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Motueka River Trout Fishing

The Motueka River is one of New Zealand's premier brown trout fisheries having a very high population of both resident and sea run trout, some to trophy size.

Motueka access map

Motueka topographical map

View maps View photos

A Motueka River WCO came into force in 2004, in recognition of outstanding recreational, wild and scenic characteristics, along with fisheries and wildlife habitat features. The order included restrictions on damming or altering river flows to protect spawning by brown trout.

To read the full legislation document for the WCO applied to this waterway click here


A recent poll from over 50,000 people voted fishing the Motueka River as one of the top 10 activities in the Nelson Marlborough region.

Read the report

Fish type Brown trout (some sea run)
Situation Approx one hours drive from Nelson.
A 5 minute drive from Motueka.
Setting Very scenic throughout its length. Water quality and clarity is exceptional even after heavy rain as the river clears very quickly. The river contains a range of water types from long riffles, long glides, boisterous rapids and deep pools. A beautiful and challenging river to fish.

Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions

River flow

View graphs at the TDC website of recent river flow at:
- Woodmans' Bend (lower Motueka)
- Woodstock (middle reaches)
- the Gorge (upper Motueka)


View graphs at the TDC website of recent rainfall at:
- Woodstock (middle reaches)
- the Gorge (upper Motueka)

Weather forecast

View MetService weather forecast for Motueka

F&G pamphlet Motueka River access pamphlet
Description A premier fishing water running over a boulder and stony bed. The many facets of this river from deep clear pools to long still glides between banks fringed with overhanging vegetation make this a river that suits all angling methods. Fish can be easily spotted in the very clear water making this a challenging though rewarding fishery. Several tributaries are important fisheries in their own right.
Fish numbers and size Very high numbers of fish in the 2-3lb range below the Wangapeka confluence. Fish numbers in the upper reaches above the Wangapeka are lower but average 3 - 5lb with some very large trophy fish present.
Ease of fishing The river is mostly wadeable, especially during the drier summer months. Some areas have vegetation along the banks restricting access but mostly the river has wide margins allowing for easy fishing. The very upper reaches beyond Golden Downs are challenging and are seldom fished.

There are roads running along both banks of most of the river and angler access points are clearly signposted. However, the headwaters are in challenging terrain and are seldom fished.

Anglers seeking access to the Motueka River and tributaries other than the Fish & Game access points identifed on the maps will need to gain permission from the landowner first.

Please see the Motueka access map.

Recommended lures

Nymphs: Pheasant Tail , Hares Ear or Hare and Copper and halfbacks or any mayfly nymph imitation (sizes 14 or smaller)

Dry flies: Coch-y-Bondhu, Twilight Beauty. Brown or Green Beetle in early summer and Cicada patterns in late summer.

Wet flies: Small wets such as Hardies Favourite or a larger Hamills Killer or Mrs Simpson in the evening. Large dark patterns such as Hairy Dog or Fuzzy Wuzzy can work well after dark. Try using lighter patterns such as a Grey Ghost or Parson's Glory at the mouth of the river when the whitebait are running.

Spinners: Black Toby and bladed spinners such as Veltic or Mepps work best, especially when the river is high.


The Motueka has three major tributaries that are important fisheries in their own right. They are the Motupiko, the Wangapeka and the Baton.

Other smaller tributaries can provide good fishing are the Pearse, Dove, Tadmor and Rainy. These are all small streams but do hold good fish. The mouths of these streams are well worth exploring at any time of the year but especially in the hotter months when the trout will congregate in the cooler water they supply to the main river. As well as these streams there are a large number of small feeder streams that also can be attractors to feeding trout where they enter the Motueka.
Biosecurity requirements
Biosecurity Because of the presence of the invasive alga didymo in these waters, anglers must clean their fishing gear including waders and boots, especially when moving between rivers. See Didymo Biosecurity Alert for details.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Motueka River downstream from the Peninsula Road Bridge at Ngatimoti
Region Nelson/Marlborough>>>
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Motueka River upstream of its confluence with the Wangapeka River
Region Nelson/Marlborough>>>
Season 1 October to 30 Apritl
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 2 (with only one fish exceeding 500mm in length)
Size limit (cm) No minimum size




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