Slim pickings for whitebaiters

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 07:03 17/08/2012
Kalvin Robinson
EMMA ALLEN

Kalvin Robinson of Blenheim takes a break from whitebaiting, early on Wednesday morning. Behind him is fellow whitebaiter Boofy Pihema of Tuamarina.

Kalvin Robinson
EMMA ALLEN
Kalvin Robinson fishes for whitebait at the mouth of the Wairau Diversion River.

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A rough sea spilling into the Wairau Diversion in Marshlands near Blenheim meant slim pickings for whitebaiters at the opening of the season yesterday morning.

Boofy Pihema of Tuamarina was out in the tide with his scoop-net at 7am. Despite picking up only two or three whitebait per scoop, he was confident the season would improve in a couple of weeks when the weather was warmer.

He first went whitebaiting when he was about 10, with his mother in the Wairau River behind their home, Mr Pihema said. This season he planned to take his five-year-old son Trent along, when his mother and sisters were there to keep an eye on him.

Mr Pihema was looking forward to sharing his catch with relatives, especially an uncle who could no longer get down to the river.

Concerned for the survival of the inanga whitebait species caught in Marlborough, he tried not to be greedy, Mr Pihema said. However, he respected the right of people who made a living from whitebait to catch commercial quantities.

Yesterday morning there were only a few motor-homes and buses parked alongside the diversion, their owners reluctant to put sock-nets out in case they were damaged by the rolling waves. At the peak of the season he had counted 28 vehicles in the area, Mr Pihema said.

Yesterday morning Marlborough District Council deputy reserves ranger Kevin Hawkins was checking that motor-homes had permits to camp there during the whitebaiting season. This meant meeting many conditions including having three days sewage storage on board.

Frank Best of Blenheim, who slept the night in his house-bus, said this was the first time in four or five years of whitebaiting he had not put his net out on opening day.

"I'll go back to town and do something in my garden," he said.

All his catch went to family and friends, Mr Best said. He did not sell whitebait and would have no problem if rules were changed to stop people selling these native fish.

The whitebaiting season runs from August 15 until November 30.

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- The Marlborough Express

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