Early settlers named the whitebait species 'Galaxid', after the galaxy, as they thought that the spots on their backs looked like stars in the night sky.

Whitebait catch consists primarily of the young of three species: inanga, koaro and banded kokopu; inanga is by far the most commonly caught species.

Giant kokopu, short-jawed kokopu and smelt are also occasionally present in the whitebait catch along with the young of many other fish such as eels, bullies and trout.

Most whitebait species spend part of their life cycle in fresh water and part in the sea.  However, some have adapted to being landlocked in lakes and no longer have to migrate to the sea to breed e.g. dwarf inanga.


In late winter and early spring whitebait migrate back up rivers and streams, finally settling and growing in bush covered streams and swamps. The start of the migration is thought to be influenced by river flows (i.e. shortly after floods) and phases of the moon.


Mature inanga adults migrate downstream to lower river sections and estuaries to spawn in grasses covered by water during spring tides. The eggs remain in the grass until the next spring tide covers them again when the young hatch and are carried out to sea. The spawning habits of other whitebait species are not well known.


The five galaxiid species are found in many different habitats from lowland swamps to rocky streams. Their presence appears to be closely tied to overhead cover and waterside vegetation.


Giant kokopu live in swampy and heavily vegetated streams, often in pools over a mud bottom. Short-jawed kokopu, banded kokopu and koaro prefer fast flowing rocky or boulder bottomed streams with forest cover. Inanga are less "fussy" but are generally found in lower catchment waters.


One of the major problems affecting the whitebait fishery is the destruction of habitat for egg laying or adult fish. As whitebait adults tend to live in natural swamps and bush covered streams it is in the best interest of whitebaiters to ensure that adequate areas of these habitats remain.


The Department of Conservation has been active in identifying whitebait spawning habitat and arranging for its protection. Protection has involved seeking the co-operation of landowners to have spawning areas fenced off from stock. The Department sees the protection of whitebait spawning habitat as playing a major role in enhancing the lasting viability of the fishery.


Another major problem is barriers that stop young fish from getting to adult habitat.


Please note that whitebait are native fish and the giant and short-jawed kokopu are under threat in many areas!


Your assistance in keeping the whitebait fishery healthy not only benefits you, but the health of New Zealand's natural living systems. Don't take more than you need.





 The Drains to Harbour Project

The Drains to Harbour (DTH) project has engaged 80% of Whangarei Schools in stormwater education since 2006, stencilled over 300 stormwater drains and installed over 200 permanent drain plaques which help to remind the community that anything that goes down the drain ends up in our waterways and harbour.  Click here to view Parua Bay School's learning journey DTH video on YouTube.

The DTH project empowers schools and communities by providing hands-on experiences in the environment. After these experiences, students are encouraged to put their knowledge into action within the community.

The Drains to Harbour (DTH) project was successfully piloted in the winter of 2006 and has now been running in Whangarei for 8 years, thanks to support from the Whangarei District Council.  The Whitebait Connection is committed to continuing to provide this programme to schools in the Whangarei District and continue to make the programmes resources available nationally.

The DTH programme involves a classroom introduction to stormwater pollution sources and effects, a field trip to a local stream to investigate water quality, an optional visit to the Whangarei Wastewater Treatment Plant or Dragonfly Springs stormwater polishing wetlands and an opportunity for students to use the DTH stencils to spray-paint the DTH message near stormwater drains in the surrounding community, and associated classroom student activities (8 MB) and teacher information resource booklet (2 MB).

The DTH programme uses eco-friendly Paint Plus products for drain stencilling.

The Drains-to-Harbour programme offers

  • Free posters, brochures and relevant information for your school to keep.
  • Free stormwater pollution presentation (led by DTH educator, using PowerPoint, video and sound)
  • Free coordination/organisation of field trips to local stream, wastewater treatment plant and drain stencilling sites.
  • Free curriculum and safety management planning with teachers involved.
  • Free coordination of volunteers to assist on field trips. A maximum of 1 class (or 30 students) per school can participate in coordinated field trips to local streams at one time. A maximum of 6 students per school can participate in the drain labelling exercise outside school grounds. All students can participate in a ‘chalk art’ activity within the school grounds and help to spread the DTH message.

The DTH campaign is a professional stormwater pollution awareness campaign coordinated in Northland by Kim Jones (National WBC programme coordinator, Environmental Management and Conservation Diploma, Certificate in Business Administration and Computing) and Nicki Wakefield (Bachelor of Science).

We are committed to the care and safety of all who we associate with.

To register your school’s interest and arrange initial meeting, please contact Kim Jones by email kim@whitebaitconnection.co.nz or phone 09 434 0779. The DTH programme is currently supported by The Whangarei District Council (WDC) and the Mountains To Sea Conservation Trust.

See what other schools have been up to by clicking on the links below:

Onerahi Primary School

Whangarei Intermediate School

Whangarei Primary School