A recent survey of potential whitebait spawning sites in the Wairoa district was successful, boding well for the future.

A recent survey of potential whitebait spawning sites in the Wairoa district was successful, boding well for the future.

Helen Jonas, a Wairoa Department of Conservation officer, said she had calls from afar away as Napier when she put the call out to whitebaiters to share their local knowledge of spawning sites.  However, it was two local landowners who came up trumps. 

Rick Powdrell, a landowner beside the Huramua Stream, has agreed to an electric wire running along a 200 metre section of stream bank.  This will effectively keep the bulls from trampling the newly discovered spawning site.  Another farmer, Don Carroll who farms beside the Awatere Stream, has taken it a step further. 

Inanga schooling in a stream.
Inanga schooling in a stream

“He has agreed to a permanent 300 metre fence that will protect this susceptible habitat,” Ms Jonas said. 

"Both these options are of tremendous benefit to the fishery.  Keeping stock off the extremely vulnerable areas thereby protecting spawning habitat is critical.  Whitebait have exacting requirements, salinity has to be just right.  So spawning is often in less than 300 meters of an entire river system." 

While searching, Ms Jonas saw a good level of spawning activity.  However nature is always the boss, she said.  A major flood occurred straight after spawning and only time will tell what the whitebait season will be like when it starts on 15 August.

The best time to search for spawning is in April and May, when the bulk of the fish are active.  However, Ms Jonas plans to continue searching over the year, when time permits, as whitebait are known to spawn throughout.  She will continue to use the conductivity meter borrowed from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.  This measures the ‘salt water wedge’ or brackish water which is prime spawning habitat.

Ms Jonas is always keen to hear from anyone with local knowledge of spawning sites.  Protecting spawning sites is simply an investment in the future.  It by no means gives away knowledge of just where the ultimate whitebait fritter will come from next. ENDS

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