Whitebait Fritters – Best Ever.

By Posted in - Recipes & Seafood on August 28th, 2014


Whitebait Fritters –  (Traditional Southland Style)



Winter is coming to an end the snow pack is starting to melt and the rivers are running. All across New Zealand country folk are heading for their favourite spots as nothing tastes better than whitebait fritters if you can catch them yourself. A right of passage and a delicious snack for hungry crews of all ages. The secret to whitebaiting is to be on the river or to know a farmer who can tell you when the run is on.

Some days you catch a lot of bait; other days not much. You never know quite when the best runs will take place. One of my favourite places is the mouth of the Okirito River. Very few people live in this ruggedly beautiful and isolated part of New Zealand. There are loads of different methods used to catch whitebait depending on the river and bank conditions. Pole nets are commonly used and can be used just about anywhere. Usually the whitebaiters walk along with their nets at a slow steady pace. When they reach the end of the line they remove their net and walk back to the far end to start again. At some busy spots, particularly the mouth of the Hokitika River, an orderly que of whitebaiters forms waiting to take their turn to make a “drag.”

To make the best whitebait fritters: For each cup of fresh whitebait mix together one beaten egg, and one heaped teaspoon of flour, salt and pepper to taste. Nothing else. Cook in moderately hot pan with a little butter to prevent sticking.


  • 1 cup Fresh Whitebait
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Slice Lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of flour

The regulations summarised here are for the whole of New Zealand except the West Coast of the South Island. Also see West Coast whitebait regulations.

The whitebait season is open between 15 August and 30 November (inclusive) in all areas of New Zealand except the West Coast of the South Island and the Chatham Islands.

The taking of whitebait at all other times is prohibited. 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. Whitebait are the juveniles of five species of fish: giant kokopu, banded kokopu, shortjaw kokopu, inanga, and koaro. They are part of a group called galaxiids.

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