Boat Fishing in the Catlins.... click here.

Saltwater Fishing in the Catlins... see below...

Clutha River Mouth

The best landbased fishing spot has to be the Clutha River Mouth. Personally I think it is one of the biggest assets that Kaka Point has yet it is greatly under utilised because the farmer that owns the land bordering the rivermouth has refused access. This is despite the fact that there is a good dirt road all the way to the mouth itself.

Like most rivermouths around NZ the Clutha can really turn on some hot fishing at times with runs of salmon and kahawai and even bigger predators. Deep holes often form on the river side of the mouth and big fish will lay up in them. There are very strong currents to carry berley and usually plenty of baitfish. The Clutha is a big wild river that moves a vast amount of water so it is quite a spectacular place to fish when a big sea is running.

Clutha River Mouth.

It is my favourite place to fish around Kaka Point but it is spoilt by the lack of access and also the sheer amount of crap that goes up and down the river and gets tangled in the line. This is mostly various types of sea weed and algae... usually a light green slimy type. I think a lot of it is excessive weed growth from farmland run-off.

I have been there at the rivermouth on warm still evenings that coincided with a high tide and the rivermouth has just gone off big time with kahawai, sea run trout and salmon all swirling and feeding and rising all over the mouth on slack water... schools of baitfish jumping and birds diving all over the place. Absolute magic.

Tautuku Bay is a long sandy beach.

Beach Fishing

Beach fishing in the Catlins can be divided into two types. There are sheltered very shallow slowly shelving sand beaches and deep water big swell rip-tide shingle beaches. I've never fished the sandy beaches personally because they are so shallow and really need long distance casting gear. If you are one of those expert long distance casters with light gear then you will probably do well at dawn and dusk (especially on a tide change) catching fish like kahawai or blue cod perhaps. The further south you go the less kahawai because of the colder water temperatures. For this reason summer is probably best for surfcasting on the sandy beaches. These can be found pretty much anywhere along the Catlins coast as the majority of Catlins beaches are shallow and sandy.

The shingle beaches are a different story altogether. They are proper deep water beaches with a fast drop-off, a big dumping swell and dangerous undertow with rip tides. Anybody who has fished other deep water shingle beaches around NZ will be at home on the ones in the Catlins. Strong tackle is required for a variety of reasons. The line takes a pounding from the surf rubbing it against the shingle and the surf can pick up your sinker and carry it. The undertow will snap your line if you use light gear and cast into a rip. You need to be aware of this when fighting and landing fish and just let them run if they get into a rip or the back tow of receding surf. Always wait for the next wave to bring the fish to you rather than pulling against the undertow.

Port Molyneux Beach offers excellent surfcasting into deep water.

Deep water hole at Clutha River mouth.

Like other deep water shingle beaches around NZ you will get big fish patrolling the deep channel in close. I've caught kahawai and countless barracuda on these beaches around Kaka Point but would expect the big sharks to come in close at dusk just as they do in other parts of NZ on these beaches. Seven gill sharks and school sharks (tope) often patrol shingle beaches after dark. I think any shingle beach in the Catlins is going to offer good fishing if you have strong enough gear and know how to fish these beaches. My personal favourite is Port Molyneux Beach which has a river mouth at one end and Nugget Point in the distance at the other. I've caught a lot of barracuda off this beach. They come in packs and bite through nylon and twist up wire traces.

Port Molyneux Beach is adjacent to Kaka point township so you have excellent fishing right at your doorstep. The summer months are best. Schools of kahawai often congregate off this beach up towards the river mouth in mid to late summer. They can be caught on spinners at the river mouth itself and this is great fun when they are running. I personally hooked nine in one hour on one trip to the river mouth but only landed three.

Rock Fishing

E verywhere you go in the Catlins from Kaka Point onwards there are large reef systems all over the coast and long jagged headlands jutting out into the ocean. At first glance... especially if you're used to rock fishing in the North Island... it looks like a rock fisherman's dream. Unfortunately it is the complete opposite. All the reef systems are very shallow and it is only the headlands that have true deep water drop-offs. That isn't the main problem though. The main problem is the kelp. It is everywhere. For this reason most rock fishing is done at low tide into fairly shallow channels between the kelp. Simple light gear and a flick rod is all that is required and there are plenty of fish hiding in the kelp. Some possible catches are... . Rock Cod (hiwi hiwi), Red Moki, Porae, Butterfish (greenbone), Elephant Fish, Moki, Trumpeter, Blue Cod, and wrasse. Due to the shallow water and protected reef systems many of these fish are only juveniles. Some of the semi resident kelp species can get quite large. Even the smaller fish can break your line if they get in a hole or amongst the weed so you need to be alert. Berley always helps.

The Old Fishing Camp on the way to Nugget Point is a popular rock fishing spot.

There are shallow reef systems everywhere and Kaka Point township has excellent rock fishing just out from the town itself on Shag Point which is a five minute walk from the main swimming beach in front of the Surf Club. The rock wall at the Old Fishing Camp as you go to Nugget Point is another good easy spot. For the more adventurous there is a tiny rock island just around the corner from the Old Fishing Camp that can only be reached at low tide and it has a channel on the other side of it good for fishing. Further afield there is a great rock fishing spot at the Catlins rivermouth on the Hina Hina side. Just follow the road till you can't go any further but make sure you shut the gate and don't disturb the stock.

Another good rock fishing spot that is a bit more sheltered is at Jack's Bay. Just walk around the corner past all the cribs and fish in the channel between Tuhawaiki island and the rock ledges. This spot can really fire up but it gets a thrashing in summer from divers. I usually only fish it in the winter. Purakaunui Bay has a lovely reef exposed at low tide with some good rock fishing spots but can get crowded in the summer months.

Some of the best rock fishing spots involve crossing private land or locating paper roads and walking into the coast from the road. You always need permission to cross private land. One very good spot is Hina Hina cove at the end of Maitland Road. It's a long way to go though and a big walk as well so check the weather because a Southerly blows the cove to bits.

Deep water ledge at Cannibal Bay... if you can get down there...

LandBased Game Fishing

Landbased Game Fishing is about as extreme as you can get in the Catlins. There are no kingfish or snapper so you're really only after groper or sharks. The only proper deep water ledges are on headlands that jut straight out into the wild southern ocean... next stop Antarctica. All of these ledges are very dangerous and completely inaccessable. I've climbed down to a few and even fished them and every single time I nearly died in the process... and I used to do extreme rock climbing as a sport once. Some of the best spots used to have ladders and ropes but DOC in their great wisdom removed them because they thought they were dangerous. So now it is ten times more dangerous without the ladders and ropes. Well done DOC!!

You need ropes. Plenty of them. This won't suit a lot of people I know but in the old days (before heli fishing) it was all about getting into the unexplored ledges that hadn't been fished before. I haven't met any LBG fishermen down here but some of the locals used to climb down to the dangerous ledges just for the excellent catches of Blue Cod.

It should be noted that there are seal and sea-lion colonies all along the Catlins coast and plenty of penguins too. That means there are sharks out there that you do not want to catch. The Great White Shark is a protected species in NZ waters and those exposed headlands must be shark magnets at certain times of the year... such as when the seal pups are born. For serious LBG I'd be looking at catch and release of giant seven gill sharks, tope and who knows... all those ledges are still uncharted territory. It goes without saying that a good berley will bring in some large predators and there are some very nice currents around the ledges to take a berley slick well out to sea.

Rock fishing ledge... if you can get to it...

Most of the reef systems are shallow with lots of kelp.

The deep water ledges are the most closely guarded secret amongst the landbased fishermen in these parts. I'm not going to reveal them here specifically but around Hina Hina cove, Cannibal Bay and Long Point headlands there are deepwater ledges. They are suitable only for those who are physically fit and know what they're doing. Not only is it a life and death situation just getting down to the ledges and back up but you're facing the full force of the Southern Ocean and you need to be constantly alert for freak waves. They do happen and I have been swept into the sea before by them... so be aware. It should also be noted that a Southerly can blow out all the ledges and make them unfishable for weeks on end... as can a dirty sea. Timing is everything.

Remember... Google Maps and Google Earth is your friend when it comes to scouting fishing locations in the Catlins!

Of course... for the really serious LBG fisherman... there is this spot.


The whitebait fishing season for most of New Zealand opens on 15 August and runs until November 30. On the West Coast the whitebait season runs from 1 September until 14 November.

From the Clutha River onwards throughout the Catlins there is good whitebaiting rivers and streams and a keen whitebaiting fraternity. Around Kaka Point there are many suitable whitebaiting possies and there have been some great runs in years gone by with one person I know catching 100 pound of whitebait in a single run.

The bait are meant to run better after a bit of rain to increase the river flow and on an incoming tide. A few days either side of a full moon on the big tides is meant to be a good time especially as it gets towards the end of the season with big Spring tides. You can get a "run" of whitebait then nothing for hours so it pays to get in fast if they are "running."

Whitebaiters on the Catlins River near New Haven.


Diving for Paua and spear fishing is popular around Kaka Point and the greater Catlins area. I'm not a diver myself so I can't speak from personal experience. I think it would be fair to say though that all the easy Paua have taken a hiding in the reef areas that can be accessed from shore.

The same could be said for the crayfish even in the reef areas only accessable by boat. There is still good diving to be had but you have to be prepared for the kelp which is everywhere.

The locals would not thank me for giving away their good diving spots so I'll just say the Catlins coast is long and rugged with plenty of good diving spots if you're prepared to hunt around a bit.

Freshwater Fishing in the Catlins

Koro Creek has trout in it.

I'm not a trout fisherman so I can't speak from experience though I do see trout quite often in my travels and have been with people when they caught trout in the Kaka Point area. The coastal streams and rivers may not have the reputation of the Central Otago high country waterways but they still hold trout and perch in good numbers.

In the lower reaches of the Clutha and other rivers on the coast you get the added bonus of big sea run trout and salmon. I have seen a lot of trout in the waterways around Kaka Point, including in Koro Creek which is only a 10 minute walk or two minute drive from Kaka Point township. Maybe not the sort of stream that would attract a serious fisherman but great for the kids to have a go.