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.





He Kakano - a seed

Community native plant nursery and educational resource for riparian restoration in the Whangarei area

He Kakano is sponsored by ASB Community Trust, Whangarei District Council and is managed by Whitebait Connection.

See He Kakano workshops in action here as part of TKKMo Te Rawhitiroa's short bi-lingual film entitled “Tiakina o Tatou Awa”. The film won best Te Reo and Tikanga Maori prize in 2007's Outlook for Someday film challenge.

Within Whangarei active contribution towards local catchment restoration has been incorporated into the Whitebait Connection Programme through raising native plants for riparian restoration projects at He Kakano Community Nursery. 

Students of Otangarei Kura at He Kakano
The nursery project began with Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Rawhitiroa (TKKMo Te Rawhitiroa) students wishing to have an ongoing contribution to riparian restoration in their local area following participation in the Whitebait Connection Programme. With major support of Whangarei District Council (WDC) who provided the existing facility, He Kakano community nursery was established by the WBC in 2006 with a goal of active riparian restoration in the Whangarei area including propogation experience and community ownership.
From these beginnings, He Kakano has produced hundreds of native plants for student initiated riparian restorations within the Whangarei catchment such as that along the banks of the Waitaua River, upstream of the Whangarei Falls. This is largely due to the great sense of ownership by TKKMo Te Rawhitiroa and Tikipunga Primary School environmental team students who have sourced funding from various sources to keep the project going and purchase additional plants for their restoration site at the Waitaua River.
Annual Enviro-Matariki planting day events have been hosted by Te Rawhitiroa at Waitaua since 2007 planting over 3000 plants from He Kakano. Students involved have successfully learnt how to identify, eco-source, propogate, pot on, prepare and plant native plants suited to riparian restoration projects. Aspects of rongoa Maori and other uses of native plants have also been included in the learning at He Kakano under of the guidance of pouako Buck Cullen. 
Located in central Whangarei adjacent to the public fernery complex, He Kakano currently houses 100 m2 of irrigated shadehouse, several large potting tables and an outdoor hardening off area, all of which are provided by Whangarei District Council. In addition to the ongoing student maintenance a large working bee in August, 2008 was made possible by ASB Community Trust funding and labour volunteered by the Whangaruru Conservation Corps students. All plants grown within the complex have been sourced locally and raised by students. The complex currently contains over 5000 various native seedlings contributing to two restoration sites alongside the Waitaua river (Whangarei Falls) and further up the Waitaua catchment at Hodges Park in Kamo. Yet, He Kakano community nursery has only recently been planted. Watch this space to see how it grows and upcoming events.
For more information on He Kakano and how you can be involved contact Kim Jones - kim@whitebaitconnection.co.nz