Pre-season sightings of whitebait are few and far between, despite the number of fishermen starting to amass on the riverbanks on the West Coast, where the whitebait season opens today.
"The rivers are very, very low," Department of Conservation Greymouth ranger Brad Edwards said.
"About three weeks ago, there was quite a lot of bait around."
However, since last week there had been no reported sightings.
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He said a "couple" of early starters had been caught on the Grey River.
In Hokitika, DoC ranger Ted Brennan said a lot of people were on the riverbanks, and a few whitebait had been seen.
One side effect of the shortage is that rangers have not caught anybody jumping the gun by netting whitebait before the season opens.
"They are either keeping well out of sight, or behaving themselves," Mr Williams said.
Haast buyer Moana Kerr said her company would be would be paying paying $50 a kilo for early whitebait, but the price would drop as the supply increased.