The story of Turangi: the trout fishing capital

Find out how a small, sleepy riverside town became a flourishing fishing spot - with help from a bus driver!

Built on the banks of the Tongariro River, with great Lake Taupo on its front doorstep and the majestic Tongariro National Park to the south, Turangi is the pulse of the North Island's volcanic heartland. Its name is a tribute to the respected Māori leader Turangitukua, whose name was also adopted by the local subtribe in this region.

Local Māori fished in the Tongariro River for native species including toitoi, kokopu and inanga (eels), and gathered mussels and crayfish in Lake Taupo. When Europeans settled in the area in the late 1800s, they introduced brown and rainbow trout to the lake and river for sport fishing. Chinook salmon (also known as Quinnat salmon), native to North America and Asia, were also introduced.

Colonial ‘acclimatisation societies’ in were set up to bring foreign flora and fauna to New Zealand, including trout. In 1894 the Wellington Acclimatisation Society sent a bus driver off with a total of 110,000 trout eggs. He made stops at every stream he passed from Taupo to Tokaanu to drop off the eggs. By the 1920s the Tongariro River had gained an international reputation for its fishing and Turangi became known as the trout fishing capital of New Zealand.

Turangi’s profile worldwide grew with publicity from visits by the Duchess of York and American writer Zane Grey, who dedicated much of his famous book The Angler’s Eldorado to his exploits on the Tongariro River. But by the 1930s the population of trout had grown so big, the fish had run out of food and their size decreased. Another species of fish, smelt were introduced to expand the food supply, while the quota for fishing was increased to 25 trout per day.

By the 1980s a new issue arose – there were too many anglers and the population of trout began to decrease. This led to stricter conservation and the quota was dropped to 8 per day. By this time the town of Turangi had grown hugely, both as a fishing destination and as a home for workers on the nearby hydroelectric power scheme.

Today you can find brown and rainbow trout as well as salmon in the rivers and streams that run through Turangi, which remain the most fished waters in New Zealand. Anglers come from all over the world to fish in the river mouth. The Tongariro National Trout Centre just 4km out of Turangi displays information about the trout life cycle and fishing. It’s also a great base for hikers who are tackling the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

InterCity runs daily buses to Turangi from towns and cities across the North Island, with fares starting from $1 plus booking fee. Click here to find out more

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