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.





Find a list of links to interesting freshwater video clip links below...

Whitebait Connection's 'Investigating Freshwater - Akoranga Waimaori' Inquiry Framework in action.
The Investigating Freshwater resource has been designed to be adapted for individual needs throughout New Zealand.  While the Investigating Freshwater inquiry framework follows a stage by stage process this resource can used in many different ways, in any part of New Zealand, over any timeframe, and involve many different people.  The following is an example of how the Whitebait Connection programme uses the Investigating Freshwater resource and can be used as a guide when planning your Investigating Freshwater programme. For further examples watch the Whitebait Connection from the Investigating Freshwater Resource DVD via the links below...
Stages One - Four
Stage Five
Stages Six - Seven

Lowland longjaw galaxiids 'Meet the Locals' clip (DoC)
The Department of Conservation delves into the life of the endangered Lowland Longjaw Galaxiid in Dunedin...In the Kauru stream near Oamaru lives one of New Zealand’s rarest fish. Watch this video about the lowland longjaw and how DOC protects this tiny fish which is as endangered as the kakapo.

 Whitebait under Threat – Campbell Live
TV3 coverage of an issue that should signal the need for some fundamental changes to how we manage our resources

Water Guardians
Protecting our waterways is something we can all have a hand in. Watch this video on the
Waimaori streamcare programme for children in Nelson.

Whitebaiting on the West Coast of NZ - TVNZ

Whitebait Poaching – One News
After dark fishers target whitebait there are concerns for the local whitebait amid reports that people may be illegally poaching them at night.

Fears for Long-finned Eels
It is as endangered as the Kiwi, but it is still being commercially fished - now people are worried the long-finned eel is on the short path to extinction.

1080 poison does not kill Crayfish
Freshwater ecologist, Dr Alastair Suren, describes a series of experiments showing that there are no adverse ecological impacts when biodegradable 1080 poison baits fall in streams. Even the large number of 1080 poison baits he placed in a small stream did not kill fish or invertebrates. In another experiment he showed that freshwater crayfish will eat the baits but the tiny amount of poison they ingest is excreted easily in a couple of days and does not accumulate in their bodies. Alastair works for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). The research he describes in this clip was funded by the Animal Health Board (AHB). Clip by the Department of Conservation.

Grass Carp Release – Mahurangi Tech
At War with the invasive weeds (Hornwort) at Rotootuauru (Lake Swan)

NZ Freshwater Crayfish
Freshwater Crayfish are considered a ‘keystone species’ as they move sediment and cobbles around in the stream – watch this fine specimen make himself at home.