15 Aug 2008

Whitebait season opens

8:08 pm on 15 August 2008

The whitebait season opens on Friday for all areas except the West Coast of the South Island.

It's been a slow start to the season in Taranaki with many whitebaiting stands on north Taranaki rivers vacant on the first day.

On the Awakino River, Bill Allison wasn't impressed to find just three of the tiny fish in his bucket.

He says catches of whitebait do seem to be declining year by year.

Anecdotal evidence says the whitebait population is declining.

But a researcher at Canterbury University researcher, Dr Mike Hickford, says there's no scientific evidence to back this, as whitebait numbers vary greatly from region to region.

He says fishing may have some effect on the population, but the availability of suitable spawning areas for whitebait may be having a greater impact.

He's part of a research team that is just over halfway through a four year study of adult whitebait spawning habitats.

The West Coast season begins on 1 September.