Whitebaiting in New Zealand is a seasonal activity with a fixed and limited period enforced during the period that the whitebait normally migrate up-river. The most popular way of cooking whitebait in New Zealand is the whitebait fritter, which is essentially an omelette containing whitebait. Foreigners frequently react with revulsion when shown uncooked whitebait, which resembles slimy, translucent worms. Caravans and campervans litter the landscape as their occupants scour the river banks for slithers of silver. Weather-beaten wooden stands line the muddy river that winds between lush green hills. There are more than 250 registered stands on the Mokau and Awakino rivers. The three-month season attracts all sorts – young and old, men and women. Most deny their catches – and never reveal their technique. “Oh no, there’s not much running at the moment,” one will say. His neighbour will say: “I haven’t caught much, but I think he’s caught a bit today.” The other familiar line is: “A few years ago I’d fill this net with whitebait.”
As friendly as they are, the whitebaiters don’t care to share tales of their ever-growing catch like some fishermen, although a peek in the freezer in some of the caravans reveals the truth. These people love heading to the river at 5.30 in the morning and leaving at nightfall, lured by the excitement of the catch and the taste of a good feed of whitebait at the end of the day.
This is a delicacy and these tiny little whitebait can fetch over $100 per kg in some outlets, it is no wonder the whitebaiters along the rural rivers do not reveal their secrets.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 Nov. 2010
This Is The End My Friends! – Whitebait