If you travel through rural Southland, you are bound to spot some "whitebait huts". 

Whitebait is a general term used to describe small freshwater fish around the globe; however, in New Zealand, it is a collective term for five species of the fish family Galaxiidae. It is dubbed galaxiid because of the patterns on the skin of adult fish that look like a galaxy of stars. Although galaxiid species are found in many places in the Southern Hemisphere, the banded, giant, and short jaw kōkopu only exist in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 

The tiny sea creatures that are found in Aotearoa are known to be quite the delicacy for kiwis and visitors. In Southland, 'whitebaiting' is a popular recreational activity, which is why you will spot so many huts around the region.

Whitebaiting season

The whitebait fishing season for most of New Zealand opens on 15 August and runs until November 30. The only exception is the West Coast, where the season is shorter, running from 1 September until 14 November.

Fishing is only permitted between 5:00 am and 8:00 pm or between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm when New Zealand Daylight Saving is being observed. The taking of whitebait at all other times is prohibited.

New Zealand whitebait are caught in the lower reaches of the rivers using large, open-mouthed, hand-held scoop nets, long sock nets, or rigid, typically wedge-shaped set nets.

Whitebait Fritters

Perfect a Kiwi classic with this recipe for whitebait fritters. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and white bread smothered in plenty of butter.




  • 250g whitebait

  • 3 Eggs - 2 yolks and 3 whites
  • 1 serving of butter to fry
  • 1 serving of oil, to fry
  • 2 slices fresh bread, whichever your favourite is
  • 1 squeeze of lemon juice to serve


  • Mix whitebait and egg yolks in a bowl with a little salt and pepper.

  • Whisk the whites in a separate bowl until almost firm but not dry, and gently fold them into the yolk/whitebait mixture (key - don't stir the whites in too vigorously, gently does it when mixing the two together, or you'll lose all the air from the egg white).

  • Heat up a frying pan, add some butter and olive oil (just enough to stop the butter from burning) and dollop spoonfuls of the whitebait mixture into the hot butter. 

  • Fry until golden on both sides and jam the fritter into some freshly buttered bread, or just eat by themselves - with a dash of lemon juice. 

Original Recipe by Kris Boult - Stuff