New Zealand's Fishing Seasons

NZ's diverse sportfishing options include big-game marlin to kingfish and light tackle snapper. Here's your guide to the best time of year to chase them!

An Anglers El Dorado

Whether you're a marlin nut, love flicking plastics for snapper or chasing kingfish on salt water fly, New Zealand is a  mecca when it comes to salt water sportfishing.   Thousands of anglers flock to NZ's shores each year to chase New Zealand's striped marlin, which grow to some of the biggest sizes seen in the world, broadbill swordfish and of course the staple fish of the people in NZ - snapper and kingfish!! Surrounded by an abundant coastline New Zealand has so many sportfishing options it's no wonder fishing is such a huge part of New Zealand's culture, and no wonder the famous American actor and writer Zane Grey waxed lyrical about NZ's trophy fish!

With the next stop south being Antarctica, but still very close to the tropical waters of the South Pacific, New Zealand has a diverse range of salt water fishing options and likewise a very diverse climate through the year. So it goes without saying you want to do your research into where and what you fish for, the best guides for the job, and of course to make sure you are coming at the right time of the year.  Here is a guide of what each season holds to help you.

SUMMER (January, February, March)

If marlin is what rings your bells, then this is the time to plan being in New Zealand. As a general rule New Zealand's game fishing season kicks of in the first week of January, with the first official marlin of the season often being caught then.  This is due to the warm waters of the East Auckland current sweeping down from the South Pacific islands and bringing with it large numbers of hungry striped and blue marlin to the northern half of the North Island.  Marlin can be caught anywhere on the east and west coasts over this time, with some of the hot spots being Tutukaka, Bay of Islands, Hokianga, Whitianga, Tairua, Tauranga, Waihau Bay and New Plymouth.

Water temperatures over this time are anywhere from 19 to 24 degrees.  Gamefishing charters aren't limited to huge launches that cost a fortune, you will find plenty of trailer boats well set up with quality gear to chase these sportfish at reasonable prices, and while you are on the water you will see that this is how most Kiwi's do it themselves!!

This is also a time when kingfish, one of New Zealand's hardest fighting sportfish are found inshore.  Casting surface lures and even salt water fly is a great way to catch these fish at this time of year as they come inshore round the rocky ledges, beaches and harbours to chase inshore baitfish.

AUTUMN (April, May, June)

For those that have something BIG on their minds, it doesn't come much bigger than the goliath of the ocean - the Broadbill Swordfish.  Autumn is THE time to catch this apex predator of the deep.  Once many thought the only time to target these fish was during the night when they come from 500m down to the surface to feed on squid, but now many New Zealand boats have developed a technique to catch these fish during the daytime, deploying large breakaway weights to get baits down to a depth of 500m.  Some of the best places to target these fish include the Far North and the trenches surrounding the "Garden Patch", the back of Great Barrier, or the more accessible Mayor Island from Tairua, Whangamata or Tauranga.

If jigging for kingfish is your thing, then autumn is a great time to chase kingfish on the deep offshore pinnacles using jigs.  This is the time of year where the fish are feeding agressively to put on condition for winter as the warm water leaves New Zealand and the temperatures cooling down. The usual hotspots of the North Island are the place to be.

WINTER (July, August, September)

The great thing about New Zealand is that it is a year round fishery, especially anywhere from the Bay of Plenty north.  While the water cools down at times to around 12 degrees, it is still a great time to target a trophy snapper and kingfish.

The land based fishing this time of year can be off the chart with big 20 pound snapper swimming in burley trails at your feet off the rocks!  Offshore giant kingfish can be targetted with these big fish holding close to the bottom this time of year and livebaiting the best way to target them.

The winds this time of year are predominanly from the west, so the east coast can be an absolute haven with flat calm seas and the ocean to yourself! The most important thing this time of year is to allow some latitude with the weather. Dont think you can come over to NZ for a day of two and nail it as you really want to base yourself here for a week and work around the best weather windows.

SPRING (October, November, December)

When it comes to chasing kingfish, especially on lures, this is my favourite time of year - HANDS DOWN!  All of a sudden the water starts to warm up, there is life everywhere, the fish are agrressive coming into spawning time and its all on!!  The kingfish which have been down deep over winter suddenly come up high in the water column and jigs, poppers and stickbaits are the best ways to catch them.  Talk about a fun time of year.  This is the best time to chase a 30-40kg kingfish and they are there for the taking, keep in mind most charter boats these days will encourage you to release a fish of this size as they are the breeders which keep the fishery healthy.

The Hauraki Gulf also comes to life this time of year and we certainly are blessed to have some of the worlds best snapper fishing so close to our most populous city! Huge workups of anchovy, pilchards, whales, dolphins and hungry snapper underneath are what spring is all about!

So there you have it, New Zealand's fishing season in a nutshell.  I'm pretty lucky to be on the water guiding clients 12 months of the year and you can check out pics week by week for the last eight years on our blog at Epic Adventures to get a pictorial view of what usually happens catch-wise by month.