Whitebaiting season starts

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People preparing for the whitebait season opening today should be aware of the regulations, according to the Department of Conservation.

DOC is responsible for administering the whitebait fishery and ensuring people observe the regulations.

DOC senior ranger for Coastal Otago, Pete Ravenscroft, saida huge effort had been put into enhancing and managing whitebait spawning sites and about 80km of river banks throughout Otago were now protected for whitebait.

“DOC, landowners, Contact Energy and Otago Regional Council have worked together to fence and plant spawning and adult whitebait habitat,” Mr Ravenscroft said.

“When we hear about people flouting the rules, such as fishing at night, using oversized and unmanned nets and using more than one net, this is stealing the whitebait fishery from future generations.”

DOC rangers in Otago plan to increase their surveillance of whitebaiters this season. They will be focussing on whitebaiting outside the permitted hours of 5am-8pm and 6am-9pm after daylight saving. Illegal fishers can be fined up to $5,000 so Mr Ravenscroft urges whitebaiters to become familiar with the regulations.

Oamaru resident, Nancy Bell, whitebaits each year on the Kakanui River using a Temuka scoop net and said flooding in the river this year may have washed away eggs.

“Nobody really knows what the season is going to be like until you get out there,” she said.”

“We’ve had two wonderful seasons and if you strike one that’s not so good, you just have to take the good with the bad.

Fishing takes place on an incoming tide and today low tide will be at 1.15pm, Mrs Bell said.

“It takes a couple of years of whitebaiting to see the shoals coming up the river.”

The season goes from today until the end of November.

By LINDA MCCARTHY