Whitebaiting opener gets battering

The whitebait season starts today but wild weather looks set to ruin the fun.

Throughout Southland and Otago, hundreds of fishermen will be ready to flex their nets for the first time since November as they aim to catch the tiny fish.

Department of Conservation Coastal Otago senior ranger Pete Ravenscroft said the best location for opening day was anywhere the water was clear. However, recent rains have bloated many southern rivers, which may leave whitebaiters disappointed on the season's opening day.

DOC administers the whitebait fishery and is urging people to observe the rules and regulations. Ravenscroft said there was no excuse for not knowing the rules, particularly the older folk who had been fishing for many years.

Last year, there was one prosecution in Southland, but Environment Southland had issued a warning against the owners of 11 potentially illegal whitebait stands in May.

Ravenscroft said DOC rangers in Otago planned to increase their surveillance of whitebaiters this season. They would focus on whitebaiting outside the permitted hours of 5am to 8pm, and 6am-9pm after daylight saving. Those caught fishing illegally can be fined up to $5000.

The season runs until November 30.

The Southland Times