When I first started planning this trip to New Zealand, one of the only things my husband wanted to do was fish.
To say he’s an avid fisherman would be downplaying his enthusiasm. He fishes a lot, and he fishes hard. His last big trip was to Kiribati, where he and three of his friends fished all day, all night. It’s not exactly my kind of vacation.
But scheduling a day — or better, morning — of fishing in New Zealand sounded like fun. So I googled, “fishing,” and one name kept popping up: Lake Taupō.
Lake Taupō is the largest freshwater lake (by surface area) in the country. It lies in the caldera of the still active Taupō Volcano and spans 238 square miles.
It’s also well-stocked with introduced brown and rainbow trout, populations of which have increased so much on their own, there’s no need to keep stocking it and tourists are encouraged to fish them out.
We stopped by Taupō Rod & Tackle for some advice. The shop’s owner, Matthew Pate, rented us some spinning rods, got us our temporary fishing license (which you need here) and pointed us in the direction of two places where we could cast from shore and, hopefully, catch some trout.
The first place he suggested was the rugged Wharewaka Point to the north of where we were staying. This area stretches from Rainbow Point to Five Mile Bay on the west side of State Highway 1. It’s a small community — not more than 500 people — and a popular place for swimming during the summer months.
Lake Taupō is drained by the Waikato River — New Zealand’s longest — and its main tributaries — namely, Waitahanui, Tongariro and Tauranga Taupō rivers — are favorite stops for fly fishermen. This whole area is known as the Trout Fishing Capital of New Zealand.
We were here when the dry fly begins to slow down, though fish are in peak condition and some of the biggest fish are caught in April. (May is the best month, when migratory runs start in the Lake Taupō fishing tributaries.)
But that’s OK. We were here to at least try. As my husband says, “It’s called fishing, not catching.”
We walked out to the point, and my husband spotted an area that he thought would be prime for catching fish. There was a rocky shelf, with deeper water just within casting range.
You can’t bait fish in Lake Taupō, so we used metal spoons with single hooks (no treble hooks allowed) and cast right from the beach.
Within 15 minutes, I hooked up to a 45-centimeter, three-pound rainbow trout! It gave me a bit of a fight as I reeled it in. (My husband was way more excited than I was!) Man, that was super exciting! I get why people love fishing so much!
The thing about New Zealand: You can’t trade or sell the fish you catch, so you have to eat it. And that also means you can’t eat trout unless you catch it. So we were doubly excited about this catch! Now we could eat it!
We had heard that the freshwater trout here tastes a lot like salmon, only cleaner and better. I had never eaten trout — don’t even know how to prepare it — so I was super interested to see how it would be prepared.
Matt from the fishing shop said most Kiwis smoke their trout before eating it. We went to a nearby butcher who could have done it for us, but we didn’t have enough time. (He needed a day or so to smoke it.)
The Waterside Restaurant & Bar right in town can prepare your catch — you just have to leave the head and tail on so the kitchen knows it’s legal size — for $40NZD with two sides.
What a deal!
After about an hour and a half, we went back to the restaurant and ate my catch. The trout was steamed with lemon slices, onions and herbs, and delivered to our table whole. (The server normally removes the head and spine, but we didn’t mind picking through the bones.) And people were right: It does have the texture of salmon but tasted a lot cleaner and fresher.
My poor husband. He spent the next few hours fishing at different spots long the lake, even jumping in a kayak and going to a point near the place we were staying at Acacia Bay.
Nothing. Not even a bite.
But hey, at least one of us caught something. But I can see why it’s tempting to cast your line one more time.
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