Who doesn’t like a good feed of whitebait fritters?

You can fish for this delicacy between 1 September and 30 October, but please remember that whitebait numbers are declining so take only what you need and make sure you protect their habitat so there are plenty more in future years. 

Whitebaiting is only permitted 5am–8pm, or 6am–9pm after daylight savings starts. 

Most of Otago’s whitebait species are threatened or at risk, so make sure you fish for them responsibly. 

  • Whitebait spawn on the banks of rivers and streams. Protect the banks by using one track to and from the river or stream. 
  • While there is no limit to the amount of whitebait you can fish, we want our grandchildren to be able to fish for them as well. Only take what you need for a feed. 
  • If you access private land to get to the river, ask for the landowner’s permission first. 

The Department of Conservation manages whitebait fisheries. 

What is the ORC’s role in whitebaiting?

Whitebait stands are permitted, subject to conditions, on the Clutha River/Mata-Au or its branches, but you need a resource consent everywhere else in Otago. One of ORC’s interests in controlling whitebait stands is to make sure they don’t interfere with our flood management infrastructure.  

Can someone else use my stand?

No one can ‘own’ a whitebait spot, even if you have a stand and have been fishing there for years. Any dispute over the use or location of stands is a civil matter. The ORC does not get involved in disputes about whitebait stands.

Is there a register of whitebait stands?

The ORC doesn’t hold a register of whitebait stands. 

Some years ago, we had a system where whitebaiters could get a peg to mark their site from the ORC in Balclutha. This meant we could follow up with people who left mess or damage at the end of the season. The pegs did not officially designate “ownership” of the sites and they don’t prevent anyone else from fishing for whitebait at that location.

What are the rules?

The rules for whitebaiting are set out in the Regional Plan: Water – Rule According to the rules, you may put a whitebait stand or eel trap in a lake, river or Regionally Significant Wetland, providing: 

  • the structure is open piled 
  • the structure is no more than 3m2 
  • the height of the structure is under three metres or less than 10% of the width of the lake or river bed (whichever is smaller) 
  • the structure is at least 20 metres from any neighbouring structure, flood gate, confluence or culvert in a lake or river bed 
  • if it is a whitebait stand, it is in the bed of the Clutha River/Mata-Au or its branches 
  • the site is left tidy once the structure is in place

Further information on Rule 13:

What happens if the whitebait stand is in a flood protection area?

The Flood Protection Management Bylaw 2022 controls activities that could affect flood protection works in the Lower Taieri and Clutha/Mata-Au rivers. You may need ORC approval for structures under the bylaw.