The lack of coastal development and the sheer rugged beauty earned this 300-mile stretch of the Africa coast its name ``The Wild Coast".

Home to South Africa's second largest ethnic clan, the Xhosa, with the Pondo tribe in the northeastern section, this coastal stretch features a wide variety of fish and fishing conditions. The tribes had little effect on the marine resources of this coast for many years, other than shellfish.

However, recent times have seen over-exploitation of oyster, abalone and rock lobster populations by commercial operations. New legislation is in the pipeline to facilitate proper management of all marine resources in the Transkei, with special emphasis being placed on maintaining the tourist angler trade into the future.

Starting in the northeast corner and travelling down the coast, past the port city of East London to the Great Fish River, we notice a great abundance of estuaries, rarely more than five or six miles apart.

For the first hundred miles, the green rolling hills slope steeply from 300-400 feet down to the sea, interspersed with short stretches of sheer cliffs, sandy beaches and estuaries. At one beautiful spot near Msikaba, a waterfall pours down the cliff face straight into the sea.

From the central Transkei southward, the high green hills make way for heavily wooded sand dunes and long stretches of beach again broken by the estuaries, some of which only open to the sea for short periods in the rainy season. Nevertheless, they harbour many saltwater fish and prawns.

Several of the estuaries feature hotels which provide for visiting anglers, while others are accessible by means of four-wheel drive vehicles.The steep banks of the estuaries are heavily forested with indigenous trees which are home to an incredible variety of birds.

Boat fishing is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers with the cry of fish eagles, trumpeter hornbills and glimpses of the beautiful crimson-winged Knysna Lourie being the daily norm.

The warm Agulhas current (up to 26 degrees Centigrade in summer) sweeps down this entire coastline. Close to shore in the north, it tends to meander as it nears East London, sometimes close, sometimes 12 miles offshore depending on the prevailing winds.

At its strongest near the continental shelf, the current allows little sand and silt to settle, resulting in large areas of prime reef fishing.

The warm Agulhas current brings pelagic fish south almost year-round. Regular catches include black and striped marlin, yellowfin tuna, world record size kawakawa, skipjack tuna, king mackerel, queenfish, kingfish, dorado and wahoo.

A prime attraction for offshore reef fishermen on this entire 300-mile stretch is the giant endemic snapper-type fish called the red or copper steenbras which grows to 60 kgs (130 lb). The strict, management measures mentioned earlier will also be invoked to limit catches of these magnificent fish.

While their numbers have been seriously reduced, visiting and local anglers still have a good chance of success. A number of other reef species make bottom fishing attractive when the game fishing is slow.

With the exception of the East London harbour, all offshore boats launch through the surf from estuaries, semi-sheltered bays or open beaches.

The Agulhas current also provides the shore fishermen with a variety of warm water fish interspersed with cooler water fish when the current meanders offshore. Garrick are prized targets at some of the deeper water shore spots like Brazen Head, Poenskop, Mbolompo, Mazeppa Bay, the East London harbour breakwater and Cove Rock.

Tuna are sometimes taken from these ledges. Two marlin have also been hooked and lost. Yellowtail, elf and kob make up the bulk of the catches.

A variety of bream-like fish which make excellent table fare are still reasonably abundant, as are sharks and rays which, on a tag-and-release basis, make up the bulk of competition angling catches.

The estuarine fishing is good with kob (which grow to more than 100 pounds), spotted grunter, river snapper, garrick and small kingfish. A popular light-tackle fish is the tarpon's relative called skipjack which provides spectacular aerobatics when hooked.

This coast is very popular with South African anglers and a growing number of visitors are sampling its unspoiled beauty and variety of fish.

However, hiking the Wild Coast is most probably the only way of exploring the area in depth.

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