HomeEastern – RotoruaEastern-Rotorua: Where to fishWhakatane River

Whakatane River


The Whakatane River is a large river offering a wide range of fishing opportunities from wilderness fishing in the headwaters through to spin fishing for sea run trout in the lower reaches.

Fish type A reasonable population of both brown and rainbow trout averaging between 1 and 2 kg, and with some large fish present in the upper reaches.
Situation The Whakatane River rises in the Urewera National Park and flows north to the Bay of Plenty to enter the sea town of Whakatane.

Upper Whakatane River
Access map

Lower Whakatane River
Access map

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Upper reaches

The upper reaches are remote and require some walking to get to. The river flows through native bush which lines both banks and is a series of pools, riffles and long glides interspersed with short rapids. The water is generally very clear and fish can be spotted and fished to. There can be an excellent evening rise during the late summer.

In the headwaters, the Whakatane is quite a small river and easily wadeable. As it progresses towards the sea it picks up a large number of small tributaries which greatly add to its volume.


The upper reaches and headwaters can be accessed via the Matatua Road from the township of Ruatahuna. Attended the road there is a well-defined track leading down to the river.

See the upper Whakatane River access map

Middle reaches

The middle reaches are perhaps the most remote as the river flow through the Urewera National Park. The Whakatane gets larger and smaller tributaries add to the flow. The river can be crossed at the end of some of the pools though care must be taken.

This is great water to fish as it is a series of deep pools and long glides interrupted by short rapids. Fishing around the mouths of many of the tributaries can also provide excellent sport as trout congregate in this water during the warmer summer months. This is excellent nymph and dry fly water.


A road from Ruatahuna follows the river downstream on the true right bank and then there is a well-defined walking track. Alternatively, if approaching from the lower reaches, take the Ruatoki Valley Road which runs off Reid Road at Taneatua, and then follow the well-defined track along the true right bank of the river.

See the lower Whakatane River access map.

Lower reaches

The lower reaches of the Whakatane River are of less interest though there is still a good population of both rainbow and brown trout. The river is much larger and slower flowing and so is better suited to spin fishing.

The river flows through open farmland in can become quite silt laden at times. There can be very good fishing in late spring and early summer at the mouth for both sea-run brown trout and for kahawai that enter the river chasing whitebait.


There are a large number of access points for the lower reaches as the river flows through well populated farmland and a number of small settlements.

See the lower Whakatane River access map.

Recommended tackle

Those fishing the upper reaches are best served by using a rod capable of casting a 4-6 weight line and by using a floating line. Long leaders are also advised in the clear water.

Spinning in the lower reaches is best done with rods capable of casting 7 gram lures and by using 2 to 4 kg lines. Larger lures up to 14 g and heavier line may be required at the mouth as the fish are much larger and often make long strong runs.

Recommended lures

Use weighted nymphs such as Hare and Copper, Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, Stonefly and Prince Nymph in small sizes around 14 to 16.

Dry flies:
Adams, Kakahi Queen, Caddis, Humpy, Royal Wulff throughout the day. During summer try cicada and cricket patterns and in late summer, lace fly patterns.

Wet flies:
in the upper reaches use soft hackle or palmered flies such as Bibio, Zulu or Palmer Red and winged emerger patterns such as Invicta, March Brown r Greenwell's Glory.

At the mouth when the kahawai are running try smelt patterns such as Grey Ghost, rabbit patterns, Parsons' Glory, Ginger Mick and Jack Spratt during the day and dark patterns such as Fuzzy Wuzzy or Black  Marabou during the evening or night.

Spinners: In the upper reaches, cast small bladed spinners such as Veltic or Mepps upstream into the pools. If fishing for kahawai around the mouth use silver or gold  Tobys.

Tributaries There are a number of small tributaries that join the Whakatane River on its journey to the sea. Several of these are with exploring particularly in the lower reaches. These are remote rivers in rugged areas and so care should be taken when walking in to them.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Whakatane River above Owaka Stream
Region Eastern region regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Jun
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Trout: 2
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Whakatane River below Owaka Stream
Region Eastern region regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Trout: 2
Size limit (cm) None

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