What are whitebait?

Whitebait are the juveniles of five species of galaxiidae, a family of fish confined to the Southern Hemisphere.

These species are:

  • inanga (galaxias maculatus)
  • koaro (galaxias brevipinnis)
  • banded kokopu (galaxias fasciatus)
  • giant kokopu (galaxias argenteus)
  • shortjaw kōkopu (galaxias postvectis).

The larvae of these species are born in freshwater, swept out to sea with the tide and return to rivers and streams in spring as whitebait. The most common species is the inanga, but both the banded kokopu and koaro make up significant proportions of the fishery.

Whitebait are translucent in appearance, and are around 4-5 cm long.

Whitebaiting season dates:

All of New Zealand except Chatham Islands: 1 September to 30 October (inclusive).
Chatham Islands: 1 December to the last day of February (inclusive).
Whitebaiting is only allowed during the season and from:

5am to 8pm, or
6am to 9pm when New Zealand Daylight Saving is being observed.
The taking of whitebait at all other times is prohibited.

Find information on whitebait reguations (Department of Conservation).

 

 


Banded kokopu whitebait

 

Koaro whitebait. [NIWA]

Koaro whitebait