Why is Lake Otamangakau called Lake O? Because “O” is for Awesome. Or Oarsome? True. It has an international reputation for huge trout.
It is worth the trip if only to admire the tenacious patient perseverance and audacious innovative brilliance of trout fishos risking everything to chase trophy trout in such a wide range of watercraft and boats – see below for a few examples. If you ask the owners you will discover that only their style of boat is the most suitable for fishing such a boring shallow moody bleak exposed wilderness magic lake. The magic comes from the ability of this giant puddle to breed such huge trout. Every season many ten pound plus trout are caught in Lake O. It should be on every fishos wish-list.
It is not really even a natural lake. On the 1955 map above, it is designated as an abandoned swamp at the head of the Wanganui Stream. (no “h” in those days!) Note there was no road access (SH47) from Tokaanu either. Indeed, there was no Turangi township either. Just a few fishermen’s cottages along the Tongariro River that was originally known as Taupahi. Taupahi Road (or River Road) was the main north-south road. But back to Lake O…
It has a strong following from TRM inmates who target it every year. As indicated in the photos, one of the fascinating aspects is the wide variety of boats. Everyone has a different opinion on which style of boat is the most suitable for Lake O. SWMBO agrees with them all.
The “lake” was formed by a dam across the Wanganui river headwaters to create a shallow hydro storage pond over the swamp from the Whakapapa River via a tunnel, as a holding pond before spilling down to Lake Rotoaira.
It might have originally been stocked but now operates as a “wild” fishery that had its own fish trap for many years – see brief video below of Didymo Dave at the fish trap – compulsory viewing! DD will be back again this season at Lake O to do the CCD check. Fishing without a thorough CCD check is illegal – you could get banned for life. So if you have any doubts about CCD then check in with Didymo Dave when you get there.
If you do not have a boat then do not despair. Many are just as successful from the shoreline (but never admit it to the boaties!) The inlet canal is popular for spin fishing as well.
This is our local trophy lake. Please treat it with respect. It is a special place in NZ trout fishing lore.
Just in case you might imagine we are exaggerating (?) the following is DOC’s “official description” from their website on Lake O:
Lake Otamangakau has an international reputation for producing very large wild trout. Its shallow productive waters offer ideal habitat, allowing both rainbow and brown trout to grow to trophy size.
Fishing season: 1 October to 31 May
Lake Otamangakau, or Lake O as it is more widely known, is a small shallow hydro-lake and the second most fished lake in the Taupō Fishing District.
The Lake has a reputation as a wild trophy trout fishery with fish over 10 pounds in weight caught by anglers each season. While the numbers of really big trout may have reduced, it remains a prolific fishery for large wild fish in the 7-8 pound range, and overall fish numbers have increased dramatically offering anglers spectacular fishing at times.
Where to fish
This venue is particularly popular with small boat anglers, and those who fish from inflatable pontoon boats and float tubes. These vessels enable anglers to target the many weed beds and channels. A boat also allows easy access to more remote shores, allowing anglers the benefit of bank fishing from areas that cannot be reached on foot.
For those without a boat, good shore fishing can be found along the angler access track that starts north of the dam. The inlet and outlet canals also offer limited shore access in places. There is also shore-based fishing on Lake Te Whaiau and around the boat ramps.
How to fish
The fishing options on Lake Otamangakau are varied. For the boat angler, powered techniques like harling and trolling can be productive at times but most successful anglers prefer nymphing or wet fly fishing from either a static or drifting boat. Floating lines and long leaders give anglers an advantage over the large wary fish.
Shore-based anglers will find nymphing or wet fly fishing to be a good option too. If fish can’t be spotted, then a speculative approach such as stripping a small woolly bugger can deliver results
The summer dry fly fishing on this lake can be spectacular at times. Spin fishing is also very effective, either from a boat or the shore.
As always be sure to check in with a local tackle shop for the latest advice.
Hazards to watch for
- Lake conditions can deteriorate quickly. The moutain landscape can experience harsh weather conditions, especially early in the season.
- Extensive weed beds can foul watercraft
- Soft substrate found in some places can catch out unwary shore-based anglers.