Firstly, they're not white. They are, in fact, translucent - right up to the point you turf them in a smoking pan with beaten egg, where they turn the colour of milk.
The more I read up on the five species known as whitebait, the more mysterious these juveniles become.
Today marks seven days since the opening of the 2014 season.
This time last week, I was knee deep in the icy mouth of Waikanae's Waimea Stream alongside my brother, under the brooding eye of Kapiti Island.
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It was blowing hard with a few light showers. Most in the water were the Waikanae retired types with waders.
Waderless, our feet turned purple in five minutes but mercifully later went numb.
After three days fishing the high tides with portable lift nets, we scooped enough for two king-size fritters.
But net gain isn't a gauge of success in this game. The joy of the practice is something to behold.
It's the most genteel form of fishing. No rancid bait required, no grisly burley. And from a culinary perspective, there's no filleting or cleaning this catch.
Chef Al Brown wrote that the pastime was one of "smoke and mirrors". So true. These are arcane fish.
Not only are they migratory, tidal and diadromous (have both a sea and freshwater life phase), they're also somewhat ethereal. If they escape the net, the moon later influences their breeding behaviour. To boot, they're part of a wider family of freshwater galaxids - so called because of their skin pattern, reminiscent of a galaxy of stars. Just when I think my awe of these five mystic species will preclude my appetite for them, I conjure up said chef serving them atop asparagus with a beurre blanc sauce. Here's to the season and our most celestial delicacy.