SPEAKING to a group of whitebaiters on Monday morning, it appears that the traditional pastime is mainly about attitude.
Ohope man Denny Howarth said he has been whitebaiting for 40 years.
He had a philosophical attitude to his lack of success. “A no-catch whitebaiting day is like a good day at the races,” he said.
“You go home with the same amount you arrived with.”
Having started his season on Friday, Mr Howarth said that day wasn’t good either.
“The odd person went home with a fritter or two,” he said.
Having arrived at 8am and sitting in the sunshine on the banks of the Nukuhou River, listening to both birdsong and his radio, Mr Howarth said “what can be better than this.”
Mr Howarth said that once the tide turned, the whitebait would be pushed closer to the riverbank as they swam upstream and that he hoped to catch some then.
“I also expect the whitebaiting to get better as the season goes on,” he said.
Mr Howarth said there were fewer and fewer whitebait around. Two years ago, what he caught in one day now required one week due to the whitebait habitat getting destroyed.
“And they call it progress,” Mr Howarth said. “Leave mother nature alone, and she’ll treat you right.”
Veteran whitebaiter Dick Bloor said he had been at the river since 7.30am and he’d only seen one shoal.
“It’s nice and peaceful, very quiet,” he said. “It’s also the first white frost I’ve seen this year.”
The Ohope man said he has been coming to the river for a long time and that “mucking around with the riverbank and taking out trees” had reduced the habitat in the river.
“I came here on Thursday and Friday, managing to get a feed on both days,” Mr Bloor said.
“On Saturday I saw one shoal and I stayed home on Sunday.”
Mr Bloor said he was also waiting for the whitebait to come closer to the riverbank once the tide turned.
“One time I actually saw a shoal come swimming down the river,” he said.
“They swam over the net, turned around and swam back into it – a fish must have spooked them.”
At the Whakatane River, Trish Newdick was packing up when we caught up with her.
“I have to go because I’ve got a lunch meeting at the Moxi Cafe,” she said. “Otherwise I would have stayed.”
Having caught her “legal amount” in the two hours she had been at the river, Ms Newdick said it was a beautiful day for whitebaiting.
“Yes, I’m a veteran whitebaiter, but I’m not very good at it,” she said.
Also packing up was an anonymous man who said he couldn’t be photographed because his “boss” might not like it.
“The conditions are bad because the tides aren’t right,” he said. “Southerly winds are starvation, remember that.”
Peter Papuni had been on station for about one hour when we caught up with him. “It’s hard to get out of the bed when it’s cold,” he said.
“I’ve had no glory as yet, but it’s a nice day.”
Mr Papuni said that although he hadn’t caught anything, he believed they were getting caught closer to the heads.
“I’ve been doing it a while, but it’s too early to say about this season,” he said.
“Last season was good.”