This southern-hemisphere recipe may need its seasons and quantities adjusted for northern hemisphere tastes.


  • A piece of land on a stream bank around about the upstream edge of saltwater intrusion from the sea
  • Soil in the Cinderella zone for water retention – not to dry, not too wet, not to hot, not too cold
  • Grasses 10-60cm tall to keep the soil surface moist, with an admixture of flaxes, sedges and rushes
  • Flood-proof ground mesh (no plastic, please)
  • 50:50 mix of soil and fine grit (up to 7mm)
  • Coarse gravel (40mm)
  • Rocks for toe support
  • Exotic grass seed mix
  • Bollards to keep pedestrians out or electric fencing to keep stock out


  1. Over the summer, grade the bank to a slope of between 1:6 and 1:10, going from 0.2 metres above to 0.5m below Mean High Water Springs (MHWS).
  2. Lay mesh over graded bank, anchoring it into a 300mm gravel-filled trench below the MHWS level water zone.
  3. Support the toe below the trench with the rocks.
  4. Cover mesh with soil/grit mix and add grass seeds on top.
  5. Place bollards or electric fencing to keep the ingredients free from grazing animals and human foot traffic, as these will make the recipe fail.
  6. Let stand for some months, until autumn, so the grass is well-established.
  7. If you’ve got your ingredients right, at the first full moon tide in autumn, your recipe should attract the adult whitebait species wanting to spawn, and they will lay their eggs in the grass.
  8. Let stand undisturbed for a few weeks until the next very high full moon tide, and your whitebait eggs will hatch and the tiny fish will be swept out to sea.
  9. The following spring, the still juvenile fish will come back to the stream of their birth. You can stand back and admire the run – or be ready to catch the whitebait and make some fritters – here’s the recipe.

Click here to download the whole article describing this process!


Photo credit

Mark Taylor (1996) Native Freshwater Fish: How native fish spawn on land.  Water and Atmosphere 4 (3) 1996. Niwa (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research). You can sign up to get a free copy of this magazine at