A Wanganui woman with a penchant for wearing possum fur hats will play a crucial role when the whitebaiting season opens on Monday.
Jean Adams, 62, makes whitebait nets at her business premises at Tui Place, where she operates Jean's Sewing and Repair Service.
She is expecting a "rush" next week when people realise the season has opened.
The season runs from Monday until November 30.
Mrs Adams said she made a dozen nets last year.
"The toughest I have done had eight rings and was nearly 15ft long. I had to put my thinking cap on for that one." Mrs Adams provides the labour for the nets, with customers purchasing their own fabric, netting and cotton.
Nets were "not hard to make when you get your head around it. You've got to be precise with measurements."
Department of Conservation Wanganui technical support officer Rosemary Miller said yesterday popular spots for whitebaiting included the mouth of the Whangaehu River, Whitiau Scenic Reserve, Kaitoke Stream and Whanganui River tributaries.
The whitebait catch consists primarily of the young of three species: inanga, koaro and banded kokopu. Inanga is by far the most commonly caught species.
Whitebait fritters are considered the best way to eat the catch.
Advice from chefs at the Cracked Pepper Cafe was to have salt, pepper, a little bit of curry powder, a little bit of flour, eggs and, of course, whitebait.
"Put it all in and mix it and fry in a pan with butter. You just want a little bind for the whitebait. Keep it simple for the best flavour. The less flour, the lighter and better it is. Whitebait is too good to mess with." And whitebait patties? "Straight from the river. Dust it with flour. Throw it in a hot pan and serve in bread and butter."
Finally, whitebaiters are reminded to wear a possum fur hat to keep warm.
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