Whitebait

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

Between 15 August and 30 November you can fish for this delicacy, but please remember that whitebait numbers are in decline so take only what you need and make sure you protect their habitat so there are plenty more to catch in future years.

Whitebaiting is only permitted between the hours of 5:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., or 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. after daylight savings starts (Sunday,30 September, 2018).

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

  • Whitebait spawn on the banks of rivers and streams, so protect the banks by only using one track to and from the river or stream.
  • While there is currently 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 will be accessing private land to get to the river, make sure you ask for the land owner’s permission first.

The Department of Conservation is responsible for managing NZ’s whitebait fisheries, and you can find the whitebait rules and regulations on their website here. 

What is ORC’s role in whitebaiting?

ORC’s main interest in controlling whitebait stands is to ensure they don’t interfere with our flood management infrastructure.

Whitebait stands are permitted on the Clutha River/Mata-Au or its branches, but need resource consent everywhere else in Otago. Please note that a $1000 deposit is required with resource consent applications. Bylaw approval may also be required (see the rules below).

Can someone else use my stand?

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

Is there a register of whitebait stands?

Otago Regional Council does not hold a register for whitebait stands.

Some years ago, ORC instituted a ‘peg’ system to identify whitebaiters with the intention of making it easier for us to chase up people who left mess or damage at the end of the season. Whitebaiters were able to get a numbered peg from ORC in Balclutha, which marked their site. This morphed into a belief that ORC officially designated people sites. We no longer provide the pegs, but the belief remains. These pegs do not prevent anyone else from fishing for whitebait at that location.

What are the rules?

Regional Plan: Water – Rule 13.2.1.6

The erection or placement of any whitebait stand or eel trap that is fixed in, on or under the bed of any lake or river, or any Regionally Significant Wetland, is a permitted activity, providing:

  • (a) The structure is open piled; and
  • (b) The structure does not exceed three square metres in area; and
  • (c) The dimension of the structure perpendicular to the flow of water is no more than 10 percent of the width of the bed of the lake or river, or no more than three metres, whichever is the lesser; and
  • (d) The structure is at least 20 metres from any neighbouring structure, flood gate, confluence or culvert located within the bed of a lake or river; and
  • (e) In the case of a whitebait stand, the structure is erected or placed in or on the bed of the Clutha River/Mata-Au, or its branches; and
  • (f) The site is left tidy following the erection or placement.

Further information on Rule 13 

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

The Flood Protection Management Bylaw 2012 controls activities that may affect the integrity or operation of flood protection works that are located within the Lower Taieri and Clutha/Mata -Au Rivers.

Section 3.2 of this Bylaw states:
No person shall, without the prior authority of the Council -
(d) Construct or put any structure 
i. in, on, over, through or under any defence against water, or
ii. within seven metres of the landward side of any defence against water, or
iii. between the bank of any river and associated defence against water;

If your proposal requires an authority from the Council under this Bylaw, an application must be made in accordance with the Bylaw Approval Application Form contained with the Bylaw. See the Flood Protection Management Bylaw 2012 link.

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