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Lake Dunstan Fishing

Lake Dunstan, with its three arms and good population of trout and salmon provides excellent fishing amongst the extensive aquatic weed beds.


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Fish type Brown trout, rainbow trout, chinook salmon and perch.

Nestled between Alexandra, Queenstown and Wanaka, Lake Dunstan is New Zealand’s most recent man-made lake. Long and narrow, it splits into three arms at Cromwell. The Dunstan Arm runs the length of the Cromwell Gorge, the Clutha Arm crosses the Lowburn Flats and the Kawarau Arm extends up into the Kawarau Gorge.

SH6 follows its west side down to Cromwell, while SH8 follows its east shoreline all the way down, continuing on to Alexandra and Dunedin.


Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast for .
F&G pamphlet Lake Dunstan access pamphlet >>>

While brown and rainbow trout are present throughout the lake, the most productive area to fish is the Clutha Arm, especially where the Clutha River flows in. Salmon arrive in late October to November from the rivers upstream but are otherwise not particularly numerous.

The fish feed on the plentiful polpulation of damsel flies, caddis nymphs, waterboatmen, beetles and chironomids.


The best method for fishing the lake is by trolling or harling. Trolling is best at a depth of 3-6m, especially when the water is rough. Harling is successful around the weed beds.

Spinning from the shoreline is also a productive method. Spinning can be very productive especially around any stream mouth and the Clutha River inflow is a popular spot during the cooler months. As weed can be a problemin many areas, lures are best kept just below the surface to avoid snags.

Fly fishing is also popular and effective. Using polaroid glasses to cut the surface glareand a light rod with a floating line, trout can be targeted as they cruise close to the shore along the weed beds. Dry flies can be successful in the eveneing with nymphs the better choice for the day. Very clear still weather however can make fishing very frustrating as the trout will not move as close to shore and those that do are easily spooked.

For bait fishing, replace the sinker with a float and drift the bait along the edges of the weed beds.

Tagged fish Watch for any rainbow trout that have been tagged or fin-clipped. These fish were released as part of a research programme into the growth and movement of trout. Send details of the date the fish was caught, location, size, length, weight, your name and address to the Clutha Fisheries Trust or to the Fish and Game Council.
Fish numbers and size

Rainbow and brown trout in good numbers averaging around 1.5kg. A landlocked population of small salmon and some perch are also present.


East side: The entire east side of the lake is easily accessible from SH8.

Clutha Arm: Accessible from SH6 on the west side at Pisa Moorings and Smiths Way. Boat ramps are situated on the east side at Bendigo and Northburn, and on the west from Lowburn Harbour, McNulty Inlet and Cromwell.

Kawarau Arm: Boat access is available from south of the arm at Bannockburn.

Dunstan Arm: Access from SH8 on the east at Champagne Gully and Dairy Creek and round to the west at Weatherall Creek above the Clyde Dam.

See the access map.

Recommended tackle

For trolling: Between 3 - 5 colours of lead line with a long leader of between 8 - 15 metres.

For flyfishing: A light 5 - 6 weight rod and floating line when fishing from the shore.

For spinning: Light gear (2-3kg line) with light lures that are fished just subsurface.

Fot baitfishing: A legal bait suspended 1.5 metres below a float.

Recommended lures

Nymphs: Damselfly, Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tail, snail patterns.

Dry flies: Coch-y-Bondhu, Brown Beetle, Royal Wulff, Black Gnat, Humpy, Caddis.

Wet flies /Streamers: Woolly Bugger, Mrs Simpson, Hamill’s Killer, Muddler Minnow, red or yellow Rabbit.

Spinners: Black Jenson Insect, red and gold Veltic, King Cobra, Rapala, Black Toby, Tasmanian Devil.

Tributaries Tributaries to Lake Dunstan include:
– Clutha River
– Kawarau River
– Amisfield Burn
– Park Burn
Applicable to Lake Dunstan
Region Otago regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 2 trout, 4 salmon
Size limit (cm) None
Boat fishing Fishing from boats is permitted. If fishing from a mechanically propelled boat, the boat must stay at least 100m from any angler fishing from the shore.



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