Conservation Department staff will be patrolling whitebaiting sites and talking to whitebaiters throughout the season to ensure people are complying with fishing regulations.

The department (DOC) is reminding whitebaiters to brush up on those regulations as the 2017 season begins.

It runs from August 15 until November 30 everywhere except the West Coast of the South Island, where it runs from September 1 to November 14.

Whitebait are juveniles of five species of native fish: giant kokopu, banded kokopu,
shortjaw kokopu, inanga and koaro. Those that escape the whitebait net grow into adults ranging from 10 to 60 centimetres long. They spawn in streamside vegetation.

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DOC freshwater scientist Jane Goodman says whitebait are iconic in New Zealand.

"Unfortunately, four of the five species are categorised as either threatened or at risk, due to loss of habitat. We need to ensure we protect their habitat and fish them responsibly."

Ms Goodman said it was good to see work being done to protect and restore whitebait habitat, such as planting and fencing off spawning grounds and the restoration of adult habitat.

"People can also help these fish by contacting their local DOC or regional council office if they see overhanging culverts or other barriers that stop whitebait migrating," she said.

During the season, whitebaiting is permitted between 5am and 8pm, and between 6am and 9pm when daylight saving starts on September 28.

DOC administers whitebaiting regulations that cover methods of fishing, location of whitebaiting sites, legal fishing times and net size. Illegal whitebaiting carries a maximum fine of $5000 and whitebaiting equipment can be seized.

Pamphlets with the regulations are at DOC offices, sporting shops and DOC's website: http://www.doc.govt.nz/whitebaiting