellowfin, skipjack or albacore are all found in the waters off Whakatane.

It’s a great destination all year round and throughout the year, you will find plenty of snapper and kingfish in and around this beautiful destination.

Canterbury


As well as the fantastic freshwater fishing found in Canterbury, you don’t have to go far to find some pretty amazing seawater fishing too.

The popular tourist destination of Kaikoura is one of the best spots for sea fishing in New Zealand and whilst whale watching and swimming with dolphins might be the number one attraction in the area, you won’t be disappointed with the fishing in and around Kaikoura.

Expect to fish for blue cod, grouper, sea perch, blue nose and tarakihi when you fish the waters around Kaikoura but if you are looking for a real treat, make sure you try the crayfish when you are down there – it’s the best place in the country to try it and you could always try your hand and drop your own pots.

Auckland

 

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We couldn’t leave this post without mentioning the amazing fishing opportunities in New Zealand’s biggest city and most popular tourist destination: Auckland.

The Hauraki Gulf is one of the best places to go fishing in New Zealand and there are opportunities to take a charter from downtown Auckland. If you are lucky enough to know a local with a boat, you will often see the stretch between downtown Auckland and Tiritiri Matangi Island, about an hour north of Auckland, looking like a busy motorway on a weekend as people jump in their boats and head off to catch their supper.

Snapper is the most abundant fish found in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf, but you can also expect to find kingfish as well. There are some pretty strict regulations on what you can take home from the waters around Auckland so make sure you are up on those guidelines and only take the fish allowed within your boat’s allocated quota.

Other notable sea fishing destinations

With so much coastline, there is an opportunity to sea fishing from pretty much anywhere you find yourself so we can’t cover them all off in this post. Other notable destinations include:

  • Gisborne
  • Wellington
  • Dunedin
  • West Coast

Summary

Well, that just about covers it – the best fishing to be found in New Zealand. We hope you have found this guide helpful, and we hope it encourages you to get out and book that fishing trip you have always been dreaming about – there is no better time to head out and support local.

Don’t forget, these places are not just about the fishing either. No matter where you go, there is always so much more to do in the area so plan your trip around a destination or region and include a day or two of fishing in between trying lots of other local activities and attractions.

If you know of an amazing fishing region in NZ that we have missed off our list, we’d love to hear all about it and send us some photos if you have any.

Gone fishing!