Art. XXXVI.—Notes on the New Zealand Whitebait.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 18th November 1902.]
Hearing that the curator of the Westland Acclimatisation Society had forwarded specimens of whitebait and ova for discussion at the institute, I am also forwarding specimens to see how they tally with other experience.
I have heard conflicting stories as to what whitebait really is. Some say they have kept them till they have grown into mullet, and as I was curious to see how many different kinds of fishes could be got out of the whitebait I thought to try for myself, so I got some and put them into a wooden box, but they died off. That was in 1890.
The next year I tried another lot, and this time I put them in glass jars and kept them until the middle of January, when on a hot day I forgot to shade them, and on coming home at night I found them all dead. I then made a concrete tank to have ready for next year, and when the season came round I got another supply and put them in the tank, and kept them well supplied with creek-water from a swamp. They got on fine until about August of the next year when they died. I noticed that they were bad with a fungus, so I gave it up.
Next year, as the tank was there, I tried again; but this time the idea struck me that, as the whitebait comes out of the salt water, the old fish must go into the sea again to spawn, so when the season came round I gradually changed the water till in August and September they were in all sea water. Then I changed the water again till October, and they were back again into fresh water. In this manner they throve well and I kept them, and next season changed the water to salt again, and then back to fresh the third year, but they still remained the same. They are what we call “cowfish” or “inanga.” I send three samples. The second-sized one in the spirits is after it came through the first sea-bath, and getting on for two years old. The largest one is after the next year's salt bath. The smallest one was put in spirits the following season. You will observe that they have have all come out brindled when immersed in spirits.
I hope this will be of some interest to the Wellington Philosophical Society.
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Note.—Some time ago I forwarded to you some whitebait which you thought differed from those forwarded by Mr. A. J. MacKenzie. There is a little fish that comes up at the end of the whitebait season. They come for two or three days, and that finishes the season. They came up last season in millions, and are about ⅞. long and 3/32 in. deep.