Fences and long grass make for perfect whitebait fritters.

It’s true! Check out the recipe below for Sustainable Whitebait Fritters, provided by Braden Rowson, Land Management Officer at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.


  • 1 cup of fresh whitebait (never use frozen!)
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 400m electric fencing


  1. Erect electric fencing along the banks of any stream mouth either side of the tidal area, and allow grass to grow long (especially April-May).
  2. Catch a family-sized portion of whitebait and combine with remaining ingredients. Fry in butter or your favourite vegetable oil and serve hot.
  3. Enjoy good fishing ground for many years to come.


Braden says that whitebait caught and measured by the kerosene can is a distant memory; a cupful seems to be a good day out now. Why? Is it overfishing?  Or pollution?  While these are likely candidates and can’t be ruled out entirely, the major cause of the decline is loss of breeding habitat.

Whitebait are fussy breeders. Despite being quite prolific and promiscuous (one female can lay up to 100,000 eggs) they only lay their eggs in specific areas of streams.  The tidal zone where rivers and streams meet the sea or estuaries is the sweet spot.

If you search closely amongst the grassy banks of streams where salt and fresh water mix during April/May you might just be lucky enough to find whitebait eggs. But please don’t stand on them!

By simply fencing stock off the banks of streams at stream mouths you will undoubtedly be helping the health of the whitebait fishery in your local stream.

If you have a stream on your property that fits this description and would like to learn more you can contact your friendly Regional Council Land Management Officer – or if you are lucky enough to live in the Bay of Plenty, just call  0800 884 880 for advice or assistance.


Photo credit

Braden Rowson, tidal mouth of an unnamed stream in the Tuapiro Estuary, Tauranga Moana