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.





Kaipara - WBC Programme Coordinators: Nicki Wakefield and Kim Jones

WBC has worked with five schools in the Kaipara district since 2002 and also helped the Department of Conservation to pilot their 'Pouto Dune Lakes and Dwarf Inanga Community Education Programme' in Term One, 2010 with Pouto and Te Kopuru Schools.

A full list of schools in the Kaipara District can be found below.  Schools that we have worked with since 2002 are written in red or blue (if they link to a story about their programme).  We will be building up a collection of stories for each of these schools that showcases their experiences and actions. 

Kaipara District Schools

Aranga School
Arapohue School
Dargaville High School
Dargaville Intermediate
Dargaville Primary School
Kaihu Valley School
Kaiwaka School
Mangawhai Beach School
Matakohe School
Maungaturoto School
Otamatea Christian School
Otamatea High School
Paparoa School
Poutu School
Ruawai College
Ruawai Primary School
Selwyn Park School
St Josephs School (Dargaville)
Tangiteroria School
Tangowahine School
Te Kopuru School
Tinopai School