TACKLING TIGERS ON LAKE JOZINI
One of the most memorable experiences – even for first time and inexperienced anglers – when exploring the beautiful Lake Jozini aboard one of the Shayamanzi Houseboats, is catching Africa’s legendary and ferocious tiger fish.
Lake Jozini, in the heart of Zululand, is South Africa’s prime spot for catching tiger fish with the hot summer months being prime fishing time – although, there is plenty of fishing to be had during the cooler winter months as well.
As our seasoned fishermen aboard the Shayamanzi will tell you, Jozini’s tigers live up to their names. Local monikers include the African piranha or even the striped water dog. Beware the sharp needle-like teeth and spikes on their fins when you finally bring them in after what is usually a bit of a fight.
When fishing for tigers, its best to know that you will lose quite a few either during an underwater tussle or during one of their legendary jumps. Many simply take your bait and head for safer waters.
The most important thing to remember is that, because tiger fish are indigenous and you are dipping your line into an ecologically sensitive area – on the banks of the beautiful Pongola Game Reserve – we work on a catch, photograph and release system and have many snap shots taken by our proud guests to prove that the big ones are reeled in but always get away.
If you are planning a fishing safari Shayamanzi style, here are some valuable tips ahead of time:
CHOOSING THE BEST TIMES
The best fishing months are September to April. During the hottest summer months in January and February, the fishing is excellent but you should stick to short sessions in the early mornings or late afternoons. From March to May, tigers are generally fattening up for the winter months, making this a good time to seek them out. You can still expect to find tigers between June and August, although drops in temperature can put them off the bite for a couple of days.
WHAT ABOUT WEATHER CONDITIONS?
Explore Jozini dam, from the gorge to the northern tip and create your own fishing map. Also remember that, aboard the Shayamanzi, guides and captain know the secret spots which will most certainly make this aspect a lot easier. Check out the weather – this will assist in determining how and where you can fish. Make sure you have a high factor sunscreen and a hat with you in the hot summer months.
FINDING THE BEST SPOTS
Good places to fish for tiger’s (especially with live bait) are in the Pongola River section as well as the inlets in the gorge and the outside edge of the weed beds (along the Eastern bank along the old Pongola River course). However, live baits can be trolled slowly, and this is fast becoming an effective means of catching tigers as it covers a vast area in a short amount of time.
Summer rains bring in dirty water in the spring and summer. During this time, the clearest water can be found in the southern tip of Jozini Dam. Winds from the north make the water along the western shore very dirty. The water clears slowly when the wind dies or when the wind changes and blows from a southerly direction. That said, Jozini Tiger Fish don’t mind discoloured water. Remember that it’s difficult for Tigers to hunt in clear water, so they often head for slightly dirty water.
Wind creates strong currents in the Jozini Dam. Look for places where fish can escape these. They often hide behind points along the southern shore and in sheltered bays.
There are varying depths in Jozini Dam ranging from 70m in some places to very shallow flats in the north (Swaziland side) of the dam. Smaller tigers tend to congregate in weeds or old tree stands with the cannibalistic larger tigers popping up from the depths for a meal – making either area ideal, weather and technique depending.
Underwater islands and holes are just like drops with year old tigers moving away from their protective shelters to form schools to avoid their larger peers. The islands conceal bait fish that offer a quick take away.
TIPS ON EQUIPMENT
Catch Tigers using fly fishing equipment. You need a rod weighted at least 8 or 9 with a reel that holds a lot of backing. The best tip is to ensure you have two rods rigged – one with a float and the other with a sinking fly line (both with heavy shooting leaders) and larger flies that resemble fish, tend to work well.
Dragging Rapala fishing lures behind your boat is also effective as it draws the Tiger’s attention
Replace normal split rings with ultra-strong ones as, when a tiger fish jumps and shakes its head, these
pull open without any excessive line tension. When a tiger speeds off, the drag of the bow of line in the water pulls open the rings and breaks the line even with zero tension from the rod end.
Replace all treble hooks with single hooks. Flattening the barbs on the hooks makes for a clean and easier release.
Steel wire and nylon coated trace should always be in good condition and tiger fishing traces must be at least 50kg breaking strain. Replace wire traces with kinks.
Always use fluorocarbon leader when fishing with braid line. Clear line will do, but fluorocarbon is best.
Please do not bring any live bait with you from another source / store as it is prohibited due to possible diseases being introduced into this highly sensitive ecosystem. Some great live bait options include sardines, chicken livers and fillets which are widely used on the Shayamanzi.
Visit www.shayamanzi.co.za for more information.