Fiordland area fishing rules

Recreational fishing rules for the Fiordland area, including closed areas, special restrictions, and other important notices.

What you need to know

Map of Fiordland fishing area

This area (Te Moana o Atawhenua), covers the Fiordland coastal marine area out to 12 nautical miles from Awarua Point to Sandhill Point, excluding the area around the Solander Islands.

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.

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


UPDATES

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.

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

Download the Fiordland recreational fishing rules brochure [PDF, 2.3 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

Size limits and catch limits for finfish.

In the Fiordland area there is a combined daily bag limit of 30 finfish, per fisher, for the fish in the table. You must not exceed individual species limits.

You can have fish in table 2 in addition to the maximum of 30 fish from table 1.

There is no limit on finfish 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 – Fiordland finfish limits

Finfish species

Min fish length (cm)

Max daily limit per fisher

Barracouta

-

30

Blue cod – internal waters (excluding Doubtful, Thompson, and Bradshaw Sounds)

Blue cod rules changed on 1 July 2020

33

3

Blue cod – Doubtful, Thompson, Bradshaw Sounds internal waters

Blue cod rules changed on 1 July 2020

33

1

Blue cod – Outside internal waters of Fiordland

Blue cod rules changed on 1 July 2020

33

10

Blue moki

40

15

Bluenose

-

5

Blue shark

-

1

Bronze shark

-

1

Butterfish/greenbone

35

15

Eels

-

6

Elephant fish

-

5

Flatfish

25 (except sand flounder, which is 23)

30

Grey mullet

-

30

Groper/hapuku/bass – internal waters sub-limit

-

3

Groper/hapuku/bass – other areas (inlcudes the limit of 3 from internal waters)

-

5

Hammerhead shark

-

1

Kahawai

-

15

Kingfish

75

3

Lamprey

-

30

Ling

-

30

Mako shark

-

1

Marblefish

-

30

Marlin

-

1

Porbeagle shark

-

1

Quinnat salmon

-

2

Red cod

25

10

Red gurnard

25

30

Red moki

40

15

Rig

-

5

School shark

-

5

Sea perch/Jock Stewart

-

10

Seven gilled shark

-

1

Skate ray

-

5

Snapper

25

30

Spiny dogfish

-

15

Stargazer

-

30

Tarakihi

25

15

Thresher shark

-

1

Trevally

25

30

Trumpeter

35

15

Warehou

-

15

Wrasse

-

30

Table 2 – Additional to combined bag

Finfish Species

Min fish length (cm)

Max daily limit per fisher

Min set net mesh size (mm)

Southern bluefin tuna

1

-

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

Max daily limit per fisher

Min size (mm)

Cockle

150

none

Kina (sea eggs)

50

none

Mussels

25

none

Oysters
– Dredge†
(Season: 1 Mar to 31 Aug)


50


58

Paua
– Ordinary black foot*
– Yellow foot*


10
10


125
80

Pipi

150

none

Scallops *†
(Season: 1 Oct to 15 Mar)

10

100

Tuatua

150

none

All others (combined) •

50

none

* No accumulation of paua or scallop daily limits within the Fiordland Marine Area.

† A diver or divers on a vessel may gather an additional bag limit of oysters or scallops for up to two people acting in a dive safety capacity on the vessel.

• This is a combined, mixed-species bag limit. It applies to all shellfish species not specifically named above and includes all crabs, catseyes, cook’s turban, limpets, starfish, periwinkles, and freshwater crayfish (kōura).

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.

Daily bag limits

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

Maximum of 3 taken from within the Milford Sound internal waters of Fiordland.

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).

Accumulation Limit

Accumulation means having in your possession fish/shellfish caught/gathered over more than one day. In Fiordland there is a 3-day accumulation limit of 15 rock lobster, no more than 3 may be taken from the Milford Sound internal waters of Fiordland.

Other rules and protections

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

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

You can't 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 can't possess rock lobster in an unmeasurable state seaward of the high-water mark.
  • 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

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).

There's more information in the rules brochure and NZ Fishing Rules app.

Closed areas

You can't fish in these areas. This includes Marine Reserves.

  • Milford Sound internal waters – closed to blue cod fishing
  • Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve
  • Te Hapua (Sutherland Sound) Marine Reserve
  • Hawea (Clio Rocks) Marine Reserve (Bligh Sound)
  • Kahukura (Gold Arm) Marine Reserve (Charles Sound)
  • Katu Parera (Gaer Arm) Marine Reserve (Bradshaw Sound)
  • Te Awaatu Channel (The Gut) Marine Reserve (Doubtful Sound)
  • Taipari Roa (Elizabeth Island) Marine Reserve (Doubtful Sound)
  • Moana Uta (Wet Jacket Arm) Marine Reserve (Acheron Passage)
  • Taumoana (Five Fingers Peninsula) Marine Reserve (Dusky Sound)
  • Te Tapuwae o Hua (Long Sound) Marine Reserve (Preservation Inlet)

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

A to Z of marine reserves – DOC

Restricted areas

In the following areas, there are specific rules or restrictions. These might be for size limits, catch/bag limits, or fishing methods (like no set netting). Check the location and the rule.

  • Pendulo Reach (Doubtful Sound) – use of rock lobster pots and holding pots prohibited.
  • Doubtful, Thompson, and Bradshaw Sounds internal waters – daily limit of 1 blue cod per fisher (with no accumulation).

Set netting restrictions

Fiordland Marine Area – closed to set and drift netting. It is prohibited to use a drift net for fishing in any New Zealand fisheries waters.

r200216 Rec SN Closure Comms Maps Fiordland Update 23092020 v2
Map showing the areas affected by set net restrictions.

Blue cod restrictions

Restriction

Rule

Blue cod pot ban

There is a blue cod pot ban within all fiords in Fiordland.

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

Within the Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Area, no accumulation applies for blue cod possession beyond one day's limit.

Within the wider South West blue cod management area (excluding the Fiordland Marine Area), when fishing over 2 or more days, with proof you can possess a maximum of 2 times the daily bag limit for blue cod.

Measurable state

Within the South West blue cod management area (Sand Hill Point to South Bank of Haast River), all blue cod must be landed whole or gutted.

Eating blue cod on the boat

  • You can eat 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.

Shellfish food safety warnings

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

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. 

Find out more about hunting and gathering

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 Fiordland area fishing rules, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: