Jim High catching bass in the Midlands

KZN – A great catch when it comes to fishing tourism

David Mawuli

When winter cold starts to bite in South Africa, the fish continue to bite KwaZulu-Natal’s warm waters. With its mild weather, the province has world-class fishing all year round with the greatest diversity of fishing opportunities in the country. But it is at the beginning of autumn that the province really comes into its own.

In South Africa, more than a million people regard themselves as recreational anglers and bring out their rods either socially, for sport or during holidays. Countrywide, the recreational fishing industry is worth R19 billion per year and supports almost 100 000 jobs.

Recreational fishing is largely seasonal and often linked to holiday peak times. Various types of fishing are available on almost all of the tourism routes across KZN. More importantly, fishing trips have become far less of an excuse for Dad to escape with his mates and more of a family holiday opportunity or a chance to take part in a fiercely competitive sport fishing event.

Shore fishing along the KZN South Coast 2
Shore fishing along the KZN South Coast

Playing the bass

Bass fishing is popular across the province but Albert Falls Dam is widely regarded as the best bass fishing spot in the country. It is ideal for beginners as the water is teeming with so many fish that it is almost impossible not to catch one. In May, the mornings are crisp but the days warm and casting from the boat is an adventure.

Tackling a trout

Underberg (and the surrounding Drakensberg) is the centre of trout fishing in KZN and April and May are some of the best time to go. It offers the best of both worlds – sunny fishing days and nights cold enough to enjoy log fires. The Drakensberg and KZN Midlands have many trout and fly-fishing lodges, and fishing equipment is available for hire. Most lodges also have chefs who are more than willing to prepare your freshly caught trout for dinner.

Julia Amaral, spokesperson for the Midlands Meander, which stretches from Mooi River in the north to Hilton in the South, Karkloof in the east and the foothills of the Drakensberg in the west and is one of the country’s most popular fishing destinations, says this is their most requested visitor activities.

She says many tourists relish an opportunity to catch a trophy trout, outsmart a wily bass or engage the challenging indigenous yellowfish. Fishing events held throughout the year are also regular attractions to the Meander

Taming a tiger

In KZN, it is all about Tiger Fish, says fishing blogger Albert Gatchet: “These toothy terrors are known for explosive hits and powerful runs. They’re underwater bullets with armoured scales and a mouth full of razor-sharp daggers. Oh, and they’re also really fun to catch.”

Jozini Dam is the spot to hook tigers with easy access, professional guiding, great accommodation, stunning views and houseboats from which to fish. During autumn, the tigers are fattening up for winter and cooler days and lower rains mean more hours on the water.

“Tigerfish can dent lures, bite through leaders and empty spools at an incredible pace. On top of that, they’re unpredictable – spooky one minute, headstrong and aggressive the next. Throw in some aerial acrobatics and seriously good looks, and you’ve got a fish you could spend your whole life catching.”

Shore fishing along the KZN South Coast 1
Shore fishing along the KZN South Coast 1

Rock and Shore fishing

KZN is perfect for fishing during the autumn and winter months according to Ian Logie, owner of Local is Lekker fish safaris on the KZN South Coast, a must-visit venue for rock and surf fishing holidays.

“We don’t get as much rain as in summer, so the sea is generally cleaner because there is less silt from the rivers. This means you are more likely to catch fish like shad and Garrick and, with the Sardine Run, lots of game fish come close inshore.”

Even though the most exciting winter fishing takes place on the South Coast during the Sardine Run, a fishing trip just prior to this big marine migration is a good way to ‘test the waters’.

He also suggests tourists try out carp fishing, which has become very popular in the rivers and dams in Southern KZN.

Debra Robins, director of the Southern Explorer, a cluster of activities and experiences along the South Coast, says fishing is a big player in the region’s tourism offering. “The Sardine Run in June / July which extends from Port Edward to Umkomaas feeds the fishing frenzy with many coming to see this spectacle and locals netting sardines to use as bait,” she says.

She adds that fishing charters are popular amongst international tourists with many small businesses launching their boats at Shelly Beach. Ski boats launch from Ramsgate and Hibberdene.

Fishing from the beach is particularly popular amongst domestic visitors, especially those from Gauteng. “Our beaches are perfectly suited to beach fishing during the holidays as many have inbuilt rod holders and gullies from which to cast into the surf,” she says.

Fisherman in KZN
Fisherman in KZN

Game for fishing

Thanks to the warm Indian Ocean, KZN has long been regarded as a prime game fishing destination.

“April is the change-over of the seasons. The water is still nice and warm, but this is the very best time of all as the big boys come out. This time of year, we have the big competitions, and it is not unusual to bag a couta of over 30kgs,” says Evert Saaiman, manager at Angling and Outdoor World.

“Kayak fishing is also becoming extremely popular,” he continues.  “Kayaks are smaller and more maneuverable. They get to places where deep sea boats cannot go, are easier to launch and they don’t need fuel. One can only kayak fish in the ocean though. Inland there are far too many crocodiles and hippos!”

Catch and Release

KwaZulu-Natal has a long coastline with many marine protected areas which are strictly policed by the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Visitors are urged to check any seasonal fishing restrictions, bag limits or protected waters and to ensure that they have the necessary fishing permits. Most fishing in the province is done on a tag and release basis in keeping with global best practice.

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David Mawuli is a Ghanaian journalist and, travel and food content creator. He kicked off his career as an entertainment reporter and spent 7 years with Pulse.com.gh where he cut his teeth in journalism. David has been nominated for several awards in Ghana but has won two so far. He is currently ranked the 6th top blogger in Ghana. He currently runs MawuliTravels.com alone and is also the Lead Editor at Ghanafuo.com.
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