HomeSouthlandSouthland: Where to fishWaiau River

Waiau River

The Waiau River is the largest of the Southland rivers, well stocked with both rainbow and brown trout offering a range  of options for all forms of trout fishing.

Fish type, number and
Mostly rainbow trout with some brown trout also present. Average size around 1kg but going up to 4.5kg. A Fish & Game survey of the upper Waiau River found high numbers of good-sized trout with an average of 350 good-sized trout for every kilometre of river, with patches of up to 600 a kilometre.

The Waiau drains Lake Te Anau into Lake Manapouri, from where electricity is hydro generated. This clear, deep river then flows down to the sea, through Tuatapere, at Te Waewae Bay.

Between the two lakes, the river consists of a sheer and tortuous gorge that is very challenging for the angler.


Access map

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast

Thirty years ago the river flow was much reduced from Lake Manapouri to Monowai, because of the hydro electricity generation demand. Flow has increased in recent years and stocks are now as high throughout the river as in any other Southland water.

Fly fishing is best in the evenings from December onwards, and particularly just below Mararoa weir. You can spin any time of the day or season.

The river downstream of Monowai is up to 100m wide, one of the few areas in which you can fish from a boat without annoying those fishing from the shoreline.

Upper Waiau

The upper Waiau is that section that flows from Te Anau to Manapouri and holds one of the largest stock of fish in the country. Drift dives have confirmed that there are as many as 600 fish per kilomtre of river.

The upper reaches are a meandering stretch of river that can be fished from a boat (in fact many areas can only be accessed this way). The river here is deep and clear and holds a good stock of both rainbow and brown trout. The section upstream from Lake Manapouri contains some fallen trees and other debris and is not as easy to fish. Good fishing can be had however where the river leaves Te Anau though this is only accessible by boat.

Fish in this section rise freely and anglers should use sedge or mayfly patterns when trout can be seen feeding on or near the surface.

There is limited shoreline access at the Control Gates, Rainbow Reach, Balloon Loop and along the Keplar Track

An excellent way to fish this section is by Fish Jet which operates fishing tours along this mostly inaccessible section of the river

Lower Reaches The lower reaches (below Mararoa Weir) have been adversely affected by the use of water from the river for hydro-electricity production. Much of the river is on private property so ask the landowners permission before fishing these sections. Both fly and spinning is productive.

Both rainbow and brown trout are present . There are sea run fish in the lower section below the Tuatapere Bridge.

Fish numbers and size Excellent population of fish, with most catches dominated by medium-sized (1kg) rainbows. Brown trout and larger rainbows are also common with some reaching 4.5kg.

Limited access as the river frequently strays from the road. Between the two lakes, the Kepler Track 4km from Te Anau takes you to control gates then foot access to the riverbed. There is also access off SH95 at Queen’s Reach, Rainbow Reach and Balloon Loop.

At Monowai there is road access from Redcliff Saddle. At Tuatapere on SH96, the bridge over the Waiau is 300m before the town. See the access map

Methods Fly fishing and spin fishing
Recommended tackle Rods in the 5 - 7 weight range and reasonably heavy spin fishing gear.
Recommended lures

Pheasants tail emerger, Prince Nymph , Hare’s Ear,  Purple Jesse nymph and beadhead Hare and Copper.

Dry flies:
Peveril of the Peak, Dad’s Favourite, Coch-y-Bondhu, Mole, Royal Wulff, Humpy, Twilight  Beauty. Greenwell’s Glory,

Wet flies / Streamers:
Mrs Simpson, Red setter and rabbit patterns

Spinners: Veltic (in the summer when the flow is very low) rapala, Black Toby.

Tributaries Tributaries to the Waiau River include:
- Lake Te Anau
- Lake Manapouri
- Mararoa River
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Waiau River between Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau
Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: 1 Oct - 31 May
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Total: 2
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (2)
Applicable to

Waiau River between Manapouri Lake Control (MLC) structure and Tuatapere

Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: 1 Oct-31 May
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Total: 4
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (3)
Applicable to Waiau River from Tuatapere to the sea
Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: All year.
Salmon: 1 Jun - 31 Mar (closed April and May)
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Total: 4
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (4)
Applicable to

Waiau River upstream of the Monowai Power station

Region Southland regulations
Season Closed to salmon fishing all year

Other fishing waters of the region