Whitebaiting in the surf near Okarito River mouth, Westland, West Coast
Image: Jo Macpherson | DOC


Find out about whitebaiting regulations. The whitebait fishing season opens on 15 August, except for the West Coast where it opens on 1 September.


Improving whitebait management

We're working to improve the management of whitebait to ensure a healthy sustainable whitebait fishery.

The regulations for whitebait fishing will not change for the 2020 season.

    The whitebait fishing season dates are:

    • for most of New Zealand: 15 August to 30 November. 
    • for the West Coast:1 September to 14 November.

    The pages below are a summary of the regulations. The full regulations are available on the New Zealand Legislation website.

    Selling whitebait

    It isn't illegal to sell whitebait. However, sellers need to:

    DOC does not police these regulations.

    Note: Facebook does not prohibit the sale of whitebait

    Stay safe

    There are risks with whitebaiting. Take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of friends, family and yourself when carrying out recreational activities around waterways. 

    Check, Clean, Dry

    To prevent the spread of freshwater pests always Check, Clean, Dry all boats and recreational equipment between waterways. See MPI's advice for cleaning your fishing equipment.

    Read more about biosecurity.

    Help prevent whitebait decline

    Whitebait are in decline, but you can help.

    • Follow the whitebait fishing regulations.
    • Keep your catch small and only take what you need.
    • Release species that are not whitebait.
    • Keep streams free from pest plants and fish.
    • Report any dams or overhanging culverts to your local Department of Conservation or regional council office.
    • Get involved to fence and plant your local streams.
    • Ensure culverts, weirs, dams and floodgates on your land are properly installed and maintained to be fish-friendly.
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