Chronicles of a (failed) Whitebaiter

Having grown up and lived in a big city most of my life, my hunting and gathering skills have been limited to driving to grocery stores and navigating the aisles (I am really good at this I might add). When I moved to Whakatane four years ago, I became acutely aware of my limitations in the hunting and foraging department. So a while back I decided to do something about it. I tried my hand at whitebaiting and taking advantage of the bounty our beautiful district has to offer.

I did what any self-respecting and well-prepared city girl does and researched everything I could about whitebaiting on Encyclopedia Google (side note: Googling “how to whitebait” the night before you go whitebaiting for the first time is a relatively futile exercise).  I got up at an obscenely early hour (no seriously, anyone that knows me knows to approach me only after my second coffee has kicked in), tagged along with four other amateur whitebaiters with almost as much experience in whitebaiting as me, and walked to the river with a whitebait net and a strange contraption of white pvc tube and empty milk container that’s supposed to help spot the whitebait.

After 3 hours of standing barefoot, knee deep in ice cold water, we came away with 6 whitebait. That is right ladies and gentlemen – SIX. Not 6 pounds, but 6 (I suspect one of them was already in the net from the last use). I will not be quitting my day job anytime soon, folks. Turns out that by the time we headed out to the river, most serious whitebaiters were already done eating whitebait fritters for breakfast with a side of plain white bread loaded with butter and a slice of lemon. With a dollop of butter. Did I mention butter? YUM! Let’s move on to what I can actually do – which is cook. Even though my merry band of amateur whitebaiters didn’t catch anything, we did manage to score a respectable amount by winning a raffle. We went with a classic whitebait fritter recipe, quite a bit like an omelet – eggs, whitebait, salt and pepper and plenty of butter!

“After 3 hours of standing barefoot, knee deep in ice cold water, we came away with 6 whitebait. That is right ladies and gentlemen – SIX. Not 6 pounds”

Whitebait Fritter

The Classic Whitebaite Fritter, photo by tastechronicles.com

Classic Whitebait Fritters

Yield – 10 – 12 Fritters
Total Time – 15 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 7 Large Eggs
  • 200 grams Whitebait
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked Pepper, to taste
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

Method

  1. Whip up eggs in a large mixing bowl
  2. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Add whitebait
  4. Heat up a pan and add half a tablespoon of butter
  5. Add ¼ cup of the mix and let cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
  6. Flip it over and cook for another minute.
  7. Serve with a lemon wedge and buttered bread

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Find out about whitebait regulations and the whitebaiting season for all of New Zealand except the West Coast, and learn more about whitebait.