"Terrible" was the word Lorraine Wallis considered best
summed up the 2012 whitebait season on the West Coast that
Ms Wallis runs the Haast Beach Holiday Park, where serious
whitebaiters set up for the three-month season.
Although she knew one whitebaiter had caught 150kg to 200kg
during the season, she believed many others would be heading
home today with just 10kg to 12kg, a poor return for three
"On the whole, the feeling is that it has been a terrible
Wanaka whitebaiter Don Kindley said it was probably his worst
season in 15 years of fishing.
"And all the real long-term whitebaiters who frequent the
Haast Beach camp all say the same."
He believed catches were generally just 10% of normal.
Mr Kindley said the number of theories to explain the poor
catches would be equivalent to the number of whitebaiters on
the coast. He believed it was a seasonal issue rather than a
Ms Wallis said she had heard many "unscientific" theories for
the poor catches which ranged from lack of rain and low river
flows at the time fish were spawning, to cold weather during
the season and rough sea conditions. She believed the problem
was a lack of whitebait returning to rivers from the sea
rather than whitebaiters being put off fishing by the bad
"The guys who stay here are dedicated whitebaiters and they
were out every day. They were certainly there, but it was
just the whitebait weren't in the river."
Department of Conservation ranger in Greymouth Brad Edwards
said it had been a bad season right up the West Coast mainly
because of high rainfall and river levels in October, in the
middle of the season.
Mr Edwards said whitebait would continue to return to rivers
over coming weeks.
Low returns had again led to calls this year for whitebaiting
to be stopped, to protect the fishery.
Mr Edwards said the fishery had generally declined for about
100 years, probably with land-use changes, but bad seasons
were often followed by a good season.
"People make observations about the fishery being in complete
death throes and then we have a couple of great seasons, so
it's hard to read."
Although the West Coast season ended yesterday, the Otago and
Southland season continues until November 30.
Coastal Otago freshwater ranger Pete Ravenscroft yesterday
said Otago's season was good compared with the past two.