Whitebait Fishing in New Zealand

What is white baiting?  It’s a national fishing season that I’ve only ever come across in New Zealand.  Though I’ve read today that it can also be done in Italy, the UK and China…

I’d heard of whitebait fishing from a few friends and family over the years before we moved to New Zealand.  They talked of streams, incoming tides and millions of small clear juvenile fish that get tossed into fluffy fritters.  It sounded like a relaxing, rewarding and delicious time to be had.  Mike had never been out to catch whitebait before so, we were both going to experience something a little exotic.

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Here is Mike eating the ceremonious first catch raw…

The past two weekends we’ve headed to the ocean to try our hand at it and hopefully taste a little fritter as a reward of our efforts.  First up was Foxton beach, but it was too late in the day to properly give it a go – so we did a little beach walk and people watched instead.

Yesterday we found ourselves in a quaint little town called Waikanae about 40 minutes North of Wellington on the coast.  Waikanae translates to “waters of the yellow eyed mullet” from Māori.  It sits on a backdrop of ranges that have been partially cleared for farming and residential spaces.  I was so stoked to see there was plenty of native bush around, and hope to head back one day to have a hike and see what’s beneath the canopy (I’m talking wildflowers!).  The town itself is quite beautiful, and I exclaimed a few times that I’d be happy to live in a little place like it.

We met up with some friends from Wellington who had already prepared some nets and were in the thick of fishing by 10am.  They had pulled about two handfuls of whitebait from the frothy ocean already, and we were all glad to have made the journey.  Mike jumped in straight away and added another 36 little fish to the harvest.

He was so thrilled to have pulled some from his nets, it was a joy watching him.  I’d not properly dressed but got soaked within minutes.  Wes also enjoyed the view from under a rain cover and seemed to be content in the fresh ocean air.

Most people eat the whitebait scrambled with some eggs and a little salt and pepper as light fritters.  That’s how we tried them…and honestly they were really nice.

The season runs from September to November, and we already are addicted to the thrill of fishing – and I know we’ll be back out again this year.  It really was relaxing and such a great way to spend time out on the ocean.

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