Ever heard of the real life – right now rule?
It goes something like, the more fun you make your real life seem, the less you may feel the need to escape from it. It’s meant to help with what people refer to as escapism – ‘an intentional detachment and distraction from the real world.’ Too much of it can have negative consequences. When we fish, we live entirely in the moment! There’s no need to escape when you’re ultimately in love with what you’re doing. So, with that in mind, here are some of the best places in the country to do it. We’ve got it good down in here in Africa!
#1 KZN North Coast
The KZN North Coast is a special place. Winter mornings are all kinds of magic when the fresh south-westerly blows and the sun sits just right in the sky so that it’s not too hot. It’s also one of the best places to go fishing in the country with its rich, warm waters. The KZN North Coast runs from Durban through Umhlanga and up to Kosi Bay on the border of Mozambique. Durban and its surrounding waters don’t offer much regarding game fish when fishing from the beach. Here you’ll find shad, cod and some natal stumpnose. The further north you go, the more opportunity you’ll have to luck into some bigger kingfish, king mackerel and shark. The drive up the North Coast is one of the most scenic around. Rolling hills of green meet tall palm trees and blue ocean. In most of the towns along the coast, you can grab a fishing license from any branch of the national post office.
The money raised through fishing licenses goes directly to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, who manage the coastal resources along this stretch of coastline. The best baits for these waters are prawns, sea lice, chokka, mussels, sardines and other live bait. There are also many beaches protected by shark nets along the north coast so bathing in these waters is a lot safer than you’d expect from such a wild environment. The North Coast produces plenty of rocky outcrops to fish from and here you’ll pick up a few cob, rays and the occasional skate. A wonderful time of the year to head up to St Lucia is during the grunter run, which happens between August and November every year when the conditions are conducive. Deep-sea fishing along this stretch of coast is some of the best in the country. You can find some of the biggest blue and black Marlin, Yellowfin tuna and dorado. Make sure you get the necessary permits to launch boats and for driving on beaches wherever you fish along the South African coastline. The safest places to launch a ski-boat or jet-ski along this coast are the Richards Bay Harbour mouth, Durban Ski Boat Club and Westbrook beach.
#2 The West Coast
The west is best is an endearing phrase often spouted by locals and fans of the region. It’s also true; the West Coast or Weskus is one of the most diverse and spectacular coastal areas in the world. The cold Benguela current that flows along this coastline attracts large marine life in abundance. The picturesque coast has many rocky bays, river mouths, estuaries, harbours, open beaches, deep-water spots as well as excellent freshwater fishing locations. The West Coast is sparsely populated between the main towns of Lamberts Bay, Saldanha Bay, Langebaan, Vredenburg, Malmesbury and Vredendal. Saltwater anglers have it good on the West Coast.
There is plenty of snoek around these parts, as well as kabeljou, elf, yellowtail, sharks and rays. Recreational fishing regulations require that you obtain a permit from an authorised post office and freshwater licenses can be obtained from a CapeNature office, call 021 4830000. If you Drive 250km north from Cape Town, you’ll find Clanwilliam Dam. It’s home to some of the best freshwater fishing, offering smallmouth and largemouth bass as well as carp. The wild west is home to around 25-million waterbirds; it’s got a life of its own that adds a certain degree of hedonism and escape. It should be on the bucket list of every angler in the country.
#3 The Drakensberg Mountains
The Drakensberg escarpment stretches for over 1,000 kilometres and is rich in plant and animal life. The mountains are also home to over 4000 works of San rock art by the San Bushmen. The main attraction for fishermen in this area is the dams and rivers, which are filled with trout, bass, carp, catfish and beautiful yellowtail. The best fly-fishing for rivers is the small but charming town of Rhodes in the Eastern Cape Highlands bordering Southern Lesotho. In the vicinity of Rhodes, you’ll find the Bell, Kraai and Bokspruit rivers, home to some of the best trout fishing in the world. The Wild Trout Association, who organises and maintains the surrounding area, spearheads conservation.
The rugged terrain is now open to fly-fishermen year-round, but the best bet would be in autumn. You can now try your hand at catching the same prize-winning trout during the bitterly cold yet stunning winter in June, July and August thanks to the opening up of the season year-round. Skipping over snow-dusted rocks and logs to catch your prey is a great experience, but please be advised that the rocks become very slippery around this time of the year. Bookings and licensing for Rhodes can be arranged through The Wild Trout Association. There are many other places to fish in the Drakensberg too. Kamberg Nature Reserve is one of them. It has five well-stocked dams along a beautiful stretch of the Mooi River. It’s a great place to catch some brown trout.
#4 The Transkei
The Kei has a checkered past. It used to be an autonomous territory within South Africa, reserved by the apartheid government for the Xhosa people until 1994 when it was resolved back into South Africa. This stretch of coastline is called the Wild Coast for a good reason. It’s considered to be one of the least explored areas in the country and is dotted with shipwrecks. The Kei is often misrepresented as an unsafe destination for travellers, but to be honest the only real danger you’ll encounter while in the Kei is from animals crossing the highway, so take extra precaution to drive slowly during the night. For fishermen looking to tackle the Wild Coast, you’ll be happy to know that there are many spots along this coastline that offer excellent fishing as well as some very scenic landscape to check out. The Transkei coastline is rugged and beautiful, and there is plenty of edible fish around in comparison to Durban’s waters. Species found here are bronze beam, pignose grunter, shad and black mussel cracker.
When the wind is up, the estuaries have some great fishing too. Fishing licenses can be obtained through any local post office. The Kei is a great rock and surf fishing destination, the rocks can be very slippery though so make sure to bring comfortable and durable shoes for the run up the rocks, especially at Brazenhead and its fishing spot the three ledges. Regarding tackle, having a good variety of different setups is a good idea but when fishing a new place, it might be a good idea to use heavy tackle, you never know what you could hook up without there on the Wild Coast. Also be prepared for the long walks down from the hills that rise from the beach. For those anglers looking to take their boats, the safest places to launch are the river launches found at Umgazana, Kei Mouth and Coffee Bay. The Hole In The Wall launch is usually pretty mellow as there are no rocks. There is some excellent fishing up and down this stretch of coastline. Places like Mazeppa and Mnyameni are fantastic. You’ll find some copper rim, blacktail, stone brim and rock salmon around those parts.
How could we leave everybody’s favourite, Mozambique off the list? It might not technically be South Africa, but the accessibility of it is otherworldly. Mozambique is to South Africans what primarily Mexico is to Californians. It’s a sublime holiday destination packed with great surf, friendly people and most important to us, some of the best fishing in the world. Things move at a different pace in Mozambique; the smells are different; everything from the food to the expansive white sand beaches speaks to the soul. The southern border of Mozambique is the easiest entry point for South Africans driving in, and it’s also a great place to get into some action. The warm currents that flow through Mozambique’s in-shore reef structures make for great fishing off the beach and rocks. Fishing from the beach in Southern Mozambique is an excellent opportunity to luck into some kingfish, couta, mackerel, garfish, stumpnose, pompano and in the summer months, small game fish like couta and barracuda.
These can be caught using sardines, squid, crab and some artificial lures if that’s what you’re comfortable with. Some great places to fish off of the beach are Ponta Malongane, Ponta do Oura, Ponta Madejanine and Ponta Mimoli. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after your planned return and if you’re not a South African passport holder, make sure you get a visa before departing. For anglers driving up and planning to launch their boats anywhere between Ponta do Oura and Santa Maria, you need to make sure that you stop at the Maritime office in Ponta do Oura. There you will receive a launching permit and a valid fishing license. To do this, you’ll need a skipper’s ticket, seaworthy certificate, passport and insurance papers. The maritime office will also let you know what fish restrictions and fish limits there are in place at any given time. Also, vehicles crossing the border need the original vehicle registration, emergency triangle and your South African driver’s license. As you go further north, access to everything becomes harder but even more beautiful. Northern Mozambique up towards the Bazaruto Archipelago is recognised as the best destination in the world to catch black marlin between October and January, blue and striped marlin between September and January and Sailfish from June to September. Inhaca, Nacala, Pemba and the Quirimbas Islands are also nothing short of amazing.