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By Andy Tannock
Hunting &Fishing New Zealand
generous whitebait patty, seasoned with salt and pepper
(optional lemon juice-or mint sauce for Coasters),
steaming between buttered stices of fresh white bread is
sheer bliss. Just try it.
If the thought of catching a mouth-watering feast
bertoneniurtermintcetr hueitrsl laped The accomplished whitebaiters
arrive early on the incoming tide
and take up a favoured position.
of fresh whitebait yourself seems a little intimidating because first
impressions of the other fishos along the river bank is a tad daunting don't
be put off
Most whitebaiting is on public land*, meaning you've as much right to
be there as the regulars, and they do know it. Everybody has to startout
just like they did, and if you are polite and ask them if there are protocols to
follow, the locals generally open up and become quite helpful. ("If in doubt
about access, look for signs, check with DOC when planning a trip, or ask
locals as there are some no-go places like reserves, registered commercial
stands, and private land)
Whitebait are one of New Zealand's most popular seasonal delicacies,
but if you don't like the act of catching them, you're best to just go and buy
them. If you discover you like catching them and eating them, you'll very
quickly get hooked on this iconic Kiwi pastime which evolves into a serious
annual lifestyle for many
ust checkout the ingenuity of both the stands and the quirky or often
elaborate whitebaiters' baches, etc, to get the picture
Braving the elements, watching tides and weather, discussing the moon
phases-every whitebaiter has a theory of when bait will run (in from the
sea). And yes, whitebaiting can be as much a source of delight as it can
occasionally be frustrating While media commentators talk the prospects
of a good or bad season up and down, the whitebaiters themselves say
nothing, for they know that generally the experts get it wrong.
The accomplished whitebaiters arrive early on the incoming tide and
take up a favoured position. They wait patiently, watching the current build
on the river banks and mouth, looking for bird activity that could signal a
shoal about to slip into their net. Each lift is closely scrutinised by watchful
neighbours, with a mix of envy and renewed optimism when there's a
glistening catch to be slithered into a holding bucket.
Running from August 15 to November 30 (West Coast SI, September 1
to November 14), the whitebait season is keenly anticipated by thousands.
With an inexpensive set of waders and a net it can be a basic and peaceful
outing for the novice to try their hand and develop skills then the
enthusiasm grows. Be warned, whitebaiting can become addictivel
For more success and enjoyment on the riverbank the gear list grows
- a thermos, comfortable folding chair, polarised sunglasses, rainwear,
thermals, not forgetting the cooler-bag filled with snacks and lunch, screens
and a better net
While the dream is always the uttimate catch, any amount signals
success. And if there's none, that hot cuppa shared with a neighbour, that
heron watched, that trout taken on a spinner, that spectacular sunrise, that
eternal optimism, tomorrow could be the day...
Tempted? Whitebaiting offers many pleasures and experiences just
waiting to be had by anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Like any angling
patience, perception, planning and good gear will increase the level
Here's a few common sense tips on safety and consideration
for the neighbouring fishermen and women
Introduce yourself as a newbie or visitor and ask where you
can fish to fit in with the locals.
Don't obstruct the flow of current through placing your
net or screens too close or by walking across the path of
someone else's net
Watch out for people who may get caught in the current or
get into difficulty-they may need help.
Take care in remote places and wear an inflatable life jacket
if there's a chance of rogue waves.
Carry insect repellent, stay warm and dry and have a safety
plan in mind.
Polarised fishing sunglasses are a must.
Watch the smile on someone's face when you share
whitebait you have caught.
Google whitebaiting regulations for the location you
intend to fish.
Trading Terms & Finance Options-see page 247