A Guide to Summer Fishing in New Zealand: An Angler's Handbook
If you're dreaming of sun, sea, and the thrill of reeling in some fantastic fish, New Zealand is the place to be. With its stunning coastlines, lakes, and rivers, our beautiful country offers an array of fishing adventures. Whether you are wanting to have a crack at gamefish like marlin, tuna and swordfish, hard fighting fish such as kingfish, hapuka and bluenose or you prefer to target inshore species like snapper, trevally, kahawai, and trout, you have multiple options available. In this guide, we're going to dive into the best summer fishing tips and tricks to make your fishing trip unforgettable.
Game Fishing for Marlin and Yellowfin Tuna
New Zealand's waters are renowned for their game fishing opportunities, with the chance to catch marlin and tuna being a dream for many anglers. The summer and early autumn months, from December to May, offer prime conditions for targeting these powerful fish.
To increase your chances of success:
Head to the North Island: The Far North, and the eastern and western regions of the North Island down to Napier on the east and New Plymouth on the west are hotspots for Striped Marlin. These areas have multiple warm currents that attract these species as these warm currents also bring in and hold bait such as skipjack tuna, albacore, blue mackerel and jack mackerel. While you can catch marlin and tuna south of these areas, you are more likely to catch them in these more northern regions.
Use the right gear: To tackle marlin and tuna, heavy-duty gear is essential. Strong, high-quality rods and reels with a reliable drag system and line capacity are a must. Make sure your line is suited to handle the fight of these pelagic species, we will go into depth on gear in a separate upcoming blog.
Jigging and Topwater fishing for Kingfish
Kingfish, also known as yellowtail or kingys, are prized by anglers for their aggressive nature and delicious taste. Summer is an excellent time to target kingfish using jigging and stick baiting techniques:
Tackle the Kingfish Hotspots: Kingfish during the summer months can be found throughout the entire country, right from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. If you are in the these locations, finding areas holding bait balls is a fantastic starting point, usually, if there is a bait ball, it means that there are predatory fish rounding them up, ready to eat. You can find these on sea floor contours, edges of channels, around reef structure or even man-made structures like channel markers and wharves.
On the South Island’s east coast, the way to find them is a little different, usually the kingfish are a bit smaller (however there has been some great fish caught the last couple of years) Check for current lines, and floating weed beds that come through with those currents. These beds hold small bait fish and kingfish that follow along waiting for an easy feed.
This method requires specialised gear, usually a 7’10 – 8’6 rod, 8000 – 14000 size reel, 30-100lb braid and 80-130lb leader. This is a generalisation as you can use lighter gear to catch these hard fighting fish, the biggest point to take away is use gear of a high quality that is specific to the size of fish you are likely to catch, also ensure the weight of the lure is relevant to your rod.
Lure options are varied, either poppers, stick baits, swimbaits or short bibbed lures all work on varying days. Have multiple lures in your arsenal to find out what is going to work the best for you.
More information on Topwater Fishing for Kingfish can be found in upcoming blogs.
Photo Credit: Jack Priddy with a cracking Kingfish of the rocks using an Edge XL Pencil Popper
There are multiple jigging options available, slow pitch jigging, light mechanical jigging through to heavy mechanical jigging. Jigging is the technique of dropping a metal/lead jig with an assist hook attached down into a school of fish and working the jig in such a way that provides a bite and eventual hook up.
Equipment can vary, mechanical jigging set ups are generally very powerful with a rod length range of 5’0 – 6’0 and weight range from 100gram rating all the way up to an 800gram rating. It is quite specialised and will depend on the depth you are fishing, braid weight, reel size and the type of jigs you are using, also, the size of fish you are likely to catch.
As a starting point, a setup which is 5’2-5’6, has a decent reel which holds roughly 300m of 50lb braid, 80-120lb leader and 300g jigs will suffice for most areas.
Jigging for Kingfish will be covered in upcoming blogs so watch this space.
We are lucky to have an abundance of inshore species in NZ, including snapper, kahawai, gurnard, trevally, and blue cod, to name but a few. These can be found all throughout the North Island and South Island during summer; however, some species are more plentiful in the north than the south and vice versa. Summer offers great opportunities to catch them all using a variety of different techniques which will be covered in upcoming blogs.
Soft baits: Soft baiting for inshore species has become a mainstay for most of the country for several years now. It is incredibly successful, it’s clean, affordable, and provides a touch more angling finesse than other methods. Tackle is generally lighter, 7’ - 8’0 set ups, 10-20lb braid, 20-30lb leader, jig heads and soft baits are all you need to get going. Cast to where you feel fish are holding, let the jig head sink to or near the bottom and retrieve in a slow twitching motion to mimic the movements of wounded baitfish.
Traditional Bait Fishing: If you prefer traditional methods, using fresh bait like pilchards, squid, or shellfish can also yield excellent results. Either straylining or dropper rigs work well during the summer months, you can fish over sand or reef and still produce great fish. Dropper rigs work especially well if you are wanting to target species such as blue cod, snapper and gurnard, who are a sucker for a well presented bait. Berley is key, especially in the shallower areas and will certainly help to increase your success.
Surfcasting & Rock Fishing: If you don’t have access to a boat or kayak, then have no fear, there is still plenty of options for you to get out and get a feed of fish.
With its extensive coastline, there are countless opportunities for surfcasting around New Zealand. Depending on where you are located, there are several different species you can successfully target with the long rods. In summer, you can expect to find all the species mentioned above, gurnard, kahawai, trevally, and snapper in both the North and South Island.
Using a 12’ plus rod will enable to you cast that bit further to reach guts and sandbanks which you may not be able to reach while you are using your shorter rods. If you are new to fishing, then utilising pre-made rigs like the Wild Blue Surfcasting Pulley rigs or the Black Magic Longcast rig will also improve your casting distance. Alternatively, you can use a dropper/ledger style rig. We have a great blog already on How to Surfcast using a ledger rig here.
Catching Trout in Lakes and Rivers
New Zealand's lakes and rivers are home to thriving populations of rainbow and brown trout, making it a fantastic destination for trout fishing.
Fly fishing, soft baiting, trolling and spin fishing can be highly effective for trout, remember, each region in NZ has different laws around how you can fish and the type of lure and hooks you can use. Ignorance of the law is not a defence so before you head out freshwater fishing, please read all the regulations for the area you are going to.
If soft baiting and spin fishing for trout, use light gear, 3-6kg rod/line rating is ideal. Additionally, use single hooks, make sure the soft bait you are using has no scent (generalised suggestion as some places do allow this, please check local regulations) Lures are varied and they ALL have their day. Spinners, Tobys, metals, paddle tails, curly tails, the world is your oyster when it comes to lure selection!
In conclusion, New Zealand offers an angler's paradise during the summer months. Whether you're chasing marlin, kingfish, snapper, trout, or even deep-sea species like hapuka and bluenose (which we will cover in a separate blog), the country's diverse fishing options will satisfy your every fishing need. As you prepare for your summer fishing adventure, remember to follow local fishing regulations, practice sustainable angling, and most importantly, take a moment to take in your surroundings. We live in such a beautiful place, and sometimes we take that for granted so taking a second to capture that, either by photo or memory bank will be something that lasts a lifetime.
Get ready to create unforgettable memories and reel in your dream catch in the stunning waters of New Zealand.