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Rangitata River Trout and Salmon Fishing

The Rangitata River is a big river offering some of the best salmon fishing in New Zealand. It also supports good stocks of brown or rainbow trout which are less seldom targeted by anglers.

 

View maps

A WCO was passed in 2006 identifying the outstanding characteristics of the Rangitata River. The order lays down constraints on damming, alteration of river flow and form and water quality, and maintenance of fish passage. The WCO recognises the economic value of the river, and provides for some existing uses including the RDR.

To read the full legislation document for the WCO applied to this waterway click here

Fish type Salmon, rainbow and brown trout
Situation

The Rangitata is a snow fed river that originates in the Southern Alps and flows in a south-easterly direction to the coast south of Ashburton.

Driving south from Christchurch, SH1 crosses the Rangitata River at Rangitata between Ashburton and Timaru.

Maps

Upper Rangitata River:
Access map
Access map with topography

Lower Rangitata River:
Access map
Access map with topography

LINZ topographic maps: 1:50,000 (260 series)

River flow and water clarity

Heavy rainstorms between November and early January can make the river dirty and unfishable for a few days. This occurs when the river flow at the Gorge exceeds about 125 cumecs.

As the discoloured waters clears, there is good fishing to be had. The best fishing is when the water is slightly coloured and the flow is in the range 80-110 cumecs (which equates to 50-80 cumecs at SH1).

View graphs at the Environment Canterbury website of:
- the current Rangitata river flow recorded at the Rangitata Gorge
- recent rainfall at Rangitata

Weather forecast

For an up-to-date weather forecast:

Description

The Rangitata is prone to floods and freshes from high rainfall and snow melt, particularly from the north-west wind conditions that occur frequently throughout the main salmon season from November to March. It is unstable, braided and often silt-laden

The Rangitata is a big river and care is required. At the mouth, and particularly from the beach, watch out for waves washing onto shore. When crossing braids of the river, choose your crossing point carefully: the wide part of the riffle just upstream from a chute is usually the safest place.

Salmon fishing

When to fish

The salmon fishing begins around mid November. Between November and mid-February, the best stretch of water to fish is below the SH1 bridge. From February to April, above SH1 provides the better fishing.

Recommended tackle

Lure fishing:
- A 9-11 kg line
- A feathered lure plus added weight

Spinning:
- A 7-9 kg line
- A Zed spinner, silver white or yellow, with 14-28 gm weight, or
a Colarado spoon and lead.

Trout fishing

In the estuary

During October-December sea run browns are to be found in the estuarine area.

Above the Gorge

Both rainbow and brown trout are to be found above the Rangitata Gorge from 1 October when fishing season begins, through to about mid February when the spawning salmon arrive. This is the best place on the Rangitata for trout fishing.

Fish numbers and size

There are good stocks of both rainbow and brown trout above the gorge and in relatively inaccessible side creeks such as Deep Stream and Deep Creek.

Recommended tackle

Lure fishing:
- A 2-5 kg line for salmon, less for trout
- A smelt type lure such as Grey Ghost, Parsons' Glory, or Mrs Simpson, with up to 28 gm lead.

Dry fly fishing:
- 2-4 kg tippet
- Nymphs and flies such as yellow Dorothy

Spinning:
- A 2-4 kg line (though use heavier for salmon)
- A Tasmanian Devil or Toby

Access See the Upper Rangitata and Lower Rangitata access maps and list of access points for details of access to the mouth and to the north and south banks of the river.
Regulations:
Authorised tackle Seaward of a line drawn between the 2 poles situated near the upstream limit of the estuarine area (about 1 km upstream from the Rangitata river mouth):
a) when you are flyfishing, the total weight of the cast assemblage including trace, weight and fly, must not exceed 28g.
b) when using bait or fly fishing, or when fishing with an artificial fly, you may cast other than from the reel or retrieve other than by winding onto the reel.
Use of boats

Seaward of the Rangitata river mouth, you may fish from boat only:
- if the boat is anchored
- between 7.00am and 9.00pm
- at a seaward distance greater than 200m from the nearest shore at low tide.

(The seaward boundary around the Rangitata River mouth is a line drawn at a distance of 500m from any place where the low tide waters of the river meet the waters of the sea.)

Regulations (1):
Applicable to Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) from the intake downstream to Rakaia River Road
Region Central South Island regulations >>>
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Trout: 4
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) Trout: No limit
Salmon: 300 mm minimum
Regulations (2):
Applicable to Rangitita River and tributaries upstream of Turn Again Point about 12km above the gorge except Deep Streem and Deep Creek (as shown by the white posts on the riverbank).
Region Central South Island regulations >>>
Season Trout: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Salmon: 1 Oct-28 Feb
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Trout: 2
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) Trout: No limit
Salmon: 300 mm minimum
Regulations (3):
Applicable to Rangitita River from Turn Again Point downstream to the SH1 bridge, (except for the Rangitata Diversion Race)
Region Central South Island regulations >>>
Season Trout: 1 Oct-30 Apr
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Trout: 4
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) Trout: No limit
Salmon: 300 mm minimum
Regulations (4):
Applicable to Rangitata River below the SH1 bridge
Region Central South Island regulations >>>
Season

1 Jun-31 Aug

Methods

Artificial fly, spinner

Bag limit Total sportsfish: 2
Size limit (cm) Trout: No limit
Salmon: 300 mm minimum

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