Whitebaiting season started last Friday in the district, and Department of Conservation (Doc) Murihiku operations manager John McCarroll is encouraging whitebaiters to fish safely and continue to follow regulations for a smooth season.

Whitebait numbers fluctuate year to year depending on a range of factors, such as water temperature and access through the river mouth as well as migrations and other life-cycle factors.

The Mata-Au (Clutha River) including the Clutha Mouth and other local rivers were prime spots for whitebaiters during the season, and whitebait huts were lined up the Mouth as baiters sought a feed.

‘‘Whitebaiting is always popular on the Mata-Au and other local rivers.

‘‘There was a good number of fishers out for opening weekend,’’ Mr McCarroll said.

He said most fishers were locals, however, there were always a handful of whitebaiters from other parts of the country keen to try their hand.

‘‘It’s pretty secretive if there are hot spots and, if so, exactly where they are.’’

Baiters do not need a permit to catch whitebait but there is a set of regulations to follow which outlines where and when people can fish and what gear they can use.

Doc will manage the fishery and will have staff out on regular patrols throughout the season to make sure people are following regulations.

‘‘To help ensure the ongoing sustainability of the fishery, the regulations have undergone changes in recent years including the shortening of the season and reduction in net lengths. The regulations are on the Doc website and we encourage all whitebaiters to be familiar with these before heading out on the river. More in-depth questions can be sent through to the [email protected] inbox.

‘‘We want to see fishers behave safely and respectfully towards each other while out enjoying the river and catching a feed for their families,’’ Mr McCarroll said.

The season ends on October 30.