HomeSouthlandSouthland: Where to fishMararoa River

Mararoa River


The Mararoa River is a fast flowing medium-sized river that has a very good stock of brown and rainbow trout. It has several distinctly different types of water along its length and so will offer something for all anglers and skill levels. A very attractive medium sized water to fish.

Fish type Brown and rainbow trout
Situation The Mararoa River rises in the Livingston and Thomson mountains and flows south to enter the northern tip off the North Mavora Lake. It is  also the outlet for the North Mavora Lake and flows a few kilometres before entering the South Mavora Lake. On leaving South Mavora it flows south to join the Waiau River at the Mararoa Weir near Lake Manapouri.

Access map

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View the river level, rainfall and river flow.

Description The Mararoa provides many kilometres of excellent fishing water for a good population of both rainbow and brown trout.from its headquarters to the confluence with the Waiau river it provides a wide variety of fishing.
Upper reaches


The upper reaches flow through a remote tussock valley from a series of small tarns (small lakes) high in the Livingston Mountains. The water through this section is generally very clear though can be discovered early in the season from snow melt.the river in the section is quite small and flows over gravel beds that are easily waded. Fish can generally be spotted in the clear water and they seem to get bigger (and fewer in number) the further upstream you walk.

The section between the two lakes is deep and not easily accessed. It holds reasonable numbers of fish that rise freely but always seem to be frustratingly out of casting range.

Fish numbers and size

Fish numbers in the section above North Lake Mavora a reasonable with fish averaging around 1.5 kg but going much bigger in the upper reaches.


A four-wheel-drive track follows the eastern
side of North Mavora Lake and will take anglers to the Mararoa
river approximately 1 km above its confluence with the lake.

Middle reaches


The middle reaches describe that part of the Mararoa river between the outlet at the South Mavora Lake and State Highway 94 which crosses the river near The Key.

As the outlet for the South Mavora Lake, the Mararoa becomes a much larger river and flows quickly down over a rocky and stone bed. Like most rivers that drain from a lake, it remains relatively clear even after rain. the river flows relatively quickly through long runs through the section though it is possible to cross in a number of places especially during the dry months. The banks can often be heavily covered with vegetation making casting difficult. The wind which can sweep down from the North can make for difficult fishing conditions as well.

Fish numbers and size

In the section closest to the Mavora Lakes most of the fish are rainbows while in the lower sections near state highway 94, brown trout make up the majority of the fish. Fish numbers are high and mostly in the 1 to 3 kg range.


There was good access to this section of the river along Mavora Lakes Road which runs alongside the river for most of its length.

Lower reaches


The lower reaches of that section of the river between state highway 94 and the confluence with the Waiau river.

The river in this section flows much more quickly between Willow and Gorse covered banks. Trout are much harder to spot in this area due to both the extra colour
in the water and the strong current. It can be very difficult to fish when the river has increased water flow and is best fished late in the season after a drier period. This section is still very worth exploring as it holds a good head of fish.

Fish numbers and size

Both rainbow and brown trout (with brown being predominant in this section). Most fish are in the 1 - 3 kg range.


Access can be gained where SH 94 crosses the river but much of this section requires some walking (and do seek the landowners permission before crossing their land)

Methods Different methods suit different sections of this long river. Much of it is excellent dry fly and nymph water though anglers should try what the method they are most comfortable with. Some areas require very skilled casting to avoid the bankside vegetation.
Recommended tackle 9 foot fly rods with a weight 6 -7 line. Reasonably long leaders are required in the middle and especially the very clear upper reaches.
Recommended lures

Smaller lightly weighted slim profile flies such as a Dads Favourite Nymph, Pheasants Tail, Pheasant Tail Emerger or Halfback in the upper reaches. Heavier flies in the middle section with some weight being necessary in the lower reaches. Most fly patterns (especially Mayfly emerger types) work well. In the middle section try some
flies such as a Theo's Bomber.

Dry flies:
Mayfly imitations all year  such as a Blue Dun or Kakahi Queen with larger bushy flies such as a Coch-yBondhu, Pervil o the Peake or Humpy, Cicada or Blowfly during the summer.

Wet flies:
Small wet patterns such as spiders or March Brown spiders in the middle and upper sections (or during an evening rise) or if fishing deeper try a Woolly  Bugger or Matuka

Spinners: Toby, Rapalas and Tasmanian Devils

Tributaries Windon Burn joins the Mararoa in the upper reaches. The Whitestone is the other major tributary which joins the lower reaches.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Mararoa River and tributaries upstream of the Key Bridge
Region Southland regulations
Season 1 Oct - 30 April
Methods Artificial fly and spinner
Bag limit 1
Size limit (cm) No size limit
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Mararoa River downstream of the Key Bridge
Region Southland regulations
Season 1 Oct - 30 April
Methods Artificial fly spinner and bait
Bag limit 4
Size limit (cm) No size limit

Other fishing waters of the region is the complete guide to New Zealand trout and salmon fishing.

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