Date: 14 August 2012
Tomorrow marks the start of whitebait fishing season in Otago which runs through until 30 November.
Due to high flows in Otago rivers, tomorrow may not be the best opening day for whitebaiting, although the Lower Clutha River/Mata-Au may be a good option, according to Department of Conservation (DOC) freshwater ranger for Coastal Otago, Pete Ravenscroft.
DOC is responsible for administering the whitebait/inanga fishery and ensuring that people fish within the regulations
DOC rangers will be out on the rivers interacting with the public during the season. Otago rangers will be focusing on whitebaiting outside the permitted hours of 5am-8pm, and 6am-9pm after daylight saving. People whitebaiting outside these hours can be fined up to $5000.
This year, whitebaiters will be pleased to learn that a large whitebait spawning site was located on the Lower Clutha River/Mata-Au. DOC has been working with Contact Energy and landowners to restore the spawning habitat along the banks of this river. In addition to this DOC and landowners have also been restoring spawning habitat along the Waikouaiti, Tokomairiro, Kakanui and Shag Rivers in North Otago, and at the Waihola Waipori Wetlands.
“We have received a huge amount of support from landowners who have been positive and supportive about helping us with our work to increase whitebait numbers,” Mr Ravenscroft said.
“Whitebait are struggling and we have some concerns about their conservation, so any work to sustain them should be encouraged,” he said.
This work has involved fencing to keep ensure that stock do not graze on the vegetation that whitebait spawn in (10km along the Lower Clutha River), spraying of the invasive weed glyceria, planting along banks, and the use of hay bales.
DOC rangers will be carrying out an anonymous survey of whitebait catch in the Clutha River this season to determine whether this enhancement work is increasing whitebait numbers.
The Taieri River will be targeted next, especially the control of glyceria which is growing out of control on the banks.
“At the moment, there is no spawning habitat along this river because of this invasive weed. I’d like to hear from any landowners wanting to get involved in whitebait enhancement work along the Taieri,” Mr Ravenscroft said.
His tip is to use the river and rainfall information provided on the Otago Regional Council website which he described as “an excellent tool”.
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