Fishing in Zululand

South Africa's only claim to tropical seas is the short stretch of coast bordering southern Mozambique.

These clear blue waters, washing over coral reefs and into vast offshore trenches, draw not only a good concentration of pelagic game fish, including billfish, but also the cream of South Africa's big game anglers to pit their skills in battle.

A vast section of this 120-mile coastline is a marine sanctuary which protects the marine life, including demersal fish species. Anglers fishing from both the beach and from craft at sea are permitted to target the abundance of pelagic fish that migrate southward from the warmer northern tropical waters.

In order to fish these waters, high speed ``ski-boats" capable of being launched from the beach, are used, as the only harbour within this region is Richards Bay at the southern extremity of the area.

Launching through the surf line very often provides terror for the crew and excitement for those watching from the beach, but it allows anglers access to the known fishing spots.

Fish that predominate in this area are all tropical water species of the Indian Ocean, headed by the billfish family of which the black and striped marlin are the most common. An occasional blue marlin is also captured in these waters.

The biggest black marlin caught in South African waters was captured in December 1984 at Cape Vidal and weighed in at 938 lb. The second-best fish, a 927 lb black, was caught at Sodwana in November 1981. A number of 900 lb-plus fish have been caught since then and there can be no doubt that it is not a case of ``if" but ``when"!

The Zululand coast's marlin season commences in early November and peaks in late November, after which it tapers off gradually to its conclusion towards the end of April.

Pacific sailfish are also captured in fair numbers by anglers targeting the main species, king mackerel. Sailfish visit these shores from January until June and range from 45 to 150 lb.

With the increasing awareness of the pressure the billfish resource is attracting, a strong tag-and-release program is gaining momentum. It is, however, the varied species of game fish such as king mackerel, queen mackerel, yellowfin tuna, bonito, dorado, wahoo and kingfish that attract light tackle anglers to the area.

Surf casting and fishing from rocky ledges also provide exciting catches, ranging in size from small bream to large sharks.

Two tidal lake/estuary systems are found in the area. Apart from the wildlife they support, anglers fishing from small craft with light tackle are assured of a lot of sport and a number of very good meals.

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