Over 106 species of fish occur in Zambia. Of these there is only a hand full of fish that are targeted by anglers. Fish distribution and activity is of course seasonal and is driven by various circumstances such as the rains, water temperature, and time of year. Fishing reaches its peak with the best months for fishing being September to November when the waters are warmer.
The fish species most sought after by recreational fishermen are Tigerfish Hydrocyncus vittatus, Vundu Heterobrachus longifilis, Cornish Jack Mormyrops deliciosus, Eastern Bottlenose Mormyrus longirostris, Nembwe Serranchromis robustus, Nkupe Distichodus mossambicus and the various River Bream and Tilapia species. African Pike Hepsetus odoe is also popular.
Catch and release is practised at all Wilderness Safaris camps with some camps providing limited fishing equipment. We do however on occasion keep some Bream or Tiger fish caught by guests for consumption in the camp. We try where possible to limit fish kept for eating to only males and we continually try to remain as educated as possible as to which species are spawning and when. Keen fishermen are encouraged to bring their own equipment. De-barbed hooks and nets are encouraged to make catch and release easier and more effective – the net allowing the fish to be landed without exhausting it. The following methods are employed.
- 1.Fishing with artificial lures such as spoons and Rapalas (preferably with de-barbed hooks for easier catch and release).
Tigerfish are ready takers of flies and will attack anything if in the mood being particularly good in the early morning or late afternoon. Preferably caught on streamer patterns and clousers (favourite colours are red, yellow, black, orange and purple on very strongly constructed flies on a copper wire body ) on rods from 7# – 10# using either floating, or sinking lines (fast sinking lines work best). You will need either piano wire or trace, as their teeth are sharp. The best way to fish is from a boat in the fast moving water on the edges of the river / channel just behind any structure in the water with a fast strip retrieve followed by a hard strike to set the hook if you have a bite. For bream, rods from 3# – 5# are good using floating or intermediate line with fine tippets and trout flies. Beaded nymphs, woolly buggers, San Juan worms and Pheasant tails all work well in varying colours and fishing is done in flat calm water. On artificial lures spinners like the Mepps black fury are good for Bream and Rapalas or copper and silver spoons are very good for Tigerfish.
A couple of things to consider about Tigerfish flies:
- The fly should sink fast – design your rig (line and leader) around this.
- Hook up – the hook must be needle sharp. Shaper hooks will penetrate the boney mouth better.
- Hook size range from 2-6. Remember that the strike will be ‘soft’ because of the dynamic of the fly rod, so strike hard.
- The better the fly the more it will survive the fight. Important as you want to get the fly back in the water in good condition.
- The best way to ensure the quality of your fly is to tie it yourself.
Other species tips:
- – Cornish Jack (Mormyrops deliciosus) over 20lbs are not uncommon; they are found in deep pools and can be taken on small spoons and fly. Light tackle will do with this fish.
- – Vundu (Heterobrachus longifilis) can easily reach over 100lbs, these are not the handsomest fish but are strong fighting fish. They will run long and hard down stream and if not stopped in their tracks, you can easily get snagged by an obstacle on route. They will take spoons and their relatives the catfish family like big flies in orange, purple, red and other dark coloured flies. Heavy tackle is recommended.
- – Eastern Bottlenose Mormyrus longirostris found mainly on the Zambezi in deep slow moving water, these fish can reach a size of up to 20lbs. Worm like baits are good with a small hook.
- – Tilapia Sarotherodon spp are a great sport fish for spinning tackle and both wet and dry Fly fishing, taken on a wide verity of lures and flies caught in various bodies of water.
- – Nkupe Distichodus mossambicus regarded by fisherman as the one of the strongest fighting fish pound for pound in Southern Africa. They are found in swift moving waters and rapids. Cab obtain a size up to 13lbs caught a variety of baits from worms, insects and now also targeted on fly. They are found in the Zambezi and its main tributaries.
Recommended camps in Zambia that are good for fishing are: River Club, Lunga River lodge, and camps in the South Luangwa are also good.
The River Club is situated alongside the Zambezi and this will be the best place for Tigerfish and other species such as Cornish Jack, Bottlenose, Nkupe, River bream and Nembwe.
Lunga River lodge is great for a variety of fish such as River Bream, Tilapia species, as well as Cornish Jack and Bottlenose in the slower deep waters of the Lunga River. African Pike can also be targeted in the river.
Luangwa River can be fished in certain areas with the correct permits which can be obtained; our lodges like Kalamu and Chinegwe are not equipped for fishing but if you have your own equipment you could fish for species such as Cornish Jack, Vundu, and Tiger Fish are also caught.
One needs to always keep in mind that in the majority of waters in Zambia you will find hippopotamus and crocodile. Wading in the rivers or fishing from the banks can be very dangerous and is not recommended. It is always best to fish from a boat and the River club and Lunga River lodge are well equipped for this. It is also recommended to take an insecticide spray against tsetse fly and to also take precautions against malarial.