Everyone who fishes recreationally in New Zealand has a legal requirement to follow the recreational fishing rules. The rules change regularly – so check the rules for your fishing area every time you head out fishing.
New Zealand has 7 fishing areas. You need to follow the specific fishing rules for the area where you're fishing. Click on the map of your fishing area to check the rules, closures, and restrictions:
It is illegal to buy, sell or swap recreationally caught seafoodThese are offences against the Fisheries Act which can result in fines up to $250,000.
Ways to keep informed about the rules
- download a brochure – links are available on the web pages for each fishing area
- get the free NZ Fishing Rules app. It's available on Apple and android devices. After you've downloaded the app, it works without an internet connection
- send a free text to 9889 with the name of a species – for example, "blue cod" or "pāua". You'll be sent legal bag and size limits for that species by return text.
- get a brochure from MPI offices
- read the rules for your area on this website
- follow us on Facebook – we have 4 regional Facebook pages
You'll also see signage about rules at many fishing spots.
Note, you don't need a licence to fish in saltwater seas around New Zealand but you do need a licence to fish in freshwater (lakes and rivers).
We have some regional pages to bring you information about the fishing rules and how we manage and protect local fisheries.
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Rules apply to all recreational fishers in all areas of New Zealand waters.
While the 7 fishing areas have area-specific rules and limits, they have some common features:
1. It is illegal to sell or trade your recreational catch
It is illegal to buy, sell or swap recreationally caught seafood – finfish, shellfish, or rock lobster. These are offences against the Fisheries Act which can result in fines up to $250,000.
You must have a registered and verified commercial licence to fish for commercial purposes.
2. Daily catch limits apply
The daily catch limit sets out the maximum number of finfish, shellfish, and rock lobster that any one person can take or possess on any one day.
Only those people physically involved in fishing or the gathering of shellfish are entitled to claim a catch within the daily limit.
Any shellfish caught and eaten during a fishing trip is also counted as part of the daily catch limit.
Stick to the daily catch limits for your fishing area or face large penalties for breaking the law.
3. Legal size limits apply
There are legal size limits when catching fish recreationally. Limits are set at levels that allow species to breed at least once before being caught and taken home.
Shellfish, like pāua, scallops, or dredge oysters, must also be left in their shells if uneaten, to allow fishery officers to measure them if required.
Stick to the legal size limits for your fishing area. Measure your catch carefully to help keep local fisheries sustainable. Fines and penalties apply for breaking the rules.
If you catch an undersized fish, remember to release it carefully so that it survives to reach a larger size. 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 or restricted
Some specific areas may have fishing restrictions in place or be closed off to all kinds of fishing.
It is illegal to use restricted fishing methods and gear (including mesh, pots, nets, and lines) in an area which has specific restrictions for such equipment.
Heavy penalties apply for breaking fishing rules including:
- infringement notices (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 used to break the rules.
If you are caught breaking the law by a fishery officer, you must:
- be co-operative and frank
- answer pertinent questions
- supply proof
- provide other necessary information.
If MPI is not satisfied with your explanations, we may take you to court.
An infringement notice (fine) will be sent to fishers who break recreational fishing rules.
The infringement notice brochure explains what to do if you get an infringement notice including:
- how to pay
- how to write in requesting a waiver
- how to request a court hearing
- what to do when the infringement is referred to the District Court for collection.
Download the infringement notice brochure [PDF, 786 KB]
Rules are based on the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 2013 and are set by MPI in consultation with local communities.
Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email email@example.com
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.