Challenger area fishing rules

Recreational fishing rules for the Challenger area, including closures, restrictions, and other important notices.

What you need to know

Map of Challenger fishing area

This area extends along the West Coast of the South Island north of Awarua Point, and around to Clarence Point on the east coast.

This page has the rules for:

  • size limits
  • catch/bag limits (how many fish or shellfish you can take each day)
  • closed areas (where you cannot fish)
  • special restrictions.

The page has the rules for all types of recreational fishing. This includes potting, netting, and all other fishing methods.

Remember, if you're a recreational fisher, selling any fish or shellfish you catch is illegal.

 

Updates

New netting restrictions

From 1 October 2020, there are new fishing rules to help protect Hector's and Māui dolphins. Set nets are banned in several areas of the country, and the trawl prohibition within the central Māui dolphin habitat zone has been extended. Drift netting is banned everywhere in New Zealand.

New blue cod rules

Since 1 July 2020, the new size limit for blue cod is 33cm. A "traffic light system" is used to indicate the daily bag limit for different areas.

How to check the rules

You can find a summary of the size and catch limits, closed areas, and special restrictions further down this page.

Size limits, catch/bag limits, closed areas, and special restrictions

You can also use the free NZ Fishing Rules app, check rules in our brochures, or text us. You'll also see signs about rules at many fishing spots.

Download the free NZ Fishing Rules app

Apple devices

Android devices

Or free text "app" to 9889 to be sent the links to your phone. After you install it, the app will work without an internet connection.

Get a brochure

Brochure: Recreational fishing rules – Challenger (West Area) [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Brochure: Recreational fishing rules – Challenger (East and Kahurangi) [PDF, 2.4 MB]

Visit a Fisheries New Zealand office

Use our free text service

Send a free text to 9889 with the name of a species.

For example, text "blue cod" or "pāua" to 9889. You'll receive a text with legal bag and size limits for that species.

Size limits, catch limits, closed areas, and special restrictions

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Finfish – size limits and catch/bag limits

A summary of the finfish daily bag and size limits.

In the Challenger area, for fish in table 1, there is a combined daily limit of 20, per fisher. This means that you can have a combination of up to 20 of any of these fish in total. For example, you could have 19 kahawai and 1 red cod, or 10 kahawai and 10 red cod. As long as you have no more than 20 in total.

You can have the fish in table 2 in addition to the maximum of 20 fish from table 1. For example, you could take 10 kahawai, 10 red cod, and 6 eels.

There is no limit for fish species not listed in table 1 or 2.

Remember, there may be other specific rules in some areas. For example, a harbour might have different size limits for certain species. Check the "Closed areas and special restrictions" section on this page for more information.

Table 1 – Combined bag

Finfish Species

Min length (cm)

Max daily limit (per fisher)

Min mesh size for nets (mm)

Blue Cod – Challenger East (Tasman, Farewell Spit to Clarence River including Marlborough Sounds)

33 (landed whole or gutted only)

2*

100

Blue Cod – Challenger Westland (Haast River to Heaphy River)

33

15

Set netting prohibited

Blue Cod – Challenger Kahurangi (Heaphy River to Farewell Spit Lighthouse)

33

10

100†

Blue Cod – South West (Sand Hill Point to Haast River)

33

10

100†

Blue Moki

40

20

114

Bluenose

5

160

Butterfish/Greenbone

35

20

108

Elephant Fish

20

150

Flatfish (ex Sand Flounder)

25

20

100

Grey Mullet

20

100

John Dory

20

100

Kahawai

20

100

Red Cod

25

20

100

Red Gurnard

25

20

100

Red Moki

40

20

114

Rig

20

150

School Shark

20

150

Sand Flounder

23

20

100

Tarakihi

25

20

100

Trevally

25

20

100

*You can possess up to 4 blue cod in the Challenger East area (includes the Marlborough Sounds area) if you can prove that no more than 2 of those blue cod were taken on any one day from the Challenger East area. This restriction applies if you caught the fish from outside of the Challenger East area and want to move into the Challenger East area.

† Net mesh size is 100mm. However, set netting is banned to 2 nautical miles for Kahurangi, Westland, South West. Note: Net mesh size is different to pot mesh size.

Table 2 – Additional to combined bag

Finfish Species

Min length (cm)

Max daily limit (per fisher)

Min mesh size for nets (mm)

Eels

-

6

12

Garfish (piper), Pilchard, Herrings (Yellow-eyed mullet)

-

No limit

25

Groper/Hapuku/Bass

-


Daily bag limit of 5 with max 3 kingfish

160

Kingfish

75

100

Sea Perch

-

No limit

100

Snapper – Challenger area

25

10

100

Snapper – Marlborough Sounds area

25

3*

100 (set net bans apply)

Southern bluefin tuna

-

1

-

Trumpeter

35

No limit

100

All others not otherwise stated

-

No limit

100

*For the bag limit of 10 Snapper, 3 can come from the Marlborough Sounds area.

Shellfish – size limits and catch/bag limits

A summary of the shellfish daily bag and size limits.

Shellfish are considered "taken" (collected or harvested) when they cannot freely return to the water. For example, when you put them in a bag. When you're gathering or collecting, you can never possess more than your daily limit.

Remember, there may be other specific rules in some areas. For example, a harbour might have different size limits for certain species. Check the "Closed areas and restrictions" section on this page for more information.

Shellfish Species

Daily limit per fisher

Min size (mm)

Cockles

150

none

Kina (sea eggs)

50

none

Mussels

50

none

Oysters
– Dredge*
– Rock & Pacific


50
250


58
none

Pāua
– Ordinary
– Yellow foot
– Ordinary (Nelson and Marlborough) ***
– Yellow foot (Nelson and Marlborough) ***


10
10
5
5


125
80
125
80

Pipi

150

none

Scallops* †
(Season: 15 July to 14 Febuary)

50

90

Toheroa

Prohibited

Prohibited

Tuatua

150

none

All others (combined) •

50

none

* A diver on a boat can gather extra bag limits of oysters and scallops for up to 2 other people who are ensuring dive safety on the boat.

*** Map for the Nelson and Marlborough pāua restriction [PDF, 1.3 MB]

† Since 15 July 2018, the Marlborough Sounds, Tasman Bay, Golden Bay, and Port Underwood are closed to scallop fishing until further notice.

• This is a combined, mixed-species bag limit. It applies to all shellfish species not specifically named above and includes all crabs, limpets, starfish, periwinkles, whelks, barnacles, and freshwater crayfish (koura).

Rock lobster/Crayfish rules

A summary of the rock lobster/crayfish daily size limits and catch/bag limits.

This section has the rules for both:

  • spiny rock lobster
  • packhorse lobster.

Remember, there may be other specific rules in some areas. Check the "Closed areas and special restrictions" section on this page for more information.

Rules changing in CRA5 area from 1 July 2020

Daily bag limits

Maximum of 6 rock lobster (both species combined) per day.

Spiny rock lobster minimum size

Measure the tail width in a straight line, between the tips of the two large (primary) spines on the second segment of the tail.

  • The minimum measurement for males is 54mm.
  • The minimum measurement for females is 60mm.
  • If you're not sure what sex the lobster is, use the 60mm measurement.

Packhorse lobster minimum size

Measure the tail length along the underside in a straight line from the rear of the calcified bar on the first segment to the tip of the middle fan of the tail. Must have a tail length of at least 216mm (male and female).

Other rules and protections

There are rules for gathering rock lobster/crayfish that cover:

  • protected types
  • banned athering methods
  • pot construction and use.
Protected types

You cannot take:

  • female rock lobster “in berry” carrying external eggs
  • soft shell stage rock lobster (rock lobster that has shed its skin)
  • unmeasurable rock lobster (like if its tail is damaged)
  • undersized rock lobster.
Banned gathering methods
  • You cannot possess rock lobster seaward of the high-water mark in an unmeasurable state.
  • No spring-loaded loops or lassos – hand operated only.
  • No spears or puncturing devices – it is an offence to possess a speared rock lobster.
  • Do not remove external eggs from any rock lobster.
  • No baited nets.
  • Maximum of 3 rock lobster pots per fisher.
  • Maximum of 6 rock lobster pots from a vessel for 2 or more fishers.

Visit our rock lobster page for information on pot construction and use

From Bush End Point, Farewell Spit to Clarence Point

Telson clipping is required for all spiny rock lobsters that you take.

The last third of the telson (central part of the tail fan) must be cut off so that it is noticeably shorter than the other sections of the tail fan.

Labelled diagram of a telson-clipped lobster [PDF, 551 KB]

Do not telson clip any packhorse rock lobsters.

When daily limits are accumulated over a multi-day trip, the maximum number of spiny rock lobster that one person can have in their possession at any one time is 18 spiny rock lobsters (3 daily bag limits of 6).

This possession limit applies everywhere, including in the home.

"Bag and tag" conditions apply – you must hold spiny rock lobster in a container or bag that contains only a single day’s catch and is clearly labelled with:

  • the individual fisher’s name
  • the date the lobsters were taken
  • the number of lobsters held.

Video: Telson Clipping Your Crayfish(2.25)

Closed areas and special restrictions

The lists below show areas where:

  • fishing is not allowed (closed areas)
  • size limits and catch limits might be different (special restrictions).

Closed areas

You can't fish in these areas. This includes marine reserves.

  • Double Cove
  • Hautai Marine Reserve
  • Horoirangi Marine Reserve
  • Kahurangi Marine Reserve
  • Long Island Marine Reserve
  • Maud Island area
  • Punakaiki Marine Reserve
  • Tauparikākā Marine Reserve
  • Tonga Island Marine Reserve
  • Waiau Glacier Coast
  • Westhaven Inlet Marine Reserve

Marine reserves are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

A to Z of marine reserves – DOC

Set netting restrictions

Set netting is banned from Farewell Spit to Cape Soucis, then from Cape Jackson to the Clarence River out to 4 nautical miles. This includes:

  • the entire Queen Charlotte Sound
  • Tory Channel
  • Port Underwood
  • Cloudy Bay
  • Clifford Bay
  • Cape Campbell.

Find out about the new restrictions

r200205 CapeSoucis FarewellSpit ChallengerFMAv4 002
Map showing the areas affected by set net restrictions.

Set netting is banned on the West Coast, from Farewell Spit to Awarua Point. The ban area extends from the shore out to 2 nautical miles.

r200216 Rec SN Closure Comms Maps Challenger Update 23092020
Map showing the areas affected by set net restrictions.

Kaikōura earthquake-related closure

The area between Marfells Beach (west of Cape Campbell) and the Conway River (which sits south of the Kaikōura township), extending 4 nautical miles from shore is closed to the gathering of shellfish and seaweed – excluding rock lobster, scampi, and octopus.

The closure applies to both recreational and commercial fishers, and is necessary to help the recovery of these fisheries.

  • It applies to all shellfish and seaweed species.
  • The closure excludes scampi (Metanephrops challengeri), rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii), and octopus (Pinnoctopus cordiformis).
  • Gathering shellfish or seaweed in the closed area is an offence and you could be fined up to $100,000.

Marlborough and North Canterbury fishing areas

The marine environment in the shellfish and seaweed closure area is damaged after the earthquakes, and it’s going to take several years to recover. The loss of fishing grounds between North Canterbury (Conway River) and Marlborough (Marfells Beach) has caused an increase in fishing pressure on the neighbouring areas.

If you are gathering kaimoana in Marlborough and Canterbury, do your part to help keep these fisheries sustainable by:

  • limiting your catch by taking less than your bag limit and just enough for a feed
  • changing your fishing method or area if you are only catching small fish or shellfish
  • taking special care to return an undersize fish and shellfish immediately and with minimum harm
  • checking local rules for updates every time you go fishing – download the NZ Fishing Rules app
  • reporting suspicious or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24).
 Map of closed area for Nelson and Marlborough
Map of closed area from Cape Campbell to Conway River (November 2016).

Marlborough Sounds area closed for blue cod fishing

  • The Marlborough Sounds is closed for blue cod fishing from September 1 until 20 December.
  • This is to support the reproduction of blue cod by reducing disruption to spawning behaviour and reducing catch numbers.
  • No person may take blue cod from areas marked on the map.
  • During this closed season, you may transport blue cod from the Challenger East area into the Marlborough Sounds area as long as you can prove where the fish were taken from.
map of Marlborough Sounds for blue cod closure September 2016
Map of Marlborough Sounds for blue cod closure (September 2016).

Southern Scallop Fishery and Port Underwood

  • Since 15 July 2018, the Marlborough Sounds, Tasman Bay, Golden Bay, and Port Underwood are closed to scallop fishing until further notice.
  • The closure applies to both recreational and commercial fishers to give the scallop beds time to rest and recover.
  • No person may take or possess scallops from the areas marked in red on the map.
  • If convicted, a penalty of up to $100,000 and forfeiture of any equipment used in the offending applies.

Find out more about the Southern Scallop Fishery and Port Underwood closure

Map of Marlborough Sounds & Eastern Tasman Bay scallop fishery closing
Map of Marlborough Sounds and Eastern Tasman Bay scallop fishery closing

Restricted areas

Particular fishing methods are banned or catch/bag limits for particular species are different.

  • Marlborough Sounds area only. Closed 1 September to 19 December inclusive every year.
  • Challenger East area (includes Marlborough Sounds area) – blue cod size and catch limits.
  • Pelorus Sound – set netting and long line restrictions.
  • Kenepuru Sound – set netting and long line restrictions.
  • Tennyson Inlet and Hallam Cove – set netting restriction.
  • Croisilles Harbour – set netting restriction.

Blue cod restrictions

Restriction

Rule

Pot construction

Rigid square mesh, where:

  • the squares in the mesh must be at least 54mm by 54mm
  • the mesh should be strong, and not easily bent or reshaped.

Accumulation limit

When your fishing trip is more than one day, if you can prove you have not taken more than the daily bag limit on any given day you can possess 2 daily bag limits of blue cod.

Closed season

The Marlborough Sounds area is closed to blue cod fishing from 1 September to 20 December each year.

Measurable state

  • All blue cod must be landed whole or gutted.
  • Do not cut through the throat.

Eating blue cod on the boat

  • You can eat the blue cod on the fishing boat it was caught on but you have to eat it as soon as you fillet it.
  • Any blue cod that you eat still counts towards your daily catch/bag limit.

Within the Challenger Westland blue cod management area (Haast River to Heaphy River

Blue cod can be landed whole or gutted, or headed and gutted (with the pectoral fins still attached). Headed state minimum length is 24cm, measured from the base of the side pectoral fin to the middle ray of the tail fin.

New restrictions on pāua

The recreational bag limit for pāua is changing in Canterbury, Marlborough, and Nelson.

The daily bag limit for pāua is being reduced to 5, and the accumulation limit to 10 pāua or 1.25kg of minced pāua meat. This applies to both black-foot pāua and yellow-foot pāua.

These changes take effect on 12 December 2019 in the Canterbury (PAU3) and Nelson/Marlborough (PAU7) fisheries.

Note: the shellfish closure in Kaikōura and South Marlborough area from Marfells Beach to the Conway River remains closed.

 Map of closed area for Nelson and Marlborough
Map of closed area from Cape Campbell to Conway River (November 2016).

Shellfish food safety warnings

We issue warnings not to collect shellfish when testing shows that they contain unsafe levels of toxins.

Check for shellfish warnings

Report poaching

You can report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity online:

Report illegal fishing (such as poaching)

You can also:

You can help us by providing:

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

When reporting any suspected poaching put your personal safety first. All calls and personal details are treated as confidential.

It is illegal to buy, sell, or swap recreationally caught seafood

These are offences against the Fisheries Act which can result in fines up to $250,000.

Follow us on Facebook

Our regional Facebook pages bring you information about the fishing rules and how we manage and protect local fisheries:

Find out more

Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 2013 – NZ Legislation

Who to contact

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

Last reviewed: