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Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora Fishing

Lake Ellesmere’s is close to Christchurch and offers good catches of trout at the sea entrance.


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A WCO was granted in 1990 to preserve its wetlands and fish, and recognise it as a habitat for wildlife, and of significance to Maori. A 2010 report identified Lake Ellesmere as the country's second most polluted lake, but restorative programs are underway.

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

Fish type Sea run trout, salmon
Situation Lake Ellesmere is just south of Christchurch city on SH75, tucked to the west of, and sheltered by, Banks Peninsula. It is separated from the sea by the extensive Kaitorete spit.

Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions

Weather forecast

View the MetService weather forecast for Christchurch.


View a graph of the current rainfall near Lake Ellesmere at Kaituna at the Environment Canterbury website

Water level

For information on the level of Lake Ellesmere, phone 0900 74837 (RIVER). Calls cost 50 cents per minute (plus GST). This information is updated weekly.

F&G pamphlet Close to Christchurch access pamphlet

Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora) is a large shallow lake (the fourth largest in New Zealand at 20,000 hectares) recognised as a valuable wildlife resource with abundant native bird life.  However the fishery experienced a huge decline in trout numbers, due in part to the ongoing effects of the damaged reed beds in the 1968 Wahine storm, from more than 14,000 trout at that time to just 89 in 2004.

The tributaries of Ellesmere fish better than the lake itself and good fishing for sea run trout can occur at Taumutu when the lake is open to the sea.

The lake is a busy place for all kinds of water sports from sailing to jet skiing, so don’t expect tranquil angling here.


Access to the lake and its south-western tributaries is from Lincoln, then south towards Leeston. Take the access track which leads off Gullivers Road and out into the beach.

The Akaroa Highway takes you to the north-eastern tributaries.

Methods Bait fishing for trout is permitted as well as fly fishing and spinning. Worms, freshwater shrimp or live cockabullies work well.
Recommended tackle

Lightweight flyfishing tackle.

Fish on floating or slow-sinking lines.

Spinning rods capable of casting a 7 - 10 gram weight lure.

Recommended lures

Bait: Worms, freshwater shrimp or live cockabullies (for trout only)

Spinners: Tobys, Tasmanian Devil, small Ticer


Tributary Selwyn River
Applicable to Lake Ellesmere
(Te Waihora)
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Apr
Methods Artificial fly, spinner for trout and salmon.
Bait fishing for trout only.
Fishing from boats being mechanically propelled is permitted.
Bag limit Trout: 2
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) None



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