"There's not a lot, is there?" John Crossan rued yesterday, as he inspected his meagre whitebait haul.

It was cold and windy at Fortrose, on the Southland coast, for the opening day of the whitebait season, and Crossan, 73, and wife Patti were heading for a coffee and the comfort of their motor home after several hours at the river mouth.

Crossan, a retired farmer now living in Geraldine, had been whitebaiting for 55 years.

Yesterday's wild weather was not conducive to much success, but he acknowledged some "really good hauls" over the years.

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The thrill of the catch brought him back every season, whether it was the Kakanui, Waitaki or the rivers of the West Coast.

He never sold any whitebait, preferring instead to "get enough to have a feed".

Crossan had heart issues, but that did not deter him.

"You just go slow. We've got to keep moving, I don't give up," he said.

"If the weather picks up, I'll get some."