Efforts to rebuild the stock of whitebait in one of the country's largest rivers have jumped forward with the finding of a major spawning site.
The Department of Conservation has been trying to reverse the decline in the whitebait fishery in the Clutha River in South Otago for more than a decade.
A DoC freshwater ranger, Pete Ravenscroft, says the only effective way is to locate and protect the riverside grasses used by the main species of native fish to spawn.
Mr Ravenscroft says in the past nine months his team has been delighted to locate two kilometres of spawning grasses along the northern Matau branch of the Clutha, making it possible to protect the area with fences and weed control.
He says this coming autumn the focus will be on finding similar spawning sites on the southern Kawau branch of the river.