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Gone Fishin

Fishing - Believe article June 2016

Doug Stevens is the owner / manager of New Zealand’s largest freshwater fishing website, to help you find the winter fishing waters near you. His team has produced a book on winter fishing that covers all the waters in the North Island.

(the South Island book is coming shortly)

Winter has its own charm. A time when all the elements encourage you to put up the shutters and settle in to a deep armchair with a warm drink and a cool book.

But there comes that time when you develop cabin fever – the deep-felt need to get out from the four walls and do something active.  After all, there is only so much televised sport to watch.

When we think of winter activities we usually think of sports such as rugby.  During these colder months, other outdoor activities such as fishing remain as memories from the previous summer or dreams for the future.  Yet this need not be so – some of the best freshwater fishing is to be had during the cooler months.  In fact, winter is a fantastic time to get out with the family and go to some great locations for a day exploring our fabled waters with a fishing rod.

Now it is true that most waters are closed in winter as this is the time when many trout are in spawning mode.  But in the North Island alone there are nearly 150 waters that remain open to anglers all year.  Take a look and you will find that there is a lake or river close to where you live that is open and waiting.

What is more, in many of these waters the fishing is best during the cooler months.  The fish are often found close to shore and having a smaller variety of food sources are more likely to be interested in the lure or fly you offer. Winter months can also provide wonderful still, clear weather.  A frosty night usually gives way to a beautiful clear day.  Admittedly it is cooler (that’s why warm clothes were invented) but unlike in the height of summer you do not need to hide from the sun.  The trout fishing too tends to be better during the warmer parts of the day in winter as the sun puts some warmth in the water and encourages insect and other aquatic life activity – what the trout call food.

So what better way for the family to get out and see a bit of the country than to head to a lake or river and fish through the warmest part of the day?  The bonus is a fish (or two) to take home at the end.

So let us take a couple of examples of where to fish in winter and how it is best approached.

Near Dargaville in Northland lie the three beautiful Kai Iwi Lakes, by far the most popular freshwater fishery north of Auckland.

These lakes provide easy access for land-based anglers and are renowned for the number and the quality of the fish they produce.

And the best time to fish them is from May through to September when the fish are undisturbed by swimming, water skiing and other aquatic activities and so move close to the shoreline to feed.

Both spin fishing and fly fishing are successful methods, and even novices have the opportunity to hook into a fish.  In 2014 a fish just under 4.5 kilograms was landed, showing that the lakes are even capable of producing the odd trophy.

Further south are the two spring creeks near Putaruru: the Waihou and Waimakariri Streams.  So highly regarded are these easily accessible waters that they were the venue for the 2008 World Fly Fishing Championships in which teams of anglers from a large number of countries competed.

These two small streams hold impressive numbers of fish – up to 900 fish per kilometre!  In fact, such is the density of fish in these streams that there is no size limit or limit on the number of fish you can take.  This makes these waters great for kids – the chance of success is very high.

And success is very important when taking kids fishing, especially for the first time.  Nothing brings on enthusiasm faster than landing a fish and conversely nothing kills interest faster than hours spent with no reward.

So you have decided to take the family out for a day on the water – what do you need?

  • Firstly, anyone trout fishing in New Zealand requires a licence.  The good news is that licences can be bought online ( and, even better they are free for kids under 12.  However, each kid must still get one and have it with them when they are fishing.
  • Secondly, assuming they have not fished before, they will need a rod, reel, line and some spinners.  A set-up with the basics can be had for around $120 or even less – this is where I suggest you go to a good fishing shop that will ensure all the gear matches and is suitable.
  • Finally, they need you to take them to the water.  The website has a huge number of waters to choose from and has produced a book on winter fishing.  So hop in the Toyota and head to the water. From there the fun begins.

Source: Believe Magazine - Issue 13 2016