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Published: 2017-08-29 09:30:00

Stephen Donald was famously fishing for them when he got That Call from the All Blacks during the 2011 World Cup.

In doing so, he was part of whitebaiting that has its roots in traditional Maori gathering of inanga (whitebait) and the wider kiwi outdoors lifestyle.

For the current whitebaiting season, which runs through till November, Waikato Regional Council is reminding people of how they can help keep the “white gold” thriving in local waterways and coastal areas.

“Keeping an eye out for weeds that can affect whitebait spawning and not carrying out inappropriate earthworks near waterways are two key ways people can help support healthy fisheries,” says pest plants team leader Darion Embling.

Whitebait like to lay their eggs above the normal water level amongst dense, moist vegetation.

That means work around the region to fence waterways and re-establish natural vegetation conditions along the banks of rivers and streams helps whitebait spawn successfully.

But invasive pest plants clog up the places where inanga live and don’t provide the same good habitat for them to lay their eggs in.

“So controlling pest plants such as spartina, saltwater paspalum and yellow flag iris can help maintain a healthy habitat for whitebait spawning and breeding,” says Darion.

“If whitebaiters report sightings of these plants to us we’ll have a better chance of staying on top of them and keeping Waikato inanga fisheries healthy.”

Having whitebaiters check, clean and dry all their gear before moving to a different river is another great way of helping stop pest plant spread.

Also, between now and December there are special restrictions on what can be done in and around waterways, Darion adds.

“So, it’s important people call us before they remove blockages or carry out in stream works to help ensure they don’t damage whitebait habitat.”

Meanwhile, the council’s resource use team has begun a new initiative aimed at updating information on the locations of whitebait fishing stands along west coast rivers.

Stands are a permitted activity as long as they comply with relevant rules and owners register them with the council for monitoring and water safety reasons.

“As technology has advanced we have been able to get extremely accurate locations when registering new stands. Unfortunately, some stands that have been registered for a number of years are not as accurately located as we need them to be,” says Darion.

So the council has begun a trial programme asking stand owners on particular stretches of the Mokau River to reconfirm or update their stand details held with the council. Owners in other west coast areas are due to be contracted later.

Questions on pest plants can be directed to 0800 800 401 while queries on excavations and stands can go to 0800 800 402.