Our goal as guardians is to ensure that fishing in Fiordland can be enjoyed by many generations to come. All fishers share a responsibility for conserving the area’s valuable fisheries and protecting its unique marine environment.

We encourage you to fish for a feed, not for the freezer. Take only what you need for a fresh meal for yourself and your family.

Before you leave home, make sure you know where and when you can fish, what methods are permitted and how to clean your gear before you arrive.

Fishing rules

Check the rules before you start fishing. Always get the latest from the MPI website or download the NZ Fishing Rules app. Once installed, the app will work without an internet connection.

See our Guide to Fiordland (page 59) for more information and rules for fishing in Fiordland.

Fishing tips

  • Fish in the outer fiords or on the coast whenever you can. These areas have more habitat and nutrients and therefore more fish.
  • Avoid anchoring when you’re fishing and spread out your fishing effort.
  • Secure your gear in bad weather so you don’t lose it or foul your propeller.
  • Use the right method/gear to catch the fish you are targeting.
  • Carefully return any undersized, unlawful or unwanted fish straight away.
  • Don’t take more bait fish than you will use – and make sure they are legal size.
  • Treat what you catch humanely. 


Marine reserves

There are 10 marine reserves in Fiordland. Marine reserves are special places that protect the species and habitats within them and ensure the marine biodiversity is maintained in a healthy state.

No fishing of any kind is allowed in a marine reserve. No fish feeding is permitted in a marine reserve.

See DOC website for maps and boundary information.

Blue cod

On 26 May 2020, following consultation, the Minister of Fisheries has made decisions on blue cod regulations changes for both recreational and commercial fishing.

The minister has decided to:

  • require a minimum mesh size on blue cod pots of 54mm for both commercial and recreational fishers
  • apply a recreational minimum legal size of 33cm for blue cod in all areas, except BCO 1 (upper North Island) where the minimum legal size will remain at 30cm
  • require recreational fishers to land blue cod in a measurable state (unless to be immediately eaten on the fishing vessel from which it was taken)
  • apply a two-day accumulation limit for recreational blue cod fishers based on the daily bag limit set for all areas (except for the Fiordland Marine Area where the accumulation limit is 1 day)
  • set the daily recreational bag limits for blue cod in areas of the South Island and the Chatham Islands according to a traffic light system.

Note: The traffic light system assigns a colour rating to different areas in the South Island and the Chatham Islands. The rating can be changed as available information suggests stock health is improving or declining. The following blue cod bag limits apply to the areas:

  • green areas (healthy) are 15
  • orange (rebuilding/declining) are 10
  • red (in trouble) are 2

Note that some fiords have their own specific limits:

  • Milford Sound/Piopiotahi: closed to blue cod fishing.
  • Doubtful Sound/Patea, Thompson Sound and Bradshaw Sound: daily take and possession limit is one blue cod per person with no accumulation.

An overview of the traffic light system is available here

Rock lobster

Rock lobster potting is not permitted in marine reserves, some no-anchoring areas (china shops) or in the Pendulo Reach internal waters of Doubtful Sound/Patea.

Commercial fishing

No commercial fishing is permitted in the internal waters of Fiordland. This applies to 15 named fiords. The boundary lines for the internal waters are not marked with physical markers, but the GPS coordinates are available from the Fisheries New Zealand website and are published in our Guide to Fiordland (pages 84–139).

See Fisheries New Zealand website for commercial fishing information.

Rock lobster storage and holding pots

Commercial fishers may hold live rock lobster in cages and store empty cages and empty pots in designated areas of four marine reserves:

These pots must not be capable of catching rock lobster.

Next generation holding a fish