Friday, January 8, 2010

A little Tiger Fishing anyone just down the road at Jozini

The Pongolapoort Lake, also known as Lake Jozini, which covers 16000 hectares, is the only water in South Africa that is home to tiger fish, scientifically known as Hydrocynus vittatus, or commonly known as the "striped water dog". It is the third largest lake in South Africa - 30km long and up to 7km wide, not counting the 10km gorge leading to the dam wall, with a depth in the gorge of 90 metres.

Largest Tiger Fish

The largest tiger fish caught to date is 11kgs, although the official SA record is 8.3kgs caught by angler Franz Grey of Pongola in 1997. Tiger fish are everywhere at Pongolapoort, from shoals of small fish to trophy specimens.

Fly fishing for Tiger Fish

Depending on the source of food available, the tiger fish will take sardines, artificial lures, spinners and live tilapia, which is available on request from Shayamoya at a cost of R3 per fish. Fly-fishing for tiger fish is attracting a greater number of anglers as the tiger population has reached levels where fly fishing is productive. For this reason we have our own specially designed fly-fishing boat.

Because of the tiger fish explosion, the fly fisher will find, all things going well with weather and water clarity, that there are plenty of fish that will be interested in his flies. Around the drop-offs and within the submerged copse of trees, there are many fish of medium size (up to 2 kg) waiting to be caught. Excellent patterns are white Lefty's Deceivers and Yellow or Olive Rabbits. However, any baitfish imitations such as bucktail streamers and Clouser minnows will work equally well. A weight 8 outfit with sinking line is a very effective combination.

The Pongolapoort Lake (also known as Jozini)

Pongolapoort Lake has an extensive variety of species over and above the tiger fish. This is because floods released exotic species such as black bass into the lake and also because the lake lies in a sub-tropical area and is thus home to species normally found only in Central Africa - hence the tiger fish.

As well as tiger and blue kurper (Oreochromis mossambicus), there are red-breasted kurper (Tilapia rendalli), huge catfish, yellowfish, red-nosed mudfish, silver and butter barbel, a dozen species of barbs and minnows including the silver robber or dwarf tigerfish (Micralested acutidens). Even tiny freshwater gobies are present which have adapted from marine lifestyle. There's certainly no shortage of food for the predators!

Fishing usually takes place from boats, as the shoreline is dotted with semi-submerged trees and because of the presence of crocodiles and hippos. Shayamoya hires out 2 16ft hustler ski boats @ R900 per full day, taking lunch packs or R600 per half day, returning to the lodge for lunch. A skipper is provided to ensure your safety. Also for hire are a variety of fishing rods and reels at a daily charge of R75. Fishing tackle is to be replaced if lost or damaged.

The best months for catching tiger fish? All year round, although best in warmer months August through to May. The belief that tiger fish stop biting in winter has proved untrue and a number of large size tiger are landed in winter although the action is more subdued.

While fishing, enjoy the prolific bird life and multitude of game around the lake. Recently, elephants and buffalo were re-introduced into the area surrounding the lake, with the hippos keeping a watchful eye on the day's fishing. The Pongolapoort dam is referred to as a mini-Kariba with all the wildlife action on the edges.

Tiger Fishing Competitions

There are two national tiger fishing competitions annually. The major Sodwana Bay Angling Club's competition takes place in September, last year attracting over 250 boats, while the local Jozini Angling Club hold their competition in December. Sponsored prizes are getting bigger attracting more anglers although we would like to see all of them based on catch and release.