6 Trout Fishing Rivers in Rotorua New Zealand

Rotorua, a geothermal wonderland in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, is renowned for its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers, and pristine lakes. Beyond its thermal attractions, Rotorua is a haven for anglers, offering some of the best trout fishing in the world. The region’s rivers are teeming with rainbow and brown trout, drawing enthusiasts from around the globe. Here, we explore the top 6 trout fishing rivers in Rotorua, providing a guide to the best spots for an unforgettable fishing experience.

1. The Tongariro River

While technically not located within Rotorua, the Tongariro River is a legendary spot within the trout fishing community, deserving its mention due to its proximity and significance. Flowing into Lake Taupo, just a short drive from Rotorua, it offers some of the best winter fishing opportunities in New Zealand. The river is famous for its annual runs of spawning trout, which occur from late April through to October. With well-marked public access points and a variety of pools and rapids, the Tongariro River is ideal for both fly fishing and spin casting.

2. The Ngongotahā Stream

Nestled on the outskirts of Rotorua city, the Ngongotahā Stream is known for its clear waters and consistent trout population. The stream is easily accessible, with several public access points along its length. It’s particularly popular during the autumn and early winter months when large rainbow trout move upstream from Lake Rotorua to spawn. The Ngongotahā provides a serene and picturesque setting for anglers, with sections running through both open farmland and dense native bush.

3. The Ōhinemuri River

Just a brief journey from Rotorua, the Ōhinemuri River is a gem in the Kaimai Range. It’s known for its scenic beauty and brown trout fishing. The river boasts a variety of water types, including deep pools, fast runs, and quiet stretches, providing exceptional dry fly and nymph fishing opportunities. The surrounding native bush adds to the sense of adventure and isolation. Despite its smaller size, the Ōhinemuri can produce sizable trout, making it a favorite among those seeking a more intimate fishing experience.

4. The Whirinaki River

Known for its remote and untouched wilderness, the Whirinaki River runs through one of New Zealand’s most beautiful native forests. The river is primarily renowned for its excellent fly-fishing opportunities, targeting both rainbow and brown trout. The Whirinaki offers a truly wild fishing experience, with sections of the river only accessible via hiking trails. Its cold, clear waters are perfect for sight fishing, and the dense forest canopy provides a unique backdrop. This river is best suited for experienced anglers looking for a challenge and solitude.

5. The Rangitāiki River

The Rangitāiki River, stretching from the Urewera Ranges to the Bay of Plenty coast, passes through a variety of landscapes, offering diverse fishing experiences along its course. This river is famous for its large, hard-fighting rainbow trout and has some excellent fly fishing spots, especially in the upper reaches. Access varies from easy to challenging, with some of the best spots located in more remote areas, making it an adventure to reach the prime fishing waters. The Rangitāiki also boasts significant stretches of river suitable for drift boat fishing, providing a unique perspective on this majestic waterway.

6. The Waihou River

Though it may not boast the wilderness setting of some of the other rivers on this list, the Waihou River offers one of the most unique trout fishing experiences in the Rotorua region. Its waters are renowned for their clarity, thanks to the spring-fed source, providing exceptional sight fishing conditions. The Waihou is populated with both rainbow and brown trout, with the average size being impressively large. It’s also one of the few places in New Zealand where you can fish all year round, thanks to the consistent water temperature and clarity.

Fishing Seasons and Regulations

It’s essential for anglers to be aware of the specific fishing seasons and regulations that apply to each river. The New Zealand government implements these rules to ensure sustainable fishing practices and the long-term health of the trout populations. Licenses are required for freshwater fishing in New Zealand, and they can be easily purchased online or from local fishing shops. Regulations regarding bag limits, size limits, and permitted fishing methods (fly, spin, or bait) vary between rivers and seasons, so it’s crucial to check the latest information before heading out.

Why Rotorua?

Rotorua offers more than just phenomenal trout fishing; it blends natural beauty, Maori culture, and adventure tourism into a unique experience. After a day on the water, you can soak in a natural hot spring, explore a geothermal park, or experience traditional Maori hospitality. Rotorua is the perfect base for anglers who also enjoy diverse cultural and outdoor activities, making it a world-class destination for both fishing and tourism.


The rivers around Rotorua present some of the best trout fishing opportunities on the planet. From the legendary Tongariro to the crystal-clear Waihou, each river offers a unique experience, set against the stunning backdrop of New Zealand’s natural landscape. Whether you’re an experienced angler seeking the challenge of remote wilderness fishing or a beginner eager to cast your first line, Rotorua’s rivers provide the perfect setting for an unforgettable fishing adventure.

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