by Jimmy McIntosh
It’s white baiting time again. It can be very challenging in the extreme. Some seasons see poor runs, others result in whitebait in large shoals moving into river mouths.
Successfully catching whitebait requires patience and perseverance.
The 2021 whitebait fishing season opens on 15 August, except for the West Coast where it opens on 1 September.
Catching whitebait demands a dedicated approach. It’s odds on, you will spend much time and mixed fortunes ranging from blank days to a big catch.
In the North Island, top whitebaiting areas are between Taranaki and Wellington althoug the Waikato River is tops too. The South Island has a good whitebait fishery with the West Coast often providing bumper catches but with a shorter season from September to mid-November, while elsewhere the period is extended to August and late November. But then how much whitebait do you need? Most NZ rivers will give you a bountiful harvest if you play things right.
A popular net is the scoop in which fishers net the incoming waves. But take care for that rogue big wave that can sweep whitebaiters off their feet. Be safe and wear a life vest.
Set-netting is a more peaceful way of white baiting – a watching and waiting game on the edges of estuaries of rivers and streams. Further upstream set netting above the tidal limit,can be pretty successful.
There’s an unpredictable factor like any fishing.
Any time that large shoal will turn up but chances are better on some tides and other natural factors..
For example, often the better catches of whitebait are a few days either side of the full moon and on the highest of tides. Get a set of tide tables and study the height of tides and the moon phases.
Rain putting a “fresh” in a river can result in a good run of whitebait. If that coincides with a high, incoming tide, then that’s ideal. Overcast days improve chances.
Often seasons start slowly in August and September, but then the main run occurs in October and November. Nearing high tide can often see an increased surge resulting in better catches. Keep a diary and note the tides and catches and you’ll see patterns emerging, giving you valuable data for 2022 and future seasons beyond.
But there will be blank days. Experienced whitebaiters reckon over 90% of the whitebait are caught within 10% of total fishing time. So timing relative to moon, tides, and river flow is important.
Be alert. Observe. Birds give a clue specially terns, as they will hover above the waves when a whitebait shoal is approaching the river. Even fishing such as sea-run trout and kahawai slashing around is a clue to whitebait close by.
Enjoy the bigger experience.. Enjoy nature, just being there.