Enough whitebait for one small pattie

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Small fry...Mataura woman Lynn Beeby holds a bucket containing some of the few whitebait caught near her stand on the Mataura River not far from Gorge Road. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

It was the start of the whitebaiting season at the weekend but someone forgot to tell the whitebait.

Whitebait are juveniles of six species of native fish: giant kokopu, banded kokopu, shortjaw kokopu, inanga, koaro and common smelt.

Whitebait can grow into adults ranging from 10cm to 60cm long.

Along the banks of the Mataura River near Gorge Road, people including Lynn Beeby, of Mataura, tended set nets in the hope of catching the slippery, transparent delicacy.

Mrs Beeby said the fishing was “pretty terrible”.

“We got enough for one small pattie,” she said.

“There wasn’t much about.”

She and her husband Andrew bought the stand about three years ago.

Even if there was not much whitebait in the river it was still enjoyable.

“It’s fun to be out on the riverbank.

“There’s something about being near water. It’s just relaxing.”

The surplus whitebait the couple caught was given away to friends.

“Never, never, never sell it.

“That’s what ruins whitebaiting.”

There was a good community spirit among the whitebaiters.

“Most people are really good here.

“Regardless of what you catch, it’s a damn good day out.”