The numerous sheltered inlets and rock outcrops of the Sounds support around 200 species of fish. In the early days of European settlement the whole area was teeming with fish but owing to exploitative fishing practises of the intervening years numbers are now very reduced. However, with the formation the Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park and several marine reserves stocks are looking up.
Essentially, the three main fishing zones in this area are the outer Sounds, the inner sounds and the estuaries.
The inner sounds have been the most extensively fished and so have lowest stocks, however, It is still possible to catch good sized snapper, blue cod and tarakihi around Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds. Most of the shellfish in these parts are polluted so are best not taken. By far the most common fish in these parts are the popular beginner's fish, spotties, as well as stingrays and skate. Stingrays are found in the largest numbers in Picton Harbour.
The outer Sounds have probably the largest range of fish in Marlborough and the best stocks in the sounds. Blue cod are common around reefs as are kingfish, butterfish, hapuku, perch and tarakihi. Some of the best fish numbers are near Long Island Marine Reserve in Queen Charlotte Sound although fishing in the reserve is illegal. Snapper, are fairly common too, in these parts, particularly around mussel farms. If you have a taste for shellfish there are good numbers of Paua, Scallops and mussels around reefs. Also common around the here are crayfish. In the most exposed areas school and blue shark and bluenose can be caught although fishing by boat in Cook Strait is probably the best method.
The Marlborough Sounds estuaries and sand banks provide good flounder fishing at night with baracouta and eels being common.
For sport fishermen Cook Strait offers a good range of fish. Albacore tuna and very rarely bluefin tuna can be caught from January to May. Broadbill swordfish are reasonably common as well as bluenose and mako sharks. Occasionally, marlin and white sharks have been caught.
This area comprises Cloudy Bay, Clifford Bay and Ward Beach. Most of the beaches are sandy or gravely and unstable. The only rocky areas are at Cape Campbell and White Bluffs.
The best fishing is generally surf casting near the mouths of the Wairau, its diversion and the Awatere, although good fishing is also available around White Bluffs and Cape Campbell. Along most of the coast kahawai and paddle crabs are common but near Cape Campbell and white Bluffs crayfish, mussels, warehou, butterfish, hapuku, snapper and blue cod are also in reasonable numbers. Flounder in common in Clifford Bay and the Wairau Lagoons.
Although very exposed, numerous reefs and rock out crops provide anchorage to seaweed and protection for fish. Furthermore, exceptionally deep water nearby encourages many normally deep water fish close in to the shore. Bluenose, trumpeter, hapuku, blue cod, tuna and elephant fish are all moderately common depending on the season. Most importantly the Kaikoura coast area is famous for its good stocks of crayfish after which it is named. A point to bear in mind when fishing in this area is to keep clear of seal colonies.