Fishing rules

If you want to fish recreationally in New Zealand, you're legally required to follow the fishing rules. These change often and are different around the country. Check your local rules each time before you go fishing.

Download the NZ Fishing Rules app

Download from the Apple App Store Download from Google Play

NZ Fishing Rules app – Apple Store

NZ Fishing Rules app – Google Play

Other ways to check the fishing rules

You can also:

Choose your fishing area

Auckland Kermadec fishing area map

Central fishing area map

Auckland and Kermadec area

Central area

South-East area fishing map

Kaikoura area fishing map

South-East area

Kaikōura area

Challenger fishing area map

Fiordland fishing area map

Challenger area

Fiordland area

Southland fishing area map

Southland area

Freshwater

Get a brochure from your local fisheries office

MPI fisheries offices

Free text 9889 with the name of a species

Send a free text to 9889 with the name of a species. For example, text "blue cod" or "pāua". You’ll receive a text with minimum size limits and bag/catch limits for that species.

Follow MPI Fisheries on Facebook

We have some regional fishing pages you can get information from. You can check them for fishing rules and updates on how we manage and protect local fisheries.

Follow the Facebook page for:

Check the signs at popular fishing spots

You'll also see information signs with rules at many fishing spots.

Freshwater fishing rules and licence

You do not need a licence to fish in the sea around New Zealand. However, you do need a licence for freshwater fishing (in lakes and rivers). Licenses for freshwater fishing are issued by NZ Fish and Game.

Find out about freshwater fishing rules and licenses – NZ Fish and Game

General information about fishing rules

Expand All
Overview of the rules

Each of the 7 fishing areas has different rules. They always cover these common features:

  • minimum size limits
  • catch limits
  • areas where you cannot fish
  • special restrictions (like bans on using nets or gear)

For example, the size limit for scallops might be different in 2 different fishing areas.

It is also always illegal to sell or trade what you catch.

Check to see what these rules are in your local fishing area. Fines and penalties apply for breaking the rules.

1. It is illegal to sell or trade your catch

It is illegal to buy, sell, or swap recreationally caught seafood. This includes finfish, shellfish, and rock lobster (crayfish). These are offences against the Fisheries Act which can result in fines up to $250,000.

You must have a fishing permit to fish for commercial purposes

Fisheries Act 1996 – New Zealand Legislation

2. Daily catch/bag limits (how many fish you can take)

The "daily catch limit" is how many of a fish, shellfish, or rock lobster (crayfish) one person can take (or possess) each day.

Only people who were there when the fish or shellfish were caught or taken can include them in their daily catch limit.

Any shellfish that you catch and eat during a fishing trip also counts as part of your daily catch limit.

3. Legal size limits (how big the fish need to be)

Fish and shellfish need to be a certain size before you can take them. This is the size limit. We set limits that allow species to breed at least once before they are taken from the sea.

Shellfish (like pāua, scallops, and dredge oysters) must also stay in their shells if uneaten. This allows fishery officers to measure them if they need to.

Stick to the legal size limits for your fishing area. Measure your catch carefully to help keep local fisheries sustainable.

If you catch an undersized fish, remember to release it carefully so that it:

  • can survive to reach a larger size
  • has a chance to breed.

Don't continue fishing in an area where most of the fish are small. Or, try using a larger hook.

4. Areas may be closed to fishing or restricted

Some areas may be closed to fishing. This includes:

  • marine reserves
  • Taiapure
  • Mātaitai reserves.

Check your local fishing area rules for details.

5. Areas may have special restrictions

In some areas you cannot:

  • use certain fishing gear (like nets, set line)
  • take certain types of fish or shellfish.
Penalties for breaking the rules

Penalties apply for breaking fishing rules. This includes:

  • fines of up to $500
  • court fines of up to $10,000 or $250,000
  • seizure of any fish, gear, and property (including vessels and vehicles) used to break the rules.

Fines are also called “infringement notices”.

Infringement notices

An infringement notice will be sent to fishers who break recreational fishing rules (unless the offending is judged to be serious, in which case a prosecution will be commenced in court).

Find out how to pay your infringement fee

We have a brochure that explains what to do if you get one. This includes:

  • how to pay
  • how to request a waiver
  • how to request a court hearing
  • what to do when the infringement is referred to the district court for collection.

Fishing rules brochure: What you need to know about your infringement/fine

Read the legislation

Rules are based on the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 2013. We set them in consultation with local communities.

Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 2013 – New Zealand Legislation

Report poaching

Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity.

You can help us by providing:

  • the location
  • vehicle/trailer registration number
  • boat name
  • description of the person.

Put your personal safety first when reporting any suspected poaching.

All calls and personal details are treated as confidential.

Who to contact

If you have questions about recreational fishing rules, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: