The tiny native fish that make up whitebait are in decline and sticking to fishing regulations will give them the best chance for survival, Whanganui Conservation Department operations manager Jasmine Hessel says.
The season started yesterday and will run until November 30, except for the West Coast of the South Island where the season starts on September 1 and ends on November 14. During this time whitebaiting is permitted between 5am and 8pm, or between 6am and 9pm when daylight saving starts on September 28.
The Conservation Department (DoC) administers whitebaiting regulations that cover methods of fishing, location of whitebaiting sites, legal fishing times and net size.
Staff will be out actively patrolling whitebaiting sites this year, and look forward to seeing people enjoying the outdoors, senior biodiversity ranger Sara Treadgold said.
DoC gets calls about people flouting regulations during the whitebait season. They often involve people with gear taking up more than a third of the width of a stream, people not staying near their nets, and people fishing in illegal areas such as within 20m of a culvert or stream confluence.
"Courtesy and respectful behaviour on the waterways helps our local fishing enthusiasts enjoy their fishing," DoC supervisor biodiversity ranger Eddie Te Huia said.
Illegal whitebaiting carries a maximum fine of $5000, and whitebaiting equipment can be seized.
Whitebait nets must have a mouth no larger than 4.5 metres (measured around the inside of the net frame) and framing material no wider than 120 millimetres.
Drag nets must be no taller than 1m in height and be flat when laid on a flat surface. Both whitebait nets and dragnets must be no more than 3.5m in length.
No fishing gear must exceed more than one-third of the water channel width, be used in conjunction with another person's gear to exceed more than one-third of the channel width or exceed 6m in total length.
Whitebaiters must use only one net at a time, remain within 10m of it and remove all fishing gear from the water at the end of the day.
As well as not fishing for whitebait within 20m of any tide gate, floodgate, confluence or culvert, they must not fish from any bridge or vessel.
Pamphlets with the regulations are at DoC offices and sporting shops and on DoC's website: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/fishing/whitebaiting/whitebait-regulations-all-nz-except-west-coast/