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McKenzie Hydro Canals: Tekapo, Ohau & Pukaki

The McKenzie (or Waitaki) hydro canals are a series of man-made canals joining three lakes (Tekapo, Ohau and Pukaki) that, despite their bland appearance, provide many kilometers of outstanding fishing for some very large trout and salmon. While not the most beautiful environment, the canals are open to fishing all year and a good number of fish can be caught, mostly by spinning.

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Fish type Both brown and rainbow trout in very good numbers and some of which reach very impressive sizes. In the canal between Tekapo and Pukaki there are also some salmon that have escaped from the fish-farms and now provide a target for anglers.
Situation As part of the hydroelectric power production, Lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau have been joined by a series of large canals. These run for many kilometers, often in a straight line.

Access map
Access map with topography

LINZ topographic maps: 1:50,000 (260 series)


While the canals could not be described as beautiful water to fish as they run in straight lines across the countryside, they are in some of New Zealand's most outstanding scenery. They also provide some exceptional fishing were extra-ordinarily large trout and some salmon can be targeted. The canals do not have the natural features you would expect in a river however and so the fishing is more akin to still water fishing. As well the water often carries some galcial silt that makes spotting fish difficult at best.

At times though there can be spectacular rises across large sections of the canals which can make for very exciting fishing as these are often fish over 20lbs. Most times it is necessary to fish blind using either a streamer fly or a deeply sunk nymph. Spinning is also a good option as the canals also hold a good population of small white bait that make up a good part of the trout's diet. Bait fishing is also an option.


There is easy access to large stretches of the canals as the roads follow the canal banks for many kilometres. In fact it is possible to stop almost anywhere and cast a line with a reasonable hope of success.

Methods The canals are suitable for all fishing methods, especially spinning.
Recommended tackle Rods capable of casting a weight six or higher line when flyfishing. It is best to use a floating or a slow sinking line on these canals. Rods capable of casting a 7 to 10 g lure when spinning. Use leaders of at least 8lbs and preferably higher as these are large fish.
Recommended lures

Dry flies: Well-dressed large bushy flies such as a Humpy or Coch-y-Bondhu are best. Try also large Deer Hair Sedge in summer or even a cicada when they can be heard chirping in the late summer.

Nymphs: Weighted nymphs in sizes 10 to 14 such as very roughly tied Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tail and Halfback patterns.

Wet flies: Streamer flies such as a Parsons Glory, Rabbit, Hairy Dog and Jack Spratts .

Spinners: Black and gold Toby's, Rapalas and Cobras fished deep.

Applicable to

McKenzie hydro canals:

  • Tekapo–Pukaki canal
  • Pukaki–Ohau hydro canal
  • Ohau Canal from State Highway 8 to Ohau C power station


Region Central South Island regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit

4 sports fish of which no more than 2 can be trout

No person shall in any one day take or be in possession of more than two salmon greater than 500mm taken from any of the McKenzie hydro canals.

Size limit (cm)

Trout: No limit

Salmon: Minimum 300 mm.



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