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.





Springlands School water inquiry and proposal for town Mayor

Here is an action that a Marlborough primary school completed after doing an inquiry study on Water, which included participating in-stream in the Whitebait Connection programme in their town Taylor River and then taking their proposal to the Mayor!
The children at Springlands School are happy to share their knowledge and the process they went through to help other schools join this campaign. 

Check out this extract from their school newsletter:

Extract from the Springlands School Newsletter November 2010
In Term Two Room 18’s inquiry unit focused on water conservation. Our group learnt about storm waterpollution and what affect it has on our water ways. We were surprised to learn how few people didn’t know where the water that goes down our storm water drains ends up. So as a class and a Green Gold Enviro School, we want to take action and do something to change people’s attitudes and educate them, so they think twice before they pour pollutants down our storm water drains. The community needs to realise how precious our water is and understand that drains are only for rain. We want to take action and put fish on drains to tell that message to our community. We wrote to the mayor and asked if the council would come on board and support our project. We got a letter back saying YES they were interested. This term we formed an action group with members from the Totara Syndicate. After a lot of emails and research we were ready to present our proposal to the Mayor. We were invited to his office. After lots of discussions, the council has said YES to stage one of our project to paint fish on 21 storm water drains around the Springlands area. Here is what we hope to achieve over the next few years.

Stage 1- To paint fish initially around the Springlands School area.

Stage 2- To develop a metal fish plaque which will then be placed around various locations in Blenheim.

Stage 3- To distribute information brochures to inform people about our project.

Stage 4- To educate other schools and encourage them to take action around their school region.

Stage 5- To become guardians of the Taylor River and help to care for it.

On the 10th December we are going to launch our project and put painted fish on drains and tell people that drains are only for rain! We have invited the Mayor and other groups of people and we hope to get lots of media coverage. We are hoping that this little step will be the start of something a lot bigger.

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water“. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Poor Richard's

Almanac, 1746.

The Mayor helping the students launch their idea

Celebrating World Ocean Day by putting blue fish on storm water drains.