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Whitebait restricted

Veteran whitebaiter Garry O’Dwyer at Lake Onoke. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM

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It’s been an average year for Wairarapa whitebaiters.

That’s according to veteran whitebaiter Garry O’Dwyer of Featherston.

The North Island season closed at the weekend, having started in mid-August.

O’Dwyer, 82, has fished and hunted around the regions since moving north from Kaikoura in the 1950s.

He was a regular at Lake Onoke over many seasons.

“In the last few months since there’s been no rain, it’s dropped off, and dropped off.

“But the Ruamahanga itself is still not dropping so it’s silted up and is not floating out as quickly as it used to.

He said weeds had worsened along the Ruamahanga River in the lower part of the valley.

“It’s restricted the whitebait along the edge of the water, so of course, they’re going down the middle.”

O’Dwyer has a regular place on the eastern side of the lake. But he said whitebaiters on the west coast had reported bigger catches.

“Down at the Ferry itself, the scoopers, as we call them, got the odd pound or so and conditions were quite good.”

He said he gets enough to give to friends and family.

“I’ve been averaging a pound-and-a-half or a couple of pounds, a day, and I’m quite happy with that.

“I find that would be a good scheme and most whitebaiters do that, except in the other areas, where they catch a lot.

“No one ever quite tells you what they’ve got, but they all got a feed.

“And my impression is as long as I get enough for a couple of toastie pies I’m quite happy.”

O’Dwyer said there was debate about the season length and catch amounts.

During the three-month season, whitebaiting was permitted from 5am to 8pm, or 6am to 9pm after daylight saving.

He said he felt that some regulations were needed, but they did not need to be too restrictive.

“In my opinion, they want to regulate it, like they have done with the other fisheries, and with duck hunting.”

He also said that work by farmers across the country to help with streams had benefited both fish and fishermen.

“We hope they don’t put too many restrictions on it.

“It has actually improved. Small streams have been fenced off and the farmers are doing a great job, we should emphasise that, keeping the little streams and springs and access to the main rivers, is going to improve it more.”

There was no doubt he would be back for another go next whitebaiting season.

“I love my whitebaiting, so I’ll be whitebaiting next year.”

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