Whitebaiters content to wait
Looking like a shepherd at dog trials, Ricky Fowler crept up on his whitebait net, gently poking the river bed with a pair of walking sticks.
He was trying to flush any stray whitebait towards his net but when he checked it, there were just half a dozen of the translucent delicacies wriggling in the bottom. Into the bucket they went, joining about a quarter pound of their species.
It was early morning last Friday and Ricky was one of about 60 whitebaiters who had flocked to the Motueka River after word got around that the whitebait were running.
Ricky had been at the mouth of the river the day before, one of about 20 trying their luck there, and had come home with 4sfr1/2lb. Before that he had been in Golden Bay, spending a week whitebaiting the Anatori and the Patarau.
The irony of a deep-sea fisherman spending his trip off fishing was not lost on him but he was loving it.
Just upriver from him Graham Boyes was out for his first day of the season.
‘‘Someone said there was a bit around so I thought, I’ll take a day off work and see what happens,’’ he said.
The Motueka man has been whitebaiting most of his life and said the best day he ever had was two years ago in the Moutere, when he got about 7lb.
‘‘If I can get a feed and a couple in the freezer, I’m happy.’’
Next to him was Alanah Trewavas, who had just four whitebait in her bucket. But she was happy too, since the 1sfr1/2lb she caught the day before was enough for her first feed of the season and a few cold patties to sustain her the next day on the river. She was going to head over to Golden Bay to try her luck on the Patarau or the Aorere.
She may have found it tough to find a spot to put her net in though, as her neighbour on the Motueka River, Brent Johnson, said he had seen 70 cars parked at the Takaka River last Thursday.
Ricky said the run of earlier in the week was tailing off. He estimated that it was a quarter of what it had been on Tuesday and Wednesday, when a ifNelson Mailnf reader reported whitebait running ‘‘really well in Motueka’’.
The woman who did not want to be named because ‘‘whitebaiters don’t like to share the love’’, said that on Tuesday many whitebaiters had got catches of 18-30lb and ‘‘one lucky bugger’’ got 70lb.
Conservation Department ranger Simon Bayly said the run was just starting but etiquette was not to divulge your fishing patch.
‘‘I heard of a catch of 5 pounds recently,’’ he said. ‘‘But I cannot say where.’’
He said whitebait had not been running up until now because of the flooding.
‘‘They have been stuck out in the Bay. As soon as the fresh water flows in, there will be more.’’