The tidal sections of the South Island lowland rivers on both the East Coast and West Coasts are well known for their sea run / estuarine trout fishing. Its a highlight on our fishing calender, and each spring my son Louie and I plan a couple of trips to specifically target these fish.
Sea run trout are very mobile and move between the salt and freshwater in search of food, especially during the months of Sept-Dec when white bait enter our river systems in large numbers. They also feed on smelt, yellow eyed mullet, native bullies, lampreys, juvenile flounder, crabs and other small crustaceans such as prawns.
We arrived at the river about 3 hours before the tide was at it’s lowest. An older couple who were dragging a net through the shallows for white bait told us things had been very slow white baiting, but theyd seen a few fish charging around the shallows rounding up small schools of bait and this got our hearts racing!
Each Spring the white baiter’s set up their stands, organize their set nets, scoop nets and other paraphernalia required to try their luck catching white bait over the coming months. White baiting is not just fishing its a way of life for many and is an exercise in patience, pleasure, hard ship and ingenuity! For the early Maori this was a very important food source and catches were dried and stored away for when other food’s were in short supply.