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Freshwater fishing

Freshwater fishing methods

Other fishing


New Zealand Freshwater Fishing by Boat

The methods most commonly used when boat fishing on New Zealand lakes are:

- Trolling

- Harling

- Jigging

Please be responsible when boating and:

- stay water safe

- follow boat ramp etiquette.


On many lakes, trolling is the most popular and productive method of fishing for trout and salmon, particularly for novices. When trolling, a spinner-type lure or large fly is towed behind a moving boat at depth. Getting the lure down deep is achieved using a lead-core line, or a downrigger or similar device. Bibbed lures such as Rapalas can also add depth when trolling.

Types of line used

To ensure the lure being trolled gets to the correct depth where the fish are, a variety of types of line are used. When the fish are close to the surface all that is needed is monofilament or nylon line. When trout are deeper than two or three metres, anglers often use a lead core line or an LED (lead impregnated dacron) line to ensure the lure gets to the correct depth. Lead core line usually comes in hundred metre lengths with each 10 metres being a different colour. The general rule of thumb that is that each colour or 10 metres of line gets the lure down around 5 feet or just under 2 metres, so a fall 10 m of line out the lure should be around 50 feet below the surface.


Many waters now allow the use of downriggers when fishing. Down riggers are very heavy ball eights (usuall about 4.5kg or 10lbs) that are lowere to the desired depth. Lures are clipped to these weights in such a way that when a trout strikes it pulls the lure free so that the fish can be played on a normal spinning type rod. Paravanes are sometimes used to get lures down as welland use the same principal as a downrigger. They are more cumbersome however and although a cheaper option not widely used anymore.


Harling refers to the method of boat fishing in which a large wet fly or lure is towed behind a slow-moving boat - often rowed. The lure is not allowed to sink far below the surface of the water. Harling is a popular method on lakes at change of light when trout are close into the shallows around a lake edge.


Jigging is a relatively new innovation in which lures are sunk to the depth in a lake where fish are expected to be and "jigged" up and down by the angler. The movement of the lures (or jigs) is usually quite small. The boat may be anchored or can drift slowly over likely areas. Takes are often very light and so any angler should stike at any change of pressure they feel on the lures. It is best to jig using very low stretch line such as fusion lines or braid to ensure any touch by a fish is relayed up the line to the rod and so felt by the angler.

 Staying water safe
  • Check the boat, engine and equipment before leaving.
  • Check the weather forecast and tides before leaving.
  • Tell someone what your plans are before heading out on to the water
  • Don't drink and boat
  • Wear your lifejacket at all times
  • Never overload the boat
  • Have aboard: Anchor, bailer, spare fuel, torch, warm gear.
  • Guard against fire
  • Know the: Collision Prevention Rule, Navigation Safety Rule, local bylaws.
  • Take two means of communication that work even when wet: VHF radio, flares, EPIRB, cellphone in a plastic bag.

For more information about recreational boating safety, see the Maritime New Zealand website

 Boat ramp etiquette
When launching and retrieving your boat at boat ramps, please follow standard boat ramp etiquette as this help ensure a smooth traffic flow and avoids causing unnecessary delays and irritation to other boat ramp users
  North Island lake fishing locations South Island lake fishing locations


Kai-Iwi lakes

Lake Tomarata

Lake Ototoa (no motor boats allowed)

Lake Pupuke (no motor boats allowed)

Lake Whatihua (Thomsons)

Lake Otamatearoa (Muirs)


Waikato hydro lakes

- Lake Ohakuri

- Lake Atiamuri

- Lake Whakamaru

- Lake Maraetai

- Lake Waipapa

- Lake Karapiro



Lake Taupo

Lake Kuratau

Lake Rotoaira

Lake Otamangakau


The Rotorua Lakes

- Lake Rotorua

- Lake Rotoiti

- Lake Tarawera

- Lake Okataina

- Lake Rotoma

- Lake Rerewhakaaitu

- Lake Rotoehu


Hawke's Bay/East Coast

Lake Aniwhenua

Lake Waikaremoana

Lake Tutira


Lake Rotoroa

Lake Rotoiti


West Coast

Lake Brunner

Lake Ianthe

Lake Kaniere

Lake Mahinapua

Lake Mapourika

Lake Paringa

Lake Poerua

Lake Wahapo



Lake Coleridge

Lake Ellesmere

Hurunui lakes

Rakaia lakes

Waimakariri lakes

Rivers of the North Canterbury region

Central South Island

Lake Clearwater

Lake Emma (from a moored boat only)

Lake Heron

Lake Benmore

Lake Aviemore

Lake Tekapo


Lake Wanaka

Lake Onslow

Lake Dunstan

Lake Hawea


Boat charters

Big Bush Water Taxi

Central Plateau Fishing



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