Slow start to whitebait season for West Coast

By Tui Bromley of the Greymouth Star

Photo / Duncan Brown
Photo / Duncan Brown

It was slow going for whitebaiters who lined West Coast riverbanks on Saturday trying to catch the first 'feed' of the new season.

One veteran fisherman from Cobden said his patience was rewarded with a pound and a half of fresh bait from the Grey River, but "it took me two tides to get them".

Elsewhere, people were content with the odd cupful, and shoals were measured in dozens of bait, not pounds.

Wallace Adamson, of Jacobs River, said South Westland rivers had been barren of bait pre-season and he did not even bother dipping his net on opening day.

"The signs were not good all through July. Usually, there are reports of big shoals sneaking up the river from mid-July and there are generally quite a few bait around on opening day, but there has been no sign of them this year."

Mr Adamson said heavy rain over the past couple of days would rule out fishing for a few days, but would also be doing the whitebaiters a favour by creating floods to clean out the blocked river mouths.

Haast policeman, constable Rob Manera, said the dearth of pre-season whitebait had delayed the annual of influx of "townies".

"There's a few newcomers about but I notice that the riverbank camps are still empty. When there have been reports of big shoals pre-season those camps are almost full from day one," Mr Manera said.

"They really only got in one day of fishing down here before the weather turned, and there are good floods in all the rivers now so it will be at least a day or two before the rivers settle down."

Department of Conservation Greymouth ranger Brad Edwards said all three main rivers in the area - the Grey, New and Taramakau - had more fishermen than bait, some getting enough for a pattie but little more.

"There were lots of fishers about but there's always a rush of early enthusiasm. It's a long dry run up to the start of the season."

- The Greymouth Star

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