Keen whitebaiters were up and about early this morning as the season opened.
The season opened today across the North Island and along the east coast of the South Island with fishing permitted between 5am and 8pm daily, changing to 6am to 9pm during daylight saving time.
Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith was up at the crack of dawn this morning to join in the season opening at Waimea Inlet near Nelson.
`"I am not expecting a particularly good catch this season,'' he said.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that in drought years, particularly when autumn is dry like this year, whitebait eggs are more likely to dry out before they hatch meaning catches are less.''
Department of Conservation (DoC) biodiversity rangers will be out patrolling fishing sites and making sure nets are the correct size and not taking up more than a third of the water channel.
Dr Smith hoped people would stick to the regulations - or face fines of up to $5000 and having their gear seized.
"DoC will be taking a firm line on enforcement to protect the fishery for future seasons and generations,'' he said.
"I want people to get out and enjoy this traditional recreational past-time but I also want whitebaiters to respect the rules to ensure a sustainable fishery for future years.''