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.

All recreational fishing – including potting, netting and all other fishing methods – is covered by rules.

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



New netting restrictions

From 1 October 2020, new fishing measures are in place to support the threat management plan for Hector's and Māui dolphins. The use of recreational and commercial set nets is prohibited in a number of areas across the country, and the trawl prohibition within the central Māui dolphin habitat zone has been extended. Drift netting is prohibited in all New Zealand waters.

Make sure you are up to date. To learn more about the changes see the "closures and restrictions" section below, or download the rules brochure.

New blue cod rules

From 1 July 2020, the minimum catch size of blue cod is standardised to 33cm across most areas. A "traffic light system" is used to indicate the daily bag limit for different areas.

Make sure you are up to date. To learn more about the changes see the "closures and restrictions" section below, or download the rules brochure.

Ways to check the rules

This page has a summary of:

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

Get a brochure

There are 2 brochures for this region. Make sure you download the right brochure for your area.

Download the free NZ Fishing Rules app

Or free text "app" to 9889 to be sent the links to your phone. Once installed, the app will work without an internet connection.

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 be sent legal bag and size limits for that species by return text.


Limits, closures, and restrictions

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Finfish bag and size limits

A summary of the finfish daily bag and size limits.

In the Challenger area there is a combined maximum daily bag limit of 20 of any combination of species listed in Table 1. Individual species limit must not be exceeded.

In addition to the combined maximum daily bag limit, you can take individual species as listed in Table 2. There is no limit for species not listed on Table 1 or Table 2.

Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for finfish within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.

Table 1 - combined bag

Finfish SpeciesMin 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 transit into the Challenger East Area.

† Net mesh size is 100mm however set netting is prohibited to 2 nautical mile for Kahurangi, Westland, South West.

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
Kingfish 75 100
Sea Perch - No limit 100
Snapper – Challenger 25 10 100
Snapper – Marlborough Sounds area 25 3* 100 (set net bans apply)
Trumpeter 35 No limit 100
All others not otherwise stated - No limit 100

*Within the bag limit of 10 snapper is a sub-limit of 3 which can be taken from the Marlborough Sounds Area.

Shellfish bag and size limits

A summary of the shellfish daily bag and size limits.

Shellfish are take when they cannot freely return to the water e.g. placed into a catch bag or similar. At no time while gathering may you be in possession of more than your daily limit.

Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for shellfish within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.

Shellfish Species Daily limit per fisher Min size (mm)
Cockles 150 none
Kina (sea eggs) 50 none
Mussels 50 none
– Dredge*
– Rock & Pacific


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



Pipi 150 none
Scallops* †
(Season: 15 July to 14 Febuary)
50 90
Toheroa Prohibited Prohibited
Tuatua 150 none
All others (combined) • 50 none

* Limited provision allows a diver on a vessel to gather extra bag limits of oysters and scallops for up to 2 other people acting in a dive safety capacity from that vessel.

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

Get a brochure [PDF, 1.5 MB]

† The Marlborough Sounds, Tasman Bay, Golden Bay and Port Underwood is closed to scallop fishing from 15 July 2018 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

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

Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for rock lobster within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.

Rules changing in CRA5 area from 1 July 2020

Daily bag limits

Maximum of 6 rock lobster (both species combined) on any one 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. If you are unsure of the sex, 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).

Additional rules and protections

There are rules and protections for gathering rock lobster/crayfish that cover: protected types, gathering methods, pot construction and use.

From Bush End Point, Farewell Spit to Clarence Point

Telson clipping is required for all recreationally harvested spiny rock lobsters. 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. Do not telson clip any packhorse rock lobsters.

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

When daily limits are accumulated, 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, and
  • the number of lobsters held.

For more details check the:

Closures and restrictions

Extra rules including closed or restricted areas where catch limits and sizes may be different. Full information is in the rules brochure.

Set net restrictions

Set netting is totally prohibited 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, and Cape Campbell areas.

Find out about the new restrictions

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

Set netting is totally prohibited on the West Coast from Farewell Spit to Awarua Point. The prohibited 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.

Blue cod restrictions

Minimum pot mesh size: 54 mm. Blue cod pots must use rigid square mesh with minimum inside dimension of 54mm.

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. Fishers may possess blue cod in another state if it is immediately eaten on board the fishing vessel from which it was taken. Any fish eaten, form part of the daily 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 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 meat. This applies to both black-foot and yellow-foot pāua.

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

Please note the shellfish closure in Kaikōura and South Marlborough area from Marfells Beach to the Conway River remains closed as per below.

 Map of closed area for Nelson and Marlborough

Closed areas

No fishing is allowed, 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).

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 underside fish and shellfish immediately and with minimum harm.
  • Check local rules for updates every time you go fishing – download the NZ Fishing Rules app.
  • Report suspicious or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24).
Map: The affected area of the earthquake-related closure
 Map of closed area for Nelson and Marlborough
Map showing the area covered by the earthquake-related closure.
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 showing the area (in red) that is closed for blue cod fishing in the Marlborough Sounds.
Southern Scallop Fishery and Port Underwood
  • The Marlborough Sounds, Tasman Bay, Golden Bay and Port Underwood are closed to scallop fishing from 15 July 2018 until further notice.
  • The closure applies to both recreational and commercial fishers, and gives 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.
Map of Marlborough Sounds & Eastern Tasman Bay scallop fishery closing
Map showing the areas (in red) that are closed to the taking and possession of scallops for the 2018-19 season.

Restricted areas

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

  • Marlborough Sounds area only. Closed 1 September – 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.

Food safety warnings

Warnings are issued when shellfish are unsafe to eat because of contamination with biotoxin.

Check for warnings in the Challenger area

Report poaching

Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email

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.

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