HomeNorth CanterburyNorth Canterbury: Where to fishWaimakariri River

Waimakariri River

 

The Waimakariri River is popular on three counts: as a top salmon fishery, as an excellent trout fishery, and for its proximity to Christchurch.

Fish type Brown trout, rainbow trout, salmon
Note There is a special riverside platform available to disabled anglers. A key for the gate allows vehicle access right to the platform and is available from Blackwells in Kaiapoi.
Situation The Waimakariri begins to the east and flows through high mountainous countryside, emerging from a gorge to spill outwards in a braided fashion across the Canterbury Plains. It flows through the outskirts of Christchurch, at Kairaki. The mouth opens into a big tidal bay that is renown for its excellent salmon runs in summer.
Maps

Upper Waimakariri River access map

Lower Waimakariri River access map

Check conditions

View the MetService weather forecast.

View the river level:
- at the Old Highway Bridge (lower reaches)
- at the Waimakariri gorge (middle reaches)

View the rainfall.

Upper reaches (From the gorge to Arthurs Pass) Description

The fishing is limited above Mt White Bridge but there are large brown trout in the gorge and upper reaches, where the river is more stable fishing. When the river is low in summer, trout move down into the gorge. The tributaries offer more consistent fishing.

Fish numbers and size

Excellent in the tributaries such as Broken River, Winding Creek and the Porter River. Limited in the upper reaches above Mt White Bridge.

Access

Jet boat is the best way, but below the gorge you can access the river from the Waimakariri Gorge bridge. State Highway 73 provides an access point at Whites Bridge and crosses the river further upstream.

Access the tributaries from SH73 between Lake Lyndon and Lake Pearson. Access the main river just west of Cass, where SH73 comes close to the river.

See the Upper Waimakariri River access map.

The gorge Description

The Waimakariri Gorge is a spectacular fishing venue that offers top class salmon and trout fishing. with the best months being from late February to late April. Salmon pools (pools with slow water adjacent or near to the main current flow) are easy to locate and access. Fish lie very close to the bottom of the river and so it is necessary to get lures down deep and fish them along the bottom to entice a strike.

Fish numbers and size

The Gorge offers more consistent salmon fishing than further down river. Numbers are good and fish tend to stay longer in the gorge than in other parts of the river.

Access

Most of the best fishing is reached by boat. There is limited access at Gorge Bridge, Woodstock and the Kowai River confluence for the shore-based angler.

Middle reaches (SH1 to Gorge Bridge)

Description

Salmon fishing in the middle reaches is unpredictable, and dependent on being there when the fish run. Mid February to the end of March are the best month. Salmon pools are easy to locate and access. Slow flowing, deep water is often found around clumps of willow trees or river protection groynes. Fish lie very close to the bottom of the river and so it is necessary to get lures down deep and fish them along the bottom to entice a strike.

Fish numbers and size

Salmon run up river after a good fall of rain has caused the river to rise. They tend to move through these middle reaches quickly in an effort to reach the gorge before the water level drops. Their numbers drop dramatically at other times though some fish can be usually be caught in holding pockets.

Access

See the Lower Waimakariri River access map.

Lower reaches (The mouth and lagoon)

Description

A unique feature of the Waimakariri is its flows into a big tidal bay, up to 100m wide.

The best salmon fishing is February and March (the salmon run is later and shorter than in other rivers). The top half of the outgoing tide is the most productive in the tidal reaches, especially when this coincides with daybreak. McIntosh’s Rocks is the most popular spot and requires no wading.

Sea run trout are present throughout summer. The riffles at the top of the tidal zone close to the Old Highway Bridge are the most popular spot for trout fishing. The best time to fish is when a discoloured river coincides with low tide during the last hour of daylight.

Fish numbers and size

Excellent numbers of good sized fish

Access

Boat access: Launch into the Kaiapoi River at the ramp near the BMX track in Kaiapoi; at Kairaki or just above the Motorway Bridge.

By road: McIntosh’s Rocks are 1km above the mouth on the north side.

Access the tidal reaches directly off the Old Main North Road, or through Kaiapoi.

See the Lower Waimakariri River access map.

Salmon fishing
methods

In the Waimakariri, spinning is most effective when you are in pursuit of salmon. Use:
- a medium/heavy actioned rod, 2-2.5m in length
- a fixed or free spool reel capable of holding 200m of 7-10kg line and fish the spinner as close to the bottom of the river as possible.

If fishing with a fly it is necessary to use a fast sinking line as the fish will only be caught when fishing close to the bottom.

Trout fishing
methods

Sea run trout

Especially in faster flowing water, use  streamers that resemble smelt such as Parsons' Glory, Yellow Lady, or Yellow Rabbit.

Spin fishing can be effective in slower water.

Resident river trout

Blind fishing with either fly or spinner works well. The tributary streams offer a more typical back country experience, sight fishing for both brown and rainbow trout using lightweight fly tackle.

Recommended salmon lures

Streamers: large smelt patterns (sizes 2 -6)

Spinners: Use ticers and zed spinners in weights between 28 - 42 grams in the tidal reaches and around 17 - 28 grams in the middle reaches and gorge.

Recommended  trout lures Nymphs: Hare and Copper, Green Stonefly, Halfback, Pheasant Tail or Damselfly Nymph

Dry flies: Royal Coachman, Royal Wulff, Humpy (green or yellow), Coch-y-Bondu, Green Beetle, Muddler Minnow or Hopper

Streamers: Hamill's Killer, Mrs Simpson , Parson's Glory, Woolly Bugger or at night a Black marabou or Black Fuzzy-Wuzzy

Spinners: Use Tasmanian Devil or Black Toby

High country lakes The Waimakiri high country lakes are:
- Lake Sarah
- Lake Grasmere
- Lake Pearson
- Lake Hawdon
- Lake Marymere
- Lake Blackwater
- Lake Letitia
Tributaries Tributaries of the Waimakariri River include:
- Porter River
- Broken River
- South Branch Stream (Otukaikino Creek)
- Winding Creek
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Waimakariri River above the Staircase Stream confluence
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Apr
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Trout: 2
Salmon: 0
Size limit (cm) 30 cm
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Waimakariri River below the Staircase Stream confluence to SH1
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season 1 Sept - 30 April
Methods Artificial fly, spinner.
Bait fishing for trout only from 1 Oct-30 April.
Bag limit Trout: 2
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) 30 cm
Regulations (3)
Applicable to Waimakariri River below the Staircase Stream confluence to SH1
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season 1 May - 30 Sept
Methods Artificial fly, spinner.
Bait fishing for trout only from 1 Oct-30 April.
Bag limit Trout: 0
Salmon: 0
Size limit (cm) N/A
Regulations (4)
Applicable to Waimakariri, South Branch below SH1 (Otukaikino Creek)
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner.
Bait fishing for trout only from 1 Oct-30 April.
Bag limit Trout: 2
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) 30 cm
Regulations (5)
Applicable to Waimakariri below State Highway 1
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season 1 Oct - 30 April
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait.
Bait fishing for trout only from 1 Oct-30 April.
Bag limit Trout: 2
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) 30 cm

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