Excited anglers are counting down the days until Rotorua's "trophy" lakes re-open so they can target some of the district's legendary trout.
Lakes Rotoiti, Tarawera and Okataina, which have been closed and rested over winter, will open to anglers from this Sunday, October 1.
Lake Tarawera is normally the busiest on opening, according to Fish and Game officer Matt Osborne.
"Historically, Tarawera has drawn the most anglers as the lake provides good early season catch rates, it has the mountain and some lovely bush backdrops, and it has plenty of sheltered spots to fish."
However Mr Osborne said Lake Okataina could provide the largest two-year-old hatchery fish because of recent conditions and Lake Rotoiti had produced some superb fish in recent times.
"Most trout caught over opening will be two-year-old fish as they are the most abundant group of fish above the minimum size of 35cm," Mr Osborne said.
"These two-year-olds will average around 49cm on Tarawera and 51cm on Rotoiti and Okataina given differences in recent lake growing conditions," he said.
Environmental conditions had been favourable for trout growth.
"We expect that warmer water temperatures in the lakes over winter will have produced better-than-average winter trout growth, so our staff are looking forward to seeing the size of fish compared with last season."
Mr Osborne said Lake Rotorua, which remained open over winter, had produced rainbows of a good improving size and quality too.
"All indications from recent fishing competitions, angler diaries, and monitoring through our Ngongotaha fish trap point toward some real quality in the rainbow trout coming out of Lake Rotorua.
"The warmer winter is on the back of a cooler 2016-17 summer where fish were out feeding rather than spending the bulk of their time avoiding the heat in cool inflows such as the Awahou and Hamurana Stream mouths."
A water temperature of close to 17C provided the ideal temperature for trout growth.
"If the lake can maintain this temperature and the food source is adequate, fish will grow well and pack on condition," Mr Osborne said.
The Fish for Gold promotion, where anglers who enter get the chance to catch a trout worth $10,000, was already generating a buzz and hundreds had already entered.
"Enter online quickly if you want to be in to win as the event is limited to 1200 entries."
Fish for Gold is free to enter. All you must have is a 2017-18 Fish and Game sports fishing licence. Children under 12 are not eligible to enter on a free child's licence, but can if they are included as part of a family fishing licence.
The event runs from opening day to Sunday, October 8 inclusive and you needed to register online prior to opening day.
Details including entry form and terms and conditions can be found via Eastern Fish and Game's website fishandgame.org.nz/fish-for-gold/
Meanwhile Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers are planning a strong presence around Rotorua lakes during opening weekend to promote responsible and considerate behaviour throughout the season.
Biodiversity ranger Paul Cashmore is leading a team on the water and at boat ramps to ensure people understand the regulations for activities on land that the department administers.
"Traditionally the department receives complaints around the start of the fishing season. Typically, it's a small number of people spoiling things for the others by lighting illegal fires, taking dogs into protected areas or camping in areas where it isn't permitted," Mr Cashmore said.
A team of rangers will be visiting key sites around the lakes and at boat ramps to answer questions and discuss compliance issues.
"Rather than responding to complaints as they come in, we're going to be out there early to address issues before they arise.
"Fires on public conservation land around the lakes are prohibited. The effect of fire on vegetation and wildlife can be catastrophic and potentially very costly. Offenders may be held personally liable for these costs," Mr Cashmore said.
"Even with all the rain we have had in recent weeks, the vegetation types around many of the Rotorua lakes are highly flammable."
For those wanting to camp overnight in preparation for an early start to the fishing on Sunday at Lake Tarawera, DOC has reminded lake users that camping is only permitted at designated areas at Hot Water Beach, Lake Tarawera Outlet and Humphries Bay.
No camping is permitted on public conservation land around Lake Rotoiti, Rotoma or Okataina, and only at DOC's campground on Lake Okareka.
Hot Water Beach campsite has had four new toilets installed and caters for up to 30 campsites of various sizes. This site must be booked and details on this and facilities provided at all these campsites are available from the DOC website.
To report any suspected illegal activity on public conservation land phone 0800 DOCHOT (362468).