HomeOtagoOtago: Where to fishShag River

Shag River


The Shag river holds a reasonable population of brown trout and though the river is generally clean and clear, it tends to be quite heavily overgrown along much of its length.

Fish type Brown trout
Situation The Shag river rises in the Kakanui Mountains and flows south east to enter the Pacific ocean near the small settlement of Palmerston.

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The Shag is a small to medium sized river that has been adversely affected over the past decades by farming practices in the area. Much of its length is overgrown with willows and during the summer its flow can become significantly reduced.

When the water flow is low the river loses some of its structure and trout will tend to cruise the pools in search of food rather than taking up a station. Never-the-less, this is still a worthwhile fishery as stock numbers are good and those prepared to push through the bankside vegetation will find good sport.

Upper reaches


Above Dunback, the river is much smaller and will get low during the summer months. Many fish will drop down into the middle and lower reaches though there are always a few fish (and usually the larger ones) in the deeper pools.

Fish numbers and size

Low numbers but fish tend to be above average in size.


The Waynestown and Loop roads offer good access to the upper reaches. There is no public right of access so seek the landowner's permission before fishing anywhere along this section.

Middle reaches


From the township of Palmerston to Dunstan the river is quite overgrown along much of its length. There are a number of clearings however allowing access to the water. The river has some deep and slower moving pools along this section that can hold good numbers of cruising fish. The water is generally clear and so the bankside vegetation can have a use in keeping anglers camouflaged from the cautious fish.

Fish numbers and size

Good numbers of fish averaging around 1.5kg.


A number of small roads including the Horse Range, Craig, McLew, Limekiln, Dunback, Munro, and Switchback cross the river giving good access points. But do get the landowners permission before moving onto the river as this is all private land.

Lower reaches


Below Palmerston the Shag is slower moving and has good fishing for the sea-run brown trout that come in search of the whitebait from October to December. Later in the season there can be a number of large fish in this section preparing to move upstream to spawn.

Fish numbers and size

Moderate numbers of mostly sea-run brown trout.


The best access point is where SH 1 cross the river.

Methods In the upper reaches the Shag is best suited to dry fly and nymphing. In the lower reaches where the trout are generally chasing the small whitebait, spinning and wet-ling are the preferred methods.
Recommended tackle In the middle and upper reaches tackle needs to be light and capable of casting short casts. A weight 4 - 5 is ideal. In the lower reaches a rod spooled with 3kg plus line and able to cast a 10g spinner is the preferred tackle.
Recommended lures

Emergers, caddis, willow grubs and small lightly weighted pheasant tails and pheasant tail emergers.

Dry flies:
Mayfly patterns such as a blue dunn, adams or twilight beauty (match the hatch with size and colour). Beetles also work well in early summer and sedges throughout the summer.

Wet flies:
Small spider patterns and wee-wets in the upper and middle reaches with larger whitebait and smelt imitation flies such as a doll fly, Parsons Glory or Grey Ghost in the lower reaches.

Spinners: small silver lures such as a silver toby or zed spinner.

Regulations 1
Applicable to Shag River upstream of SH1 Bridge
Region Otago regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Apr
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) Salmon: 450 mm minimum
Regulations 2
Applicable to Shag River downstream of SH1 Bridge
Region Otago regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) Salmon: 450 mm minimum

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