This is a rundown through a list the game fish species we are lucky enough to encounter – during the annual sardine run. Here in KZN, South Africa.
It starts with the shad. These guys smash into those poor little sardines like piranhas. And a shad smaller than a sard will still eat a sardine. Those teeth!
Shad readily jump on a spoon or any artificial, when it’s like this.
This video featuring the Fishing Pro Shop‘s Johan Wessels – shows exactly how surf fishing for shad is very easily done…
The kob have actually already been here quite some time now. Many covert catches are made under the cover of darkness. And in the uncomfortable cold of the chilly winter offshore winds.
Check this mosnter tagged and released a little later in the season,last year! By Gerrard Powell and ably assisted by his mates who carefully put that huge fish back in the water. With a tag well-insertedby Mr. AntNel.
Our endemic and highly threatened Garrick population is also going to be here shortly. They are here to breed and in this vulnerable state, can be easily overfished.
Bag limit is two per man. For a reason.
This is an old video, that captures the surf fishing vibe down on the Sandspit on National Garrick Day…
But get a live mullet or shad swimming in the channel between the mid-break and the shore break, and you will get your Garrick.
Throw a big old ice cream plug over the same channel 200 or 300 times you also could be in the game. Also for…
Let ’em go!
The GTs are here! Already a few have shown their ugly faces around the social shark nets recently in amongst the sardine action. There are many species to choose from including the also release-worthy blacktip, greenspot and blue models.
Some people actually want to catch sharks! But mainly anglers hook them by mistake. Luckily they all are let go these days. The shark nets have done the shark population more than enough damage already.
It’s true, we hardly ever get sharks around the backline anymore. Luckily in sardine season, ALL the remaining ones come to visit. And we can see these beautiful and majestic animals swimming by in the wild.
Sharks in the Shorebreak…
We are ready to take you out there! Stationed down on the Umzimkulu River in Port Shepstone. With direct access to the ocean, Umzimkulu Adrenalin will put you right in amongst it all.
Anglers who visit South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal region are spoiled for choice as the area is flooded with top-notch fishing spots. Choose a prime location on one of the blue-flag status beaches or charter a boat and scope out Durban Harbour.
For serious anglers visiting the region, offshore fishing is essential, especially during the annual Sardine Run phenomenon.
Here are our top recommendations for enjoying offshore fishing along the KZN south coast.
If you have never held a fishing rod, it’s not the best idea to aim for that Pulitzer Prize-worthy shot with a blue marlin. Fortunately, the KZN south coast spans roughly 100 miles between Durban and Port Edward and offers many outstanding nearshore fishing locations for recreational anglers.
Rocky Bay, Park Rynie
Stiebel Rocks, Hibberdene
Margate Fishing Pier
Palmer’s Rock, Glenmore Beach
The bulk of the catch will comprise shad, kob (colloquial: kabeljou), and garrick (a.k.a. leerfish), an iconic gamefish up to five feet long. Anglers can also reel in smaller panfish such as blacktail, stone bream, and karanteen (strepie) among the rocks.
Occasionally, a lesser sand shark, skate, pompano, or cobia (a.k.a. Prodigal Son) will tighten the line. The latter is a fusiform fish praised by restaurant-goers that can grow up to two meters.
If you want to try reeling in such leviathans but you’re like many of us who abandoned our gym memberships over the past couple years, it might be good to get back on the arm machines and extend your stamina!
You’ll do well to start the offshore fishing experience from Durban Harbour, Africa’s second-largest port. It is home to a huge variety of species including snapper salmon, grunter, sole, rock cod, and perch.
Using small spoons or lures, you may even get hold of a pickhandle barracuda, springer (a.k.a. skipjack), torpedo scad, or the unusually pinstripe-like walla-walla.
Even rarer are the chrome-finish queenfish and musselcracker (poenskop or beenbek), an explosive fighter that can live 80 meters down.
As the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the KZN coast is teeming with marine life. Also, temperatures are moderately summer-like year-round, making it perfect for deep sea angling.
The most popular sites for saltwater fishing are:
Here you will catch trophies like billfish, dorado, amberjack, Cape salmon (geelbek), and yellowfin tuna. When you have one on the line, it’s a good idea to let it fight for a while instead of pulling it out of the water straight away.
One reason for doing this is to wear the fish out so it’s calmer once in your hands. The other reason is so it can gather other shoal members. By keeping the lures going, the chances of success improve exponentially. Plus, the hustle and bustle will attract bigger fish.
Most of South Africa’s coral reefs are situated along the north coast toward Mozambique, but the south coast has one too. Protea Banks starts just 5 miles (8 km) out of Port Shepstone and is home to seven species of shark:
Sand sharks (a.k.a. raggedtooth sharks, raggies)
Bull sharks (Zambezi)
As it’s one of the richest tuna grounds in the world, you will find many other predators such as giant barracudas, potato bass, and sea pike. A-listers such as wahoo, mahi-mahi, billfish, and Malabar groupers have been spotted as well.
The annual Sardine Run is the icing on the cake for any fishing enthusiast. In the winter months of June and July, shoals stretch for several miles, speeding along the Agulhas Current in search of better grounds.
The subject of many a wildlife show, the Sardine Run attracts dolphins, copper sharks, and Bryde’s and humpback whales for their yearly all-you-can-eat buffet.
Most offshore anglers swear by live bait, but artificial lures can work just as well, provided that you’re using the right kind to match the right species. It’s a good idea to research your fish well to emulate its favorite prey.
For example, copias love crabs and other shellfish and amberjacks are especially attracted to pinfish, while shrimp work for fish of all sizes.
Make sure to clean your hands before touching lures, as contaminants like grease, soap, sunscreen, and insect repellent can be massive turnoffs for fish with a sophisticated sense of smell.
Trolling with lures works best for sailfish and marlin, while spooning will entice dorados. Bait strips work particularly well for catching Queen mackerel during winter. Also consider trying the fun new hands-on way of fishing with lighter tackle known as flick sticking.
Before heading out on open waters, check the legislation relevant to your trip. Anglers over the age of 12 need a saltwater fishing license. These can be purchased from any Post Office in South Africa.
In case of commercial or culinary intent, always check the minimum size and catch limit for your fish species. There are more and more ethical anglers who fish purely for sportsmanship and practice catch-and-release with artificial lures instead of live bait.
Some examples of restrictions : the bag limit for garrick is two per person per day. A closed season applies to red steenbras and many other species. Shad are four per person. And so on.
Respecting these rules and following the tips as outlined will guarantee a surefire way toward that epic deep sea fishing trip you have been looking forward to!
About the Author
Ralph Zoontjens is a product designer with a master’s degree in Industrial Design from Eindhoven University of Technology and a love of the outdoors. Currently based out of Tilburg, the Netherlands, he specializes in 3D printing and works as a content writer with topics that revolve around design, technology, and outdoor adventure.
Busting the Spotted Grunter on camera in the Umzimkulu Estuary
Busting the Spotted Grunter on camera in the Umzimkulu Estuary: after a couple of years of using these GoFish underwater cameras now, we are still learning how to get the best results…
But this past Friday saw a revelation, as we finally busted those wily spotted grunter hunting along the first bank on the incoming tide in the Umzimkulu Estuary. It took a lucky cast to land the camera (simply attached to my line) in the crystal clear water, just as the shoal of hunting fish idled past. In full attack formation.
It’s all about learning
Seeing these fish in their natural environment also makes it clear why you are not getting any bites. These fish are in position, completely focused, waiting to ambush the prawns and fry that come rushing in out-of-control, with the tide.
The water is moving so fast here in the shallows of the estuary mouth – you can see quite clearly what you need to be doing, to get these fish to take an interest, and strike.
And about conservation
In fact, as an alternative to fishing with bait or lures, I quite truthfully, enjoy this more. It’s an absolutely thrilling feeling when, after scrubbing hours of video, a gamefish comes into plain view. In its completely natural habitat. Free-swimming!
And I get to watch it over and over again!
It is much better than catching and killing the fish, to me personally. And I do think this is really going to take off and revolutionise sport-fishing as we know it today.
The uptake on fishing cameras has been slow. I only know one other guy in this whole country (South Africa) who has one! Captain Digby Smith has been sending his camera down to the depths off Port Shepstone and has a load of video saved up for me to scrub!
However, the cameras on offer today are so smart and capable and produce such amazing pictures, that soon most guys will be sporting a cam in their box.
The camera used in this video was my GoFish camera, which I have been using for a couple of years now. I have caught so many fish with it! Couta, marlin, tuna…actually everything by now. These clips are the foundations for most of my YouTube channels.
I use them for everything! Their size and relative toughness, make them really adaptable to any situation.
Shad attack behaviour in Port Shepstone – the movie
Shad attack behaviour – the movie was shot on a shallow spot on the backline off Port Shepstone, KZN, South Africa. Near the end of the shad open season this crazy 2020. When they start to congregate to spawn.
The shad, unlike garrick or kob, are given a protected season. This was introduced decades ago when the shad were running out fast. At the end of this month, it is over for shad fishers until 1 December. Somehow this doesn’t make sense since it is the Garrick and kob that the help now. DAFF? Where are you guys on this?
Shad have many names including bluefish and tailor. And its Latin name comes straight out of Asterix and Obelix – Pomatomus Saltatrix!
Anyway, we found a large shoal moving around near the backline at Port Shepstone, and managed to get the GoFish cameras into the water with them. What an amazing amount of fun!
Firstly to have the shad in such a playful mood as they chased our lures from the bottom to the top. We got them on the surface too – like little billfish they mercilessly attacked our lures, often finding themselves cartwheeling through the air and tail-walking. Yes, out here in the blue and flat surface, shad take on a wild new character when cranking a spoon wildly across the top for them to chase.
And secondly, the video material we got out of this session, and some of what features in this video – literally blew our minds!
The GoFish cameras we recently added to our arsenal have completed the mission they were acquired for perfectly…
We can finally see underwater!
The only other people who get this perspective are the spearos and bubble-blowers. But now we can drop a camera down, and observe the goings on on and around the reef, without even getting wet!
Working with the GoFish Cameras
It is not in real-time. Wi-fi don’t work underwater. But we have a cute little computer on the boat that powers off a cell charger and its a quick card switch for us to be seeing what just happened downstairs on the reef below us. There is a wi-fi function on the cameras, however. As long as they are floating in their little life rings, and their bums are sticking up out if the water, you can then live stream in real-time the action going on. This is a very limited function but can be applied to certain limited scenarios.
Now if you buy your GoFish Cams from this here website, you will get unlimited email and telephonic support from me and us here at The Sardine News. We have been using these cameras extensively and have made all the mistakes possible. And we are still making them! Learning every day for sure!
So use the link above or below, depending on your device, to get in on this eye-opening way of working things out on your favourite reef or with your favourite fish!
If you would like to join us down here in Port Shepstone for the season, please get in touch. We are based at the Umzimkulu Marina, right in the banks of the Umzimkulu River – and we are fishing flat out!
We have deep-sea options from backline to billfish on offer. We have the famous Sandspit and The Block to fish from the side from. And then the marvelously fun estuary fishing where we encounter so many different species making every strike that much more interesting.
Please get in touch with Sean on firstname.lastname@example.org or +27793269671 to work it out. Bookings have come back to normal luckily so think ahead in time.
We are Facebook right HERE and run a full-on YouTube Channel right HERE!
Bass on fly tackle? To the purists and sceptics out there – it’s a great way to practise for the saltwater! – Sean
And as the southerly and northerly winds start their perennial argument, hanging out in the shelter of a tucked-away bass pond – is a great place to be. Especially along the KZN South Coast inland beat, where we are right now. And the wind is scathing our beaches and coastline. Right now as I write this, its literally blowing a gale at 30 knots plus. From the south. And tomorrow it’s gonna be the same but from the south-east. Even worse! Then it turns north. Even worser!
Luckily, many farmers from around here allow bass anglers to hunt fish in their dams. And many dont! But if you are on the KZN South Coast some time, and you want to go bassin’, we can take you for sure. Paddock and Umzumbe hold some secrets and even close around Port Shepstone there are some gems. That do not get fished very often at all.
And who also hold some lunker sized bass. Even just recently, as the bass start to enter spawning mode, some good catches have been made including one of over 4kgs caught and released just south of Port Shepstone.
But ok, a few stories that might get you amped up…the first from Coty in the States who penned up this real cool article on what it takes to bassin’ on the fly.