Tekapo: A Fishing Weekend Road Trip

Tekapo is a phenomenal place, with a deep glacial-blue lake, pristine mountains, and salmon fishing in the nearby canals of the Mackenzie Basin.


After a text message from a friend, I took a weekend to go and try my luck!

The Text Comes In

“The Salmon are on” read the text message mid-week. My friend is a keen fisherman and is eager to share his success. While always great to hear from him, it often makes for hard reading when stuck inside working on a sunny day.

That text, however, was enough to spark a weekend trip to the canals in Tekapo, complete with a 24-hour fishing licence from the fish and game website.

“Finally, no longer would I pay $8 for 100 grams of smoked salmon at the supermarket!” Or so I thought. Loaded with car seats, fishing gear, ski’s and snowboards the four of us left behind the road works of Christchurch, bound for Tekapo.

Fetching a ball from the river at Geraldine

Driving a 4 birth campervan in Christchurch is one sure-fire way to frustrate you. Within thirty minutes, however, we were on the smooth new motorway near Wigram.

It was great to be on the open road, heading south toward our first stop in Geraldine. We got there just as the kids were ready for a stop. Right away, the boys decided to rescue a soccer ball they’d found in the Orari River.

We pushed on, complete with the soccer ball, with just an hour and a half or so to Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo Holiday Park

Lake Tekapo Holiday Park

It was pretty amazing arriving at this awesome view, which is site 27 at the Lake Tekapo Holiday Park. 

Not only is this site a great view out of the rear window, but it’s also just a two-minute walk to Tekapo Springs’ hot pools!

If you’re planning on a trip here, make sure you book in advance as these lakeside sites are pretty popular for obvious reasons!

My 24-hour fishing licence started at 10.30 am, so the morning was spent preparing the fishing gear, checking and rechecking everything was intact. After a while, I decided everything was ready to haul in the salmon.

Salmon Fishing location, Tekapo

Salmon Fishing at Tekapo Canals

Fishing was supposed to be best near the fish farms. So we opened the CamperMate app and set course. It’s only thirty minutes from Tekapo and parked up alongside the canal. To raise my confidence even higher, a huge salmon jumped about 5 metres from the campervan!

With an overly confident smirk on my face, I cast my line in along with the ‘400x more potent than regular bait’ soft bait, and let the line drift back past me with the canal current.

Salmon Fishing in the canal near Tekapo

I could almost taste the smoked salmon on crackers, as the hook neared where the salmon had jumped just a minute earlier. Indeed, my poker face toward other fishermen could not contain this amazing spot I had ‘discovered’.

However, as time went on catching salmon proving to be a little more difficult than anticipated!

Over an hour went by of casting upstream, waiting for the big one to bite, my hopes fading each time as the line drifted past me.

I changed my location… Nothing. I changed bait… Nothing. So, I didn’t change anything and persisted. Still nothing!

Bored boys at Tekapo's canals

And then, to rub salt in my wound, someone caught a salmon in the spot I was an hour earlier!

With two boys growing bored, having explored every crevice of the campervan, time was up. My ‘sure thing’ salmon fishing experience at the Lake Tekapo Canals was a total failure, much to the delight of my partner, Paulina!

Roundhill Ski Area, Tekapo

The afternoon was still salvageable. We decided to try for a few hours skiing and snowboarding at Roundhill Ski Area. The season had been pretty bad in Canterbury, but with such a good day it was worth heading up.

The road up there is 32 km of gravel, not something I would recommend doing in a campervan! If you’re in a large campervan, I would suggest organising a ride from Tekapo instead.

Roundhill is a typical club field, with a pretty laid back atmosphere. There was no queue for the lift, which was awesome. After a few runs on the mountain, the sting of not catching any salmon earlier started to wear off. Although, I am still buying my salmon for $8/100 grams.

Roundhill Skifield

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