Tongariro River
Image: James Bartnett | DOC


Should harvested trout be taken home intact or processed while fishing?

Date:  28 August 2023

Most anglers take harvested trout home intact. This is becuase they understand that the way trout is harvested is an important part of Taupō trout fishery.

In doing so they steer clear of any potential risks associated with leaving fish offal on the riverbank and importantly avoid breaking the law. DOC prefers anglers take fish home intact. This approach carries less risk to the Taupō fishery and increases opportunities for Fishery Rangers to collect ‘creel survey’ data.

For the smaller number of anglers who choose to gut and clean trout on the riverbank, there are some important aspects to consider.


Anglers need to be mindful of how people view the Taupō fishery. Not only do piles of fish guts on the riverbank negatively impact the experience of other anglers but also other recreational users. Nobody likes encountering smelly unsightly fish offal strewn along the bank. Not only does it reflect poorly on the Taupō fishery but also on trout fishing in general.

Fishing is not just about catching fish. A healthy environment rich in native species enhances the fishing experience. Pests such as rats and mustelids will be attracted by trout offal. These pests are significant predators of native species, including the rare whio (blue duck). Therefore, anything that increases pest numbers around waterways will damage our valuable biodiversity and undermine the fishery.

Fishery science

Creel surveys form an important part of the fishery science programme, providing data that enables our technical staff to monitor trends over time. This survey data is reviewed alongside other data gathered from fish traps, escapement counts (drift dives), the lake productivity study and angler surveys. Fish weight is a key piece of information captured during the Creel survey. Therefore, we can only use intact trout for the survey.

Cleaning trout

If you prefer to clean and process trout while fishing, then you must ensure fish guts are not left on the riverbank. Throwing them into the water is not the answer as they may simply wash up on the bank further downstream.

The best solution is to put all fish guts in a small container/bag and take them home with you. They make great fertiliser for the lemon tree or vegetable garden. Another approach is to include a small lightweight trowel in your fishing gear and use it to bury all fish offal. Offal should be buried deep enough to ensure it is totally covered and not easily accessed by predators.

The law

In addition to the specific risks to the Taupō fishery outlined above, leaving fish guts beside a waterway is also illegal under the Litter Act 1979 and the Fresh Water Fisheries Regulations 1983.

Litter Act 1979

Definition of litter as per the Litter Act 1979 Section 2 (1):

  • Litter includes any refuse, rubbish, animal remains, glass, metal, garbage, debris, dirt, filth, rubble, ballast, stones, earth, or waste matter, or any other thing of a like nature.

Definition of public places where dumping of the above is prohibited as per the Litter Act 1979 Section 2 (1) include:

  • (d) any beach or foreshore, or the bank of any river or stream, or the margin of any lake, to which the public traditionally has access, whether with or without payment of any fee:
  • (e) any waters to which the public traditionally has access, whether with or without payment of any fee, for bathing or other recreational purposes:
  • (f) every wharf, pier, or jetty (whether under the control of a harbour board or not) to which the public has access:
  • (g) any conservation area within the meaning of the Conservation Act 1987

Enforcement under the Litter Act 1979 Section 6:

The following persons shall by virtue of their office be deemed to have been appointed as Litter Control Officers:

  • (a) every constable:
  • (b) every traffic officer while he is acting in the exercise of his powers or the discharge of his duties in any place where he is authorised to exercise his jurisdiction as a traffic officer:
  • (c) every warranted officer within the meaning of the Conservation Act 1987

Fresh Water Fisheries Regulations 1983

No fish refuse on banks

  • (1) No person shall leave any fish, or any cleanings or offal from fish, lying unburied on the bank or margin of any waters.
  • (2) A person who contravenes this regulation commits an infringement offence and is liable to—
    • (a) an infringement fee of $400; or
    • (b) a fine imposed by a court not exceeding $800.

Regulation 66(2): inserted, on 3 February 2020, by regulation 32 of the Conservation (Infringement Offences in Regulations) Amendment Regulations 2019 (LI 2019/326

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