The term “whitebait” doesn’t conjure up images of edible delicacies, but that’s what this tiny little fish is….to Kiwis at any rate. Their life cycle is the reverse of salmon–adults live in rivers, the eggs get swept out to sea where the babies hatch, spend a couple months as part of the plankton mass (fish fodder), then swim back up stream to grow into adults. Friday after work Jeremiah got to go out to the Waimakariri river mouth with a colleague, a seasoned white baiter, to tend his nets.
The net set-up isn’t too complicated–an arm to sweep the creatures towards the net where they can be collected. This guy has been white baiting for 40 years–I imagine the collective hours would be impressive. If you were to buy them, they retail for $100/kilogram, so the cumulative value he’s gleaned might also be impressive.
Right, so let’s just say that Friday’s catch wasn’t all that impressive in quantity, but Milo still thought they were neat. There’s no filleting these little guys–they’re eaten heads, tails, guts and all, usually as a “fritter” held together by egg. Jeremiah thought they were tasty. Milo and I passed.