WHAT I’M LEARNING...
All about whitebait
with due respect The Mokau River in north Taranaki is the perfect place to welcome in the whitebait season, learns FIONA LASCELLES.
whitebaiters don’t tell lies, they just don’t necessarily tell the truth. The rumour goes on to say that if he says he has five pounds, he’s probably got 10.
It was with this in mind that we headed off on a road trip to experience the legendary New Zealand tradition of whitebaiting in the small fishing village of Mokau, at the mouth of the Mokau River in north Taranaki. I imagined the locals here would be every bit as cagey about their catch in a bid to ward off urban folk like ourselves.
We arrived at our lodge accommodation in Awakino, just a few kilometres north of Mokau, in blustery gales and heavy rain. A renovated general store dating back to the early 1900s, the lodge boasted views across the Awakino River.
The gardener suggested we talk to “Dennis, the guy at the green house across the road” about this whitebaiting lark. Dennis is a painter and every inch of his hallway was adorned with his art. Without trying to appear too nosy, I was desperate to get a closer look at the painting of Winston Peters hanging among the landscapes. My best guess from the inclusion of this work is that Dennis is a fan of Peters’ policy against foreign land ownership in New Zealand.
Staying on task, I asked Dennis where I could hire a net. He just looked at me like, fool, what are you thinking? “Better off going down to the river mouth with some cash!” I left him to his thoughts.
We met Ngahi and Petella not far from the river mouth. Well, truth is Tony had gone out first with his camera. I thought I could get away with waiting in the car as it was so bitterly cold, but he was soon back suggesting I go and have a chat with them. The conditions must have been optimal RUMOUR HAS IT