Fishing in the Waimarino

The Ohakune area boasts world-class wilderness fishing, with crystal clear waters flowing through remote native bush, anglers return year after year as the secluded locations of the local fisheries allow the fishing enthusiast to escape from it all.

The area offers angling of all types, from trophy lake fishing in Lake Otamangakau to sight fishing for large trout in smaller streams and rivers.
The fishing season runs from 1 October through to May, though selected public areas such as the Ruatiti Domain (Manganui o te Ao river) and parts of the Mangawhero River are open year round. Most spawning rivers are closed between fishing seasons.

Brown and rainbow trout are abundant in the Ruapehu region, the average size starting from 1.5 to 2.5kg. Some river systems are located on private land, typically farmland, so you need to get permission from landowners. It is very rare that access is denied on private properties. Always leave gates as you find them, don’t park vehicles that obstruct gateways and do not interfere with livestock, crops or machinery.

Following is some detailed information on the main fishing rivers and streams. More information, including access, season and licence requirements, is at

No photos available

Mangawhero River

The Mangawhero River is a good brown trout fishery in its lower and middle reaches. The River rises on the southern slopes of Mount Ruapehu in the Tongariro National Park, flowing south through Ohakune to join the Whangaehu River near Kauangaroa after 70km. Within the national park the river is small and swift flowing and not really worth fishing, but below Ohakune the river winds across farmland for 10km before entering a gorge. In this section there are pools, riffles and willows growing on the banks. Fish are difficult to spot in the brownish water but blind fishing with dry flies and nymphs is reasonably easy. The best fishing in the lower reaches is from above the spectacular Raukawa Waterfall at Kakatahi for 10km upstream where the river emerges from a gorge. The river bottom consists of mudstone shelves interspersed with rocks and silt. Spinning is the preferred method above and below the falls but it’s worth trying a large attractor dry fly as well.

Manganui o Te Ao River

The Manganui o Te Ao River is a hugely rated scenic river that supports a nationally significant fishery for brown and rainbow trout. A variety of water caters for all skill levels. The River is one of nine nationally important North Island fisheries and is considered the jewel in the crown of the Taranaki fisheries. A Water Conservation Order protects the endangered blue duck (whio), which has a preference for clean, fast-flowing streams in the forested upper catchments of New Zealand rivers.
The Manganui o Te Ao River holds brown and rainbow trout, averaging 1.5kg with some growing up to 3.5 kg or larger. It is north of Ohakune and rises on the western flows of Mt Ruapehu and flows through native forest and farmland to its confluence with the Whanganui River, 13 kilometres above Pipiriki.

The River boasts high water quality from snow melt and glacial runoff, plentiful insect life, good cover from large boulders, overhanging bush, deep pools and papa ledges. The sequence of pools, runs and rapids gives anglers a diversity of fishable water to choose from. Pools are productive early in the season, while the rapids and runs fish best later on. Because the number of anglers here is low by national standards, good fishing areas are always available in very scenic surroundings.
The upper section within Tongariro National Park is difficult to access.

About 15km of the middle reaches of river is accessible. About 4km north of Raetihi on SH4, turn left into Ohura Road and follow it for 8km to reach the river. The Makakahi, Ruatiti and Pukekaha Roads branch off Ruatiti Road to the lower, middle and upper reaches respectively. River access and a free camping area are available at Ruatiti Domain. Bridge crossings also provide access. A large sign at Ruatiti Domain shows the various property boundaries along the river and anglers must get permission from the appropriate landowner. Phone numbers are included in Fish & Game's Ruapehu Sports Fishing Information pamphlet. All fishing methods are popular. Daytime nymphing with weighted flies is recommended. Add spilt shot to your leader to get down to the fish. Dry fly fishing is favoured for the evening rise. For spin fishing, use fine lines and the smallest spinners when the river is slow in summer; larger bright spinners when the water is discoloured.

Retaruke River

The Retaruke River is a small back country river that provides many kilometres of fishing for a good population of both rainbow and brown trout in the upper reaches. The lower reaches tend to be often discoloured from the silt washed down from the high cliffs but still give good spin fishing. The Retaruke and its major tributary the Kaitieke Stream rise in the Central Plateau and flow westwards to join the Whanganui River in the remote Whanganui National Park. The stretch of the Retaruke River above the confluence with the Kaitieke Stream provides superb dry fly and nymph fishing in a remote back country setting where there are few obstructions to impede casting. Wading is easy and safe. There is excellent fishing for a good population of both rainbow and brown trout.

During the day, a weighted nymph fished upstream or a small wet fly presented down and across will take fish. Dry fly fishing is effective during the evening rise on warm summer evenings when the trout are gorging on sedges. The river in the upper reaches runs through open grassland, scrub and sections of bush over a gravel and rock bed. The water is generally tannin stained though fish can still be spotted during bright sunny conditions. Below the confluence with the Kaitieke Stream there is 20km of water that is better suited to spinner fishing. The use of weighted nymphs in dark colours can also produce fish. The river here flows through a gorge and the banks can be quite slippery due to the papa (mudstone), which makes up much of the base. It does hold good fish and one way to access it is by kayak.

There is some good water just upstream of the Whanganui confluence though getting down to the river is very difficult for much of the lower and middle sections.
From State Highway 4 take the unsealed road at the small settlement of Raurimu. This leads to the Oio Road that takes you alongside the river all the way to the confluence with the Whanganui. Much of it is unsealed. The best water for angling is accessed by turning of the Oio at the monument and taking the sing-posted Upper Retaruke Road. The major tributary of the Retaruke, the Kaitieke Stream, is an important fishery in its own right especially early and late in the season when fish are present for spawning.

Whanganui River

The headwaters of Whanganui River and its tributaries provide a wide variety of top-quality fishing in a remote backcountry setting for a good population of rainbow and brown trout. In the rugged and remote headwaters there are good numbers of fish averaging around 2kg. The large 220km Whanganui River runs from rugged bush country west of Lake Otamangakau towards Taumarunui, through the Whanganui National Park before reaching the mouth at Wanganui on the east coast.

The headwaters lie within the Tongariro National Park and are very remote providing top-quality backcountry fishing for anglers who have an above average level of fitness. Fishing in the section is very good with fish averaging over 2 kg. The water is generally clean but may have a slight tinge of colour, which actually assists the fisherman as the fish can be more easily approached without being spooked. The river runs through beautiful native forest though there are plenty of open spaces to fish from. The river flows over a stone and shingle bed and is a series of very enticing runs, small rapids and deep pools.

Access to this area generally requires a four-wheel drive vehicle and some considerable walking. Access can be difficult and the angler wishing to cover a large expanse of water may have to cross some deep water at times. It is recommended to fish only when the waters are low. Prepare to get wet and take a wading staff.
There is very little fishable water above the confluence with the Mangatepoho Stream as much of the water from the headwaters has been withdrawn to service the Tongariro Power Scheme.

Upstream from Taumarunui there are numerous fishing areas many of which are signposted by the Ruapehu Fish and Game Club. The section of the river has a number of long bouldery runs, short rapids and deep pools. It is beautiful water to fish and highly recommended. It holds a large population of trout and provides plenty of opportunities for all angling methods. It can be crossed in places though care should always be taken. This section just downstream from the confluence with the Ongarue was chosen as a venue for the 28th World's Fly Fishing Championship in 2008.

Though it is remote countryside, access can be gained from Mahoe Road, Piriaka, Mananui and Ako Street in Kakahi. Much of the river is over private land so to seek permission from the farmer before you cross their land.

The Ongarue River joins the Whanganui river at Taumarunui. As a consequence there is a considerable increase in the river flow. The water also acquires a brownish tinge from this point. There is still excellent fishing to be had, as fish numbers are good. Although the river is large downstream from Taumarunui, it still has a number of excellent pools and runs as the river flows over a stone gravel bed. Wading is more difficult as more water joins the river. Care should be taken especially during the warmer months as the rocky bed can become very slippery.

Access is easy as River Road runs parallel to the river for some considerable distance. The Whanganui river has a number of very important tributaries each of which offers a unique fishing experience in its own right. These include the Whakapapa River, the Pungapunga River, the Ongarue River and the Okupata Stream (a 2-hour hike to some special fishing).

Moawhango River

The Moawhango River provides challenging fishing for a good population of brown and some rainbow trout in a remote and attractive setting. This river is best suited to energetic anglers who are prepared for some steep climbs and deep water wading to cross the river. It is important to note that flushes from the Moawhango Dam, near Waiouru, occur at times through the year. Dates for these are published in the Ruapehu Bulletin, prior to the events.

The Moawhango River rises east of Waiouru in the tussock highlands near Tongariro and within the New Zealand Defence Force Army Training Area. In 1979 a dam was built near the headwaters to divert water for hydroelectric power production. The river downstream from this dam has been severely reduced as a consequence. Despite this extraction of water, the Moawhango still provides excellent fishing for energetic and fit anglers who are prepared to scramble up and down steep hills and be prepared for some deep-water river crossings. The riverbed can get very slippery during the summer and care should be taken when crossing.

The upper reaches and headwaters, as well as the shallow man-made Lake Moawhango, are with in the Army training area and are consequently not accessible to anglers. The central section downstream from Moawhango village provides reasonable access with a road paralleling the river for some distance. Upstream from Moawhango village can also provide good fishing if you obtain the landowners’ permission to cross their land. Much of the river flows through a deeply sided valley and it is not an easy river to access. Consequently it also receives little angling pressure making it a great alternative for anglers wishing to find some remote fishing where they are very unlikely to see anyone else fishing.

The lower reaches are virtually impossible to access as the river flows through a deep steep sided valley. After rain, the water in this river can quickly discolour and so is best left for a few days to clear before attempting to fish.

Other streams

Tokiahuru and Waitaki Streams start in the Karioi Forest on Mt Ruapehu’s southern slopes.

Taonui Stream: Spring-fed stream rises between Ohakune and Horopito, total length 8km. Brown trout, averaging 2kg. Access from SH49A, Tohunga Road and Old Mangarewa Road near the confluence of Taoaui and Mangawhero. All fishing methods effective.

Raetihi Hydro Dam – also a wildlife sanctuary. Brown and rainbow trout 1-2.5kg. 2km down Ruatiti Road, turn right onto Middle Road. About 750m turn left onto a track. There is parking for only 1-2 vehicles.

“The hunt for adventure brings people to Ohakune, but it’s the people they meet that keeps them coming back.
– John, Wellington