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.

In New Zealand, whitebait fishing is seasonal: from August to November for all areas of the country except the West Coast, and September to November for the West Coast.

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

 


Banded kokopu whitebait

 

Koaro whitebait. [NIWA]

Koaro whitebait