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Whitebait season begins


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Whipped together with egg, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon is how veteran whitebaiter Betty Butt has eaten her catch for the past 46 years.

The Lake Ferry woman moved into her home that overlooks Lake Onoke 26 years ago so she could make the most of fishing and whitebaiting seasons.

Now she has the perfect “possie” that she can see from her kitchen window ready for this season which starts today.

“Oh my god” she says when thinking back to her first whitebaiting experience.

“I never even knew about whitebaiting until I was married,” she said.

Since then she has always found time to drop her net in the water during the season.

Mrs Butt enjoys giving the whitebait away to her family, including nieces, nephews and brothers and sisters.

“Not everyone likes them. I have six children . . . and I would say half of them like whitebait,” she said.

It’s a time of year that can be seen as family time.

“I had one grandson who was only five at the time and he came down whitebaiting with me at nine o’clock in the morning until five o’clock at night. He was so thrilled, he got two pounds of whitebait and he thought he was King Kong.”

Not every season is a winner, “you have to take the good with the bad, and you have to have the patience to go with it”.

But she has her suspicions the recent wet weather could make for a lucrative season.

“If anything, it could be a good one because we have had so much rain, it will have a good current,” she said.

Department of Conservation ranger Jim Flack is hoping for a successful whitebaiting season where everyone is fishing legally.

Starting from today, whitebaiting is only allowed between 5am and 8pm, and from 6am until 9pm when daylight savings begins in September.

“It’s very hard to check if people are whitebaiting at night but we are out and about at various times,” Mr Flack said.

The three-month season has rules and regulations that he hopes the new and seasoned whitebaiters will abide by.

He warned people to not use oversized nets, to stay with them at all times and to make sure the nets were taking up no more than one third of the stream.

“What we find is the whitebaiting community is very good at checking up on each other.”

The edges of Lake Onoke are the most popular whitebaiting spots in Wairarapa, he said.

The lake mouth is already opened, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council monitor it over the season.

Those caught not obeying the rules may be fined up to $5000 and have their fishing gear seized.

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