21 July Sardine Report 2019

21 July Sardine Report 2019

It’s been another cracking sardine season for the sardine run operators down in the Transkei and Natal. These guys have encountered bait balls daily and have been getting some spectacular video material, which we will get to see soon enough.

To make sure we are on top of things, we headed south on sardine patrol, and have the following to report.

July Sardine Report 2019

Port St Johns

Arriving in Port St Johns, we could already feel the buzz. The Umzimvubu was looking delightfully clean and there were boats everywhere. Anglers anchored in the channels, we saw one guy boat a 12kg class Garrick and a little Kob. Sardine safari boats moored at the line of jetties, all prepared for the mornings adventures.

We visited Offshore Africa down on the river, who run sardine run trips for two months through the season. Rob Nettleton and Debbie Smith (The Shark Lady), the operators, live in Port St. Johns and are consummate professionals in what they do. They chuck you right in with the sardines and sharks!

Chatting to Richie O’Connell who leads one of the boats, “You don’t even need a baitball to find and swim with sharks. They’re everywhere!”.

Rob showed me some of this year’s footage, the cameras are dressed up with much better and wider lenses making it possible to really capture all that is going on down there. Stay posted for this material when it comes out, it is truly work of underwater art.

Through the three days we spent scouring the views around Port St. Johns, we saw lots birds running south still. Some just sitting on the water too full to fly. And the odd dive bomber as sporadic shoals moved through under the surface. But the sardine spotters travelled north and south and every day out they have jumped in with sardines. Rob was on day 33!


Great views and nice swells greeted us here. But again, we never saw any real hot action from the shore. Lots of birds. Oil slicks from previous sorties. Crystal clear water. Very fishy looking.

21 July Sardine Report 2019
21 July Sardine Report 2019

Coffee Bay

We stayed at the pretty Coffee Shack where they installed us in the King’s House. A delightful cottage overlooking the entire bay flanked by the Sugarloaf and the Mbomvu point. Four delicious shad for breakfast.

The action was absolutely wild!

Shoals of sardines were being driven to the surface. Mainly it was dolphins but we also saw sharks breaching and some outsized yellowfin tuna. The gannets were raining down like bombs. And this was just the first shoal. They just kept coming through sporadically throughout the entire day. The huge waves, well ok 2 to 3m, were kind of keeping the action on the backline and only one occasion did they come right into the white water where they were obliterated.


When we came over the hill, the vista was unexpected. Waves were reeling down the point, the sand was connecting across the entire bay! There were a bunch of guys on it but the waves were plentiful and everyone was mellow.

There were birds diving and some dolphins were hunting but the water never smelled fishy and the surf continued even better the next day. When a fabulous Berg wind kicked mid-morning and painted the prettiest surfing picture I have seen for a while. Then the huge west that is currently blowing a gale at about 40 knots hit hard and so we moved on to the other side of the river to Freedom O’ Clock to catch up a bit.

And we got to throw a little video together quick…

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Get in touch via umzimkulu@gmail.com if you would like to join us for The Sardine Run next year.

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Sardine Report for 2019 by The Sardine News

First sardine report for 2019

First sardine report for 2019.

Officially, the sardine run has begun. 10 Nets were taken over the weekend – at Amanzimtoti. And another down a bit further at Glenmore.

The Sardine News
The Sardine News

Yesterday the long-awaited South Westerly came busting through, after an incredible surfing morning, up and down the south coast of KZN. Whales were jumping out the back. Shoals of baitfish spread out all over. The sun was shining beautifully. Avid sardine hunters everywhere.

The expected cold front arrived timeously. One of the conditions normally required.

And the main shoal of sardines is on the way! And it’s quite big relative to years gone before.

It’s reported to be moving through the Transkei right now with Offshore Africa, our eyes in the waters off of Port St. Johns down the wild coast, having a field day with the first smaller shoals.

You can learn more about their high-level adrenalin inducing sardine run experiences right here… https://web.facebook.com/offshoreafricaportstjohns/


It’s all about sharks right now with many anglers having recently taken up the sport. Big baits, big tackle and big struggles. They all get released but mostly not with tags in them. Hopefully this will change soon. We have a shark tagging program running in conjunction with Africa Underwater and the Oceanographic Research Institute guys. So anybody who would like to get involved, please get in touch with me on umzimkulu@gmail.com. The information gleaned from tagging is vital for our understanding of the marine animals we are to look after now.

Gamefish action has been characteristically slow. The garrick are the main players with some beautiful 10kg class kob competing for attention. Catch them on paddletails.

Two spearos swam out whilst we were surfing on Sunday. They spent 4 hours out there until one guy came back with a bent spear and broken gun. A yellowtail had destroyed his equipment. BUT! He had a 25kg king mackerel on his stringer. He jumped in his car and went south with the current direction to look for his mate?! Hardcore! These guys deserve the trophy fish they shoot. It requires so much commitment, physical, and mental effort to attain the levels required to get fish like that.


Prices this year are higher than last year, but the netters have been very friendly to the public and the beaches are lots of fun right now. You can expect to pay about R40 per kilogram.

Casualties so far are mounting with the out-sized swell marching through right now. Two netters have flipped their boats, with a hospital visit for some crew members. The action is only going to hot up so please be careful everybody.

So this first sardine report for 2019 will be followed by more confirmed news about the location and attitude of the elusive main shoals.

As of now, this wind might warm the water too much, and we will have to go through another cycle of conditions to line up the right stars again. Quite a few stars have to line up for the sardines to land up on the beach each time.

These are a list of conditions that will make things for favourable for sardines to come right in and within reach…

Conditions for sardines to come in close:

  • Colder water

    18 degrees or so would be great. Brought about by east winds. Like the ones we had last week. However, today was in the low 20s.

  • Cold front

    Often this encourages the sardines shallower. Big winds like what we had today.

  • High tides

    Generally they come in closer at high tide, getting trapped as the tide goes out. Spring tides amplify the effect, like they are right now

That is all we have for you for now, but stay close and we will inform you as we go. We will be out early in the morning each day and will report any action right here

Find us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/thesardine.co.za/

This report was sponsored by the Fishing Pro Shop in Pretoria, MYDO Lures in Port Shepstone and The Umzimkulu Marina, also in Port Shepstone.

Book your sardines now!

Book your sardines now!

Sardines! Coming fast!

Offshore Africa, The Sardine specialists down in The Transkei, have already started taking bookings, for their Sardine Run experience.

Which is…jump right in with them, sharks and all!

Make no mistake, it’s a military type operation, and Rob Nettleton and Debbie Smith, partners in the show, take it very seriously. Their combined experience adds up to decades on, and under the ocean. Heaps of this time surrounded by dangerous marine animals. It is this experience that allows the totally mind-blowing trips out to sea off Port St. Johns to happen. Coupled with reliable, fast boats, and well-trained skippers…the exhilarating ride out through the surf and up and down the awe inspiring Wild Coast, will never be forgotten.

Right from the word go, the adrenalin starts pumping. Loading up, and prepping the powerful RIBs growl into life, as the winter induced offshore wind pumps down the stupendously beautiful Umzimvubu Valley. The next thing your heart is in your mouth, as you face the most hardcore ride of your life – through the surf at the Port St. Johns river mouth! And out to sea!

Flying with Offshore

Flying with Offshore – Rob Nettleton at the helm

The sardines are easily spotted by the birds they attract. Seagulls, Gannets, Albatross, Skuas, Terns…they are all highly aware of the bounty at large. And where the sardines are, that’s where the dolphins, whales, sharks, fish…are.

Jump right in!

Yip! The next thing you are surrounded my marine wildlife. The clear blue waters reveal all. The entire food chain! Staying out of the food chain is not that difficult really, sticking together provides the single biggest advantage – confidence. Just float there calmly and observe the carefully controlled mayhem, as predators who normally are averse to each other, start to work as a Springbok team. Those poor sardines!

Enjoy this gallery from the 2015 Sardine Run…

There is more amazing imagery and video at this link…



Enjoy this cool video montage assembled from some of Rob and Debbies best footage, shot in and around Port St. Johns.

To get in touch with Offshore Africa…




Sardine spotter "Tzulu"Dowsett will be piloting this awesome machine as he searches the seas for sardines and their predators

Offshore Africa’s new sardine spotter plane

Offshore Africa’s new sardine spotter plane

Take a look at Offshore Africa’s new sardine spotter plane!

Yep, introducing “Tzulu” Dowsett as the pilot of the cool gyrocopter that he will be flying to locate shoals of sardines this year. Starting in about two months time, pilot shoals of sardines will have started making their way north, as the exodus starts. It’s estimated that almost 10% of the entire sardine population breaks from the main pack down in the southern oceans to form the greatest shoal on earth.

Having this facility will help put clients of Offshore Africa down in Port St. Johns, right on the button. Port St. Johns is the epi-centre of the sardine run each year – Offshore have been taking punters out and into the middle of the action for many seasons now – the longest operating dive facility there.

Rob Nettleton and Debbie Smith, the operators of Offshore Africa and Diving with Sharks, have been hard at work underwater for decades. Their local experience combined with excellent service reputation and happy customers, have made them first choice for anything sardine and radical!

Situated in the Transkei, on The Wild Coast – Offshore have many other things to do in Port St Johns, when you make it down there. The team there have a huge cruiser on the Umzimvubu River, aswell as an air boat – unbelievably one of only two in the country. Fun, fun, fun!

Enjoy this gallery from 2015 sardine run…it gives a great idea of what goes on down there!

Transkei fishing. Brian Lange with yellowtail

Transkei fishing well

Transkei fishing well

There is not much better fun than fishing Transkei waters.

When the weather allows,..of course.

Brian and Marc Lange, and Karl Gous – the bottomfishing A-team, were lucky enough to be down that way, at Mgazana, the last few days. They jacked “Raffles”, Dr Hulleys legendary Acecraft and came back with some great photos…

Karl with a live bait caught garrick just south of Mgazana

Karl with a live bait caught garrick just south of Mgazana

It’s not easy to get out and into these waters to fish – the Transkei is not called The Wild Coast for nothing! Strong currents and wild weather combine with huge swells to make this area quite foreboding, for any craft.

But the good boat Raffles was built for these conditions and the narrow river mouth launch.

More pics to follow…