Christchurch and Canterbury are renowned as areas that have great fishing, great rivers and an abundance of accessible coastline that lends itself to throwing a line in the water to see what’s nibbling. This page lists fishing resources at Christchurch City Libraries and links to fishing regulations, places to fish and links to further information.

Whitebait season

Photo: measuring out the catch of whitebait
Measuring out the catch of whitebait (inanga) [1931] CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0010
A tasty little fish enjoyed throughout New Zealand is the whitebait (inaka or inanga). In all of New Zealand except the West Coast of the South Island and the Chatham Islands, the whitebait season runs from 15 August until 30 November inclusive.

Whitebait regulations, including types and positions of nets, are enforced by the Department of Conversation. More local information can be found on the Christchurch City Council fishing page.

Whitebait fishing was a well-established tradition before European settlement at places such as Puari. Mill Island, near the corner of Hereford Street and Oxford Terrace, was another well-known spot. To this day eager anglers wade in the water during spring to net the delicacy, which are the young members of the galaxiid family.

Fishing regulations and licences

Canterbury is divided into two fishing areas by Fish and Game New Zealand — North Canterbury, and the Central South Island. Angling regulations are updated annually for each river or lake, and include bag and / or size limits, as well as designating areas that are closed to fishing. Read the full North Canterbury regulations and the Central South Island regulations.

Ngāi Tahu explain customary fishing regulations on their website. You can also read about management tools are used to help sustain the fisheries.

Mr A. W. Sparrow and Mr O. von Sierakowski and their bag of twelve fish, which averaged 5 lbs each [1924], The weekly press, 9 Oct. 1924, p. 26
Sport fishing (trout, salmon, char, tench, rudd or perch) requires the purchase of a licence. Some areas are prohibited to anglers. Licences are available from most sporting goods shops and on the Fish and Game New Zealand website, which also details costs and options for individual and family licences — from a 24-hour licence to whole season permit.

Places to fish in Christchurch

The Avon and Heathcote rivers, the Groynes, the New Brighton Pier and most wharves in Banks Peninsula offer fishing to members of the public in Christchurch. See the Christchurch City Council’s fishing spots page for more information. The Department of Conservation also lists areas it manages in Canterbury where fishing is permitted on its website.

Fishing season

It is possible to fish year-round, however the best sport fishing occurs from 1 October to 30 April. Both brown trout (salmo trutta) and rainbow trout (salmo gairdnerii) are found in Canterbury waters, as are Chinook or quinnat salmon. Sea fishing is permitted year round, though there may be limits on the amount of fish that may be caught.

Troutdale Farm
Johnson's Fishponds, the Aquarium at 105 Clarendon Terrace, Opawa [ca. 1900], CCL PhotoCD 3, IMG0038

Aquariums in Christchurch

In 1875 Andrew Mensal Johnson (d. 1916) established a fish hatchery and aquarium at Opawa, on the south bank of the Heathcote River, calling it Troutdale Farm (right). It became popular as a picnic grounds until it closed in the early 1930s.


Due to the spread of didymo, or rock snot as it is colloquially known, felt-soled wading boots were outlawed in 2008. All anglers are urged to check, clean and dry their gear to help reduce the spread of didymo. First found in New Zealand in 2004, didymo is an invasive freshwater alga that clogs rivers and threatens the ecological balance of the environment.

Fishing resources

Our online resources

Girl fishing c. 1925
Small daughters are just as keen on fishing as their fathers, The weekly press, 22 Oct. 1925, p. 29

Internet Gateway sites

Browse the resources in our libraries