Southland area fishing rules

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

What you need to know

Map of Southland fishing area


This area covers the waters south and west from Awarua Point, South Westland to Slope Point, and the Catlins south-east coast.

It also covers Foveaux Strait, Stewart Island, and all adjacent islands and waters out to 200 nautical miles.

Note, the area excludes Fiordland, which has different rules.

Fiordland recreational fishing rules

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

Other languages

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 Southland area there is a combined daily bag limit of 30 finfish per fisher, consisting of any combination of the species listed on the following table. Individual species limits must not be exceeded.

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

Finfish Species Min length (cm) Max daily limit per fisher Min mesh size for nets (mm)
Barracouta 30 100
Blue cod –Southern area (Taiaroa Head, Otago to Sand Hill Point, Southland) 33 15 100
Blue cod – (Te Whaka ā Te Wera/ Paterson Inlet Mātaitai Reserve)   10  
Blue moki 40 15 114
Bluenose 5 160
Blue shark 1 100
Bronze shark 1 100
Butterfish/Greenbone 35 15 108
Eels 6 12
Elephant fish 5 150
Flatfish (except Sand flounder) 25 30 100
Garfish (piper) 25
Grey mullet 30 90
Hammerhead shark 1 100
Herring (Yellow eyed mullet) 25
Kahawai 15 90
Kingfish 75 3 100
Lamprey 30
Ling 30 100
Mako shark 1 100
Marblefish 30 100
Marlin 1 100
Pilchard 25
Porbeagle shark 1 100
Quinnat salmon 2
Red cod 25 10 100
Red gurnard 25 30 100
Red moki 40 15 115
Rig 5 150
Sand flounder 23 30 100
School shark 5 150
Seven gilled shark 1 100
Skate ray 5 100
Snapper 25 30 125
Spiny dogfish 15 100
Stargazer 30 100
Tarakihi 25 15 100
Thresher shark 1 100
Trevally 25 30 100
Trumpeter 35 15 100
Warehou 15 100
White pointer shark - No take -
Wrasse 30 100
All others 100
Shellfish bag and size limits
A summary of the shellfish daily bag and size limits.

Shellfish are taken 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 Max daily limit per fisher Min size (mm)
Cockle 150 none
Kina (sea eggs) 50 none
Mussels* 25 none
– Dredge
(Season: 1 Mar to 31 Aug)


– Ordinary
– Yellow foot


Pipi 150 none
(Season: 1 Oct to 15 Mar)
10 100
Toheroa# Prohibited Prohibited
Tuatua 150 none
All others (combined) • 50 none

* Excluding Stewart Island where the mussel limit is 50.

† Divers on a vessel may take an additional quota of oysters or scallops for up to two people acting in a dive safety capacity. Note: This only applies to taking oysters and scallops.

# Toheroa must not be taken, possessed or disturbed unless authorised by a Customary Authority.

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

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. For more details check the:

Closures and restrictions

A summary of areas where catch limits and sizes may be different. More information is in the rules brochure.

Blue cod restrictions

Minimum pot mesh size: 54 mm. Blue cod pots must use rigid square mesh with a 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.

Measurable state: Within the Southern blue cod management area (Taiaroa Head, Otago to Sand Hill Point, Southland) all blue cod must 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.

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.

Fishers may possess blue cod in another processed 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.

Closed areas

No fishing is allowed, this includes Marine Reserves.

  • Ulva Island - Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve

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

Restricted areas

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

  • Slope Point to Sandhill Point – no set netting
  • Te Waewae Bay between Old Man Rock, west of Garden Bay and Sandhill Point – no set netting.

Mātaitai reserves

Areas where tangata whenua manage non-commercial fishing through bylaws:

Mataura River - Southland

Waitutu - Southland

Te Whaka a Te Wera – Stewart Island

Horomamae – Titi Islands

Pikomamaku – Titi Islands

Kaihuka – Titi Islands

Rules brochures are available for:

Southland set net prohibited areas, including Te Waewae Bay

All recreational and commercial set netting is prohibited in the Southland FMA inshore waters between Slope Point, Haldane to Sand Hill Point, Te Waewae Bay – extending offshore out to 4 nautical miles. The set net prohibition area for Te Waewae Bay, bounded between Sand Hill Point and Wakaputa Point, now extends out to 10 nautical miles offshore.

Note: Recreational set netting is also prohibited in the Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Area, lying west of Sand Hill Point and extending seaward out to 12 nautical miles. Set netting is also prohibited east of Slope Point up the South Island east coast.

Unless specified, the set netting prohibition does not apply to internal harbours, inside river mouth entrances and estuaries. It is unlawful to take any freshwater sports fish (trout or salmon) using a set net.

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

Food safety warnings

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

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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