Whitebaiters land a good report card

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2013

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Southland's whitebaiters are either extremely well behaved or extremely good at not getting caught - or DOC is extremely lenient.

The whitebaiting season, which started on August 15, finishes today, and just one person in Southland is being prosecuted for breaching rules.

DOC partnerships Murihiku manager Philip Melgren said the prosecution was for allegedly fishing more than one third of a river channel width.

This compares with 65 people being investigated for breaches on the West Coast, although the coast had many more whitebaiters than Southland.

The behaviour of Southland's whitebaiters was "overall pretty good", he said.

DOC southern region conservation services director Allan Munn said the main issues during the whitebaiting season were people fishing where they were not supposed to, people blocking off more of the river than they were allowed, people encroaching on other whitebaiters' spaces, people fishing outside of the allowable hours, "and in some cases people acting in an intimidating way towards other fishers".

There were "plenty" of issues on southern waters where people were talked to but not prosecuted during the season, he said.

Whitebaiters could expect to receive moderately more visits from DOC staff next season. Mr Munn said he believed 95 per cent of whitebaiters would welcome an increased DOC presence next season, while 5 per cent were trying to push the boundaries.

Senior Southland Fish and Game officer Zane Moss said he had talked to some whitebaiters who said the fish weren't there in any numbers this season, while others said it was their worst season.

Mr Melgren described the whitebaiting season in Southland as "very average" and patchy.

"Some areas it was good and some areas it wasn't so good . . . I don't think anyone has got heaps and heaps."

Bluff whitebaiter Ona Heaslip, who fishes the Mataura River with husband Tony, said the season had been average. They caught about 11kg for the season.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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