Marlborough provides several different fishing areas that all provide good opportunities for recreational anglers. There are a number of marine reserves in the region, and there are closed seasons, daily catch limits, and size limits for different species in different parts of the region, so it always pays to check the rules before you go fishing. Most of Marlborough falls into the Challenger fishing area, but parts of the southern coast fall into the Kaikōura area, and there are also specific rules in place for some specific locations within a larger area.
The Marlborough Sounds
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 of many species are reduced. However, with the formation the Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park and several marine reserves, and subsequent improved management, stocks of many species are improving.
The three main fishing zones in this area are the outer Sounds, the inner sounds and 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. Many of the shellfish in these areas may be affected by pollution or toxins so are best not taken.
By far the most common fish are the popular beginner's fish, spotties. These voracious little fish are often the first experience of fishing for many children, often off a jetty in Picton or elsewhere in the Sounds. Spotties can also be caught off many beaches in the Sounds, although rocks and debris risk losing gear. Although not generally considered a popular eating fish, they are edible, particularly the larger examples.
Blue cod are perhaps the most popular fish, and certainly one of the most iconic of the Marlborough Sounds, however to allow fish stocks to recover, there is a closed season from 1 September to 20 December. Blue cod are usually taken from boats.
Stingrays are plentiful throughout the Sounds and are found in large numbers in Picton Harbour.
The outer Sounds have probably the largest variety 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, White Bluffs, and the northern end of Rarangi beach.
The best fishing is generally surf casting near the mouths of the Wairau, the Wairau Diversion and the Awatere, where large numbers of kahawai are caught, generally on spinning lures. 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, paua, 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. The Kaikoura coast area is famous for its good stocks of crayfish after which it is named.
New Zealand fur seals have colonies along much of the Kaikōura coast, and as a fully protected species, any fishing activities need to avoid them.
Fisheries closures due to Kaikōura Earthquake
Due to damage to the seabed following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in 2016, the coastline from Marfells Beach south is closed until further notice for all gathering of seaweed or shelfish.