Ecologists call whitebait (the juvenile of six native species) "young fry".

It's an appropriate name given where they end up with a knob of hot butter and a whisk of egg.

I mention this because the season is imminent - 48-hours away to be precise. The whitebait window is open between August 15 and November 30 in all areas of the country except the West Coast of the South Island and the Chatham Islands.

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Truth is there's no other delicacy, excepting the bluff oyster (which will always win that race) that I'd prefer to munch on more.

If a fat fritter of fresh bait were my last meal, I'd expire happy.

The chase helps of course. It's a pursuit dominated by the retired. For that reason it's a quiet, genteel and near-sedentary endeavour.

It's resplendent with myth, smoke and mirrors. Folklore abounds from every fisher who has his/her favourite spot, a magical tide point for the big catch and secret lunar learnings to impart.

But the white gold is in peril.

Its habitat is threatened and the numbers are in decline.

The Aoraki Conservation Board recently sent a letter to the Government claiming the fishery was at risk of dying out within a generation.

That's why my joy at catching them is sometimes tempered with guilt. I console myself with the facts a) I catch very few and, b) the commercial selling of the fare is the real game breaker.

The latter should be an offence, pure and simple.

Massey University researchers Kyleisha Foote and Pierce McNie last year presented the Primary Production Select Committee with a petition calling for the end of commercial whitebaiting.

Apparently it had received more than 3000 signatures.

In earlier reports this year, Massey University Freshwater ecologist Mike Joy, said DOC needed "a kick up the backside when it comes to protecting native fish".

It defies all belief that introduced species like trout are afforded far more protection by DOC than our own endemic freshwater fish, ie, the ones in trouble.

Commercial selling is threatening both an iconic pastime - and the mystical translucence of these most mysterious fish.