Spoilt for choice - Fly and freshwater fishing in the Waikato

Whether your idea of fishing heaven is a quiet back country stream, or a mighty lake stocked with a plentiful supply, look no further than the Waikato.

Whether your idea of fishing heaven is a quiet back country stream, or a mighty lake stocked with a plentiful supply of fish including rainbow trout, brown trout and coarse fish such as Rudd, then look no further than the Waikato.   

Anglers are spoilt for choice with a wide diversity of streams and spring fed creeks, mighty rivers and hydro lakes. Whilst the region is a fly fisherman’s dream, with the Waihou River and Waimakariri Stream in South Waikato both being used as part of the 28th Worlds Fly Fishing Championships in 2008, you’ll also find excellent opportunities for trolling, harling, spin and bait fishing.

One of the most uncrowded fishing areas in the country, the Waikato fishery is also the closest to the main population centres of Auckland and Hamilton so there is less travel time for many New Zealanders as well as international anglers.

The mighty Waikato River is the largest in New Zealand. After leaving the tail race at the Karapiro hydro dam, it flows uninterrupted across the Waikato plains to enter the Tasman Sea approximately 50 km south of Auckland at Port Waikato. Brown trout are abundant throughout the length of the river, while rainbow trout are abundant upstream of Hamilton.

The best fishing is generally at twilight or after dark. The lower river fishes best during the winter months, while good fishing can be experienced throughout the year in the upper reaches. Popular spots include beneath the Karapiro Dam (track on western side), and the Karapiro Stream mouth at Cambridge. Good fishing water can also easily be accessed from riverside tracks in Hamilton and Cambridge.

Hydro lakes such as Karapiro and Arapuni are plentifully stocked, providing anglers with a good catch rate. Trophy trout of ‘double figures’ are not uncommon. Though excellent fishing can be had throughout Lake Karapiro, the best fishing can be had at the headwaters where the river leaves the dam at Arapuni.

With limited shoreline access on Lake Arapuni for the angler, most fishing is done aboard a boat. Over the years as the quality of the stocked fish has increased, this lake has become one of the better waters in the district for producing trophy fish.

The Waipa River flows north to Ngaruawahia where it converges with the Waikato River. With a high numbers of trout, averaging around 2-3lb in weight, the Waipa River is largely a deep flowing river with occasional rapids and shingle beds. Angling is popular upstream from Otorohanga and as the Waipa is a major spawning river for brown trout, it can produce some very large fish, especially early and late in the season.

You’ll find good fishing at the mouth of many small streams along the way where trout congregate. Early morning and dusk are the most productive times to fish. Some of the biggest rainbow trout in the headwaters of the Waipa are to be found in the Waipari stream.

The spring fed Waihou River rises on the Mamaku plateau to the east of Putaruru. The river and its tributaries provide many kilometres of good trout fishing, with dry fly fishing often being the most successful, due to the clarity of the water.

These natural spring-fed creeks vary from easily accessible rivers, to backcountry streams and provide a different fishing experience to rain-fed waterways.

For more detailed information regarding licenses, regulations, boat ramps and river flows, please check with Fish & Game New Zealand.

For more information on things to see and do, places to stay and more during your Waikato fishing trip, visit www.hamiltonwaikato.com

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