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.






Instream Workshops Procedures

School Programme – Community Group

Workshop Procedures


1. The Whitebait Connection Programme’s (WBC) geographical range is currently from the Auckland to Far North areas, Marlborough/Blenheim, Hokitika and Gisborne regions. (for coordinator contact details go to WBC coordinators).

1.1 Initial contact is established, usually by a phone call, with the Principal or a referred teacher (Head of EE, Science Dept, etc).

1.2 Alternatively, school or group contacts WBC coordinator by telephone, e-mail, or WBC website contact page. If contact is by phone, a brief introduction and overview of the WBC programme is provided. Coordinator will propose meeting with principal and/or interested persons.

1.3 Appointment time for meeting &/or staff presentation is made.

Staff Meeting.
Meeting &/or presentation conducted at school or site.

2.1 Tikanga is practised and observed when working in Kura Kaupapa Māori and places of similar area.

2.2 Professional development workshop (incl. demo of in-stream activities) with staff (optional).

2.3 WBC overview is presented -

            Introduction, background, objectives of the programme

            Activities and experiences

            Past, current projects and work with other schools

            WBC resources and equipment

            WBC stages of involvement (exploration to restoration)

            Health & Safety requirements (e.g 1:5 adult supervision by water, permission).

            Discuss, develop a suitable programme for your school/group


2.4 Site visit by WBC staff to assess safety and suitability.  Land owner, teaching staff and group leaders informed and invited to attend.

Complete health & safety protocols, check road/land access issues or concerns.  Take site photographs.

2.5 Field trip planning

        Schedule suitable dates and time to introduce and deliver programme to class or group
        (req. approx 3 hours), incl.  tentative rain check dates

Engagement and Exploration

3. Confirmation of field trip is made 1-3 days prior to scheduled date.   

3.1 WBC facilitator arrives at least 45 minutes before start time to prepare for in-stream workshop.

        Facilitator to set-up WBC resource kits:

        Lge invertebrate nets

        Fish scoop nets

        Sample containers, sorting boxes

        Magnifiers, pipettes, clarity measurer/secci disk

        Books, i.d information on freshwater fish, invertebrates, plants, weeds & algae.

        (Technical equipment maybe available in some regions – microscopes, hand held meters)

 3.2 Group arrives at workshop site;

        Formal greetings

        Brief enquiry conducted about catchment area, habitat, freshwater systems

        Potential hazards and risks associated with activities are explained to the group.

        Workshop sites, boundaries and safety procedures are given to the group and leaders

        Demonstrate use and care of field equipment and resources.  Incl. enter/access water, monitoring and sampling techniques, identification, etc.

3.3 Adult leaders designated to groups (safety ratio 1:4-5).

            Groups provided with individual resource kits.

3.4 In-stream activities commence.

        WBC group activities involve;

        Monitoring water clarity, temperature, depth, pH.

        Sampling/i.d of macroinvertebrates

        Capture and study of freshwater fish

        Study of the freshwater eco-system incl. plants, algae, weeds, and other animals.

3.5 All participants remain in their designated areas to collect, i.d and record samples.

3.6 On completion of workshop return all samples (alive) to water.
Group then returns to ‘central’ site for de-brief and discussion of results.

3.7 Facilitator to tally and pack equipment.

3.8 Clean equipment thoroughly to avoid transportation of invasive/noxious weed species.

3.9 Pack and store equipment in dry conditions.

 Post Field Trip

4. Optional follow-up session conducted with staff and students (appointment made by prior arrangement)

4.1 Results of practical workshop are discussed. i.e monitoring data, identified impacts such as pollution, fish barriers, erosion, lack of riparian cover.

4.2 Problem solving for positive solutions and a draft action plan may follow

4.3 As each group is participating at varying stages of the programme the scale of WBC involvement will differ from project to project.

WBC Towards Action

4.4 WBC assistance may involve areas such as;

        Providing advice on suitable restoration methods

        Linking groups with local/regional stakeholders and organisations

        Help to plan and/or assist with clean-up projects, planting days, `celebration of success’ events (e.g World Water Day 2004)

        Funding advice and support

        Facilitate emerging processes