Slow start to Whitebait season
It was a slow morning for some southern whitebaiters celebrating the opening of the season yesterday.
Grant Aitken, whitebaiting on the Mataura, said he had almost caught enough of the small fish to make up a pattie.
The river had been like glass and he was hoping to catch a few more whitebait in the evening.
The Department of Conservation said the dry summer might affect the whitebait season.
Biodiversity ranger Ros Cole said it was dry in the south during March and April, the critical spawning season for whitebait.
This might have left some whitebait eggs high and dry before they hatched.
However, only time and feedback from whitebaiters themselves would tell, she said.
Mr Aitken said every season offered up something different but hopefully this year would be an improvement on an average season last year.
Whitebaiters were reminded to follow the rules or face prosecution.
DOC staff would be out in force checking up on whitebaiters, Ms Cole said.
There were always a few whitebaiters who flouted the rules but they should remember that, if they took enough just for a feed, there would be some left for next year, she said.
At the end of last season, compliance and enforcement co-ordinator Kelwyn Osborn said the department had prosecuted several more cases for breaches of regulations compared with previous seasons.
Breaches included fishing near a culvert or confluence, nets exceeding more than one-third of the water channel width, nets exceeding 6 metres in length and fishermen not remaining within 10m of their nets, Mr Osborn said.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith said DOC prosecuted more people each year for whitebaiting offences than any other conservation offence.
The whitebait season runs until November 30 and is allowed from 5am until 8pm, changing to 6am to 9pm when daylight saving starts.
This applies to all areas of New Zealand except the West Coast, which has a shorter season, from September 1 until November 14.
Whitebaiters were being urged to ensure they cleaned their nets and other gear between waterways to prevent the spread of didymo and other aquatic pests and weeds.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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