New Zealand’s salmon season runs from early October through to late April.
Chinook salmon ascend the rivers of the South Island’s eastern regions beginning in late December, peaking in February, and continuing until March. The best known salmon fishing rivers are the Rakaia, Rangitata and Waitaki rivers.
A few weeks later, the salmon runs peak in the South Island’s west coast rivers, including the Paringa, Taramakau, and Hokitika.
Salmon fishing gear
Spinning or bait casting gear using a 9kg (20lb) breaking strain line and a metal ticer lure is recommended for New Zealand salmon fishing. Some innovative anglers catch salmon using deep sinking fly line and a fly lure.
Fishing guides operate mainly on the Rakaia, Rangitata and Waitaki rivers, in the South Island, but can be found operating in other regions.
Guides provide all fishing gear and equipment, and will often use jet boats to gain access to pools where salmon may have paused.
NZ chinook or quinnat salmon
The chinook salmon – known in New Zealand as quinnat, king or spring salmon – is one of five species of Pacific salmon. It is New Zealand’s largest freshwater fish, and the largest species in the salmon family.
The breed was introduced into New Zealand rivers on the South Island’s east coast in Canterbury and Otago more than 100 years ago.
The ocean-swelling chinook salmon swim up the rivers to spawn, offering a prized catch for anglers.
While the chinnook is now scarce along the Californian Pacific coast, it has thrived in New Zealand waters. Established spawning runs are found in the Rangitata, Opihi, Ashburton, Rakaia, Waimakariri, Hurunui and Waiau rivers.