A short time before you actually get to Haast, just across another single lane bridge on one of the rivers flowing straight into the Tasman sea you see a sign marking ‘Curly Tree- White bait shop’. The tourism radio recommended White-bait as one of the NZ delicacies to be tried for sure, and when has ever a tourism radio given a bad advise?
So we turned in to see this little shed by the river mouth and met Tony, the owner of the Curly Tree Whitebait business
So, for all that are asking, White-bait is very small fish. The vegetarians can avoid this paragraph now.
The white-bait are the small baby fish of the fish species that live in freshwater and brash water. The most common around this part of the world is Salmon, Brown Trout and other trout varieties. They typically breed in the ocean near the river mouth and then huge schools of baby fish try and swim upstream in the river towards freshwater to grow up and turn into mature fish. They’re caught fresh and small near the river mouth and are considered a delicacy.
Now naturally fishing these baby fish in large quantities would affect the overall fish population, so bait-fish fishing is heavily controlled by the Government and only licensed fishermen can collect them during specified periods and in specified quantities. This again makes the bait-fish at this particularly tender size even more rare and special. Luckily enough, we arrived at this spot only at the end of the bait-fishing season.
The quality of the baitfish is representative of the purity of the water and environment that they were bred into and grew in. And by this measure, the conditions can’t be any better than this pure heaven of the West Cost New Zealand. Even the bait fish from the relatively more inhabited and industrialised East coast of New Zealand can’t measure up to those from this part.
The best way to enjoy this delicacy is without spoiling the taste and texture much. The cooking and seasoning needs to be minimum. Tony has perfect idea for it.
Half cup full of Baitfish
One egg- whipped
Fry on a flat plate in little amount of bland vegetable oil
And your patty is ready. Top it up with light seasoning of salt and pepper and eat it on a slice of bread.
We had a company of another Belgian tourist, and then I suggested why not we go to the actual stream where Tony catches all his bait-fish as its just behind his shop anyways.
As we were walking across the grass towards the stream, we heard someone shout from the nearby tree- and there was a little West Coast Monkey on the tree
Tony lives here next to his shop with his wife and two sons, and this one is the elder of the two. The younger one wasn’t far behind, and the true to bone country boys ran to us bare feet and jumped in the stream trying to spot some baitfish and showed them to us.
Apart from catching bait-fish and making babies, Tony also plays guitar for a local band, and was very happy to hear that we’re from Adelaide because his group has landed a gig in Adelaide Fringe in 2012 and he’s looking forwards to being in Adelaide and expects to be amongst huge crowds as Tony says Adelaide is a Big City!
Well Tony, sure Adelaide will love to host you.