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Tommo has fished since he was able to walk. He has been fortunate to guide all over Africa, searching all the rivers, lakes and oceans for those elusive species. For the last nine years Tommo has been the presenter of the TV show Inside Angling, travelling around Africa and filming some great fishing. He writes for a variety of fishing publications and has also published a book called Fishing Yourself Single. Tommo lives on the KZN South Coast.

New toys from Rapala!

New toys from Rapala!

Winter is an exciting time for those of us who love spinning in the salt. Not only are the conditions generally good, but the fish seem to be on the move and are keen to feed as well. 

Something else that is making this time of year special is the new range of lures and colours that have been introduced to the South African market by Rapala VMC.

The designers and developers at companies like Rapala, Storm and Williamson have been busy coming up with new toys for us spin fishermen. They have come up with some amazing looking lures, they just seem to keep getting better!

Shimano has also introduced some new rods and reels, with the new Technium spinning rods and the Speedcast range both sure to be a big hit, as they are fantastic quality rods, and are very well priced.

The Inside Angling online store is the place to browse and look at the various new products, check out the new colour ranges and the prices. The store is the one place that you can find all the products that we use in making the Inside Angling series, and buy them at your leisure.

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The Sardine Run, what makes it happen?

The Sardine Run, what makes it happen?

As I wait for the sardines to make their appearance this year, I started thinking more about the sardine run and what it is all about. Each year during July, we generally get a migration of these tasty baitfish making their way up the KZN South Coast, accompanied by masses of sharks, gannets, dolphins, whales and game fish. The sardines themselves are in fact Southern African pilchards, Sardinops sagax, which form dense shoals and often come in close inshore, and sometimes even wash up on our beaches, much to the delight of fishermen and beach users along the KZN coast. Some years, however, they do not appear and we are left disappointed and wondering what has gone wrong.

There are websites, facebook pages, phone in centres and threads on fishing forums all dedicated to providing the latest information on any movements of sardines along our coastline, and yet still the rumours fly and solid information seems scarce at times. Sources of this information include the KZN Sharks board, dive operators, recreational and commercial fishermen and the general public. Planes and microlights fly along the KZN and Eastern Cape coastline looking for sardine shoals on a daily basis during the peak season. Along with all of the above I have the advantage of being in touch with some of the inshore seine netters, who follow the sardines and make every effort to be on the spot should they make an appearance anywhere along the KZN coastline. Even with all of the above information sources, I have yet to hear of any action along our inshore KZN coast this year at the time of writing, apart from some mixed baitfish off Port Edward in early July and some offshore activity off the Transkei coast. Some years the run just doesn’t seem to happen, and it is interesting to look into what the causes are behind a good year and a bad year with regards to sardines.

I decided to research the sardine run and find out more about this phenomenon in order to better understand it. I spent some time digging around and came away better informed, yet still curious, as there are many contradictory opinions, even amongst respected marine scientists on some aspects of the run. I thought that I would share what I did find out with readers, as it is actually pretty interesting and helps to put some of the myths to bed.

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Winter Estuary Fishing

Winter Estuary Fishing

Winter is officially here, with cold spells having been upon us since mid April already, the fishing in the estuaries has changed from the summer species and techniques to those we traditionally expect during the cooler months.  Some of the summer species have left our rivers, and some have gone off the bite. Others have arrived and can be targeted in different ways. Winter usually means tougher fishing, with less catches, but there are some great fish that are caught during the winter months in Eastern Cape and KZN estuaries.

Winter arriving does not mean that it is time to put away our estuary tackle. It just means that we need to consider a different approach and work a little bit harder for our fish.

The fish that become scarce at this time are species such as River snapper, Perch, kingfish and springer (skipjack). This does not mean that all of these fish have left the system, for indeed many of them are resident in the estuary. It just means that they do not feed as aggressively during the cooler months. River snapper and perch in particular are still in the system throughout the year, they just get harder to catch as they seem to eat much less at this time. Springer seem to be more plentiful in the KZN estuaries during early winter, but as it gets very cold, they too go off the bite and many leave the river to move further north (we assume).

Fish that become more plentiful in our estuaries during the winter months are species such as: kob, garrick and shad. Other resident species such as grunter and gurnard can be caught year round in most rivers.

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Alphonse, a place of beauty and mayhem.

Alphonse, a place of beauty and mayhem.

I was very fortunate to visit Alphonse Island in the Seychelles last week.  Alphonse has to be one of the top five fishing destinations on earth, with the fantastic variety and numbers of fish on and around the atoll.

 

The thing that always strikes me when I visit this amazing area is that it is so much more than a fishing trip. Every day spent on the flats is like doing a wilderness walking trail in a shallow water, marine environment.

 

 

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Breede River Kob and Grunter

Breede River Kob and Grunter

The Breede river has to be one of the few fully functioning estuaries in South Africa. It is permanently open, with a deep mouth and channel, allowing a massive amount of water to move in and out of it on each tide. There is an abundance of mud prawn, as well as small crabs, shrimp and a variety of baitfish living in the system. This makes it very attractive for fish to use it as a nursery area, as well as a place for big adult fish such as kob, garrick and grunter to come and look for food.

 

Being an estuary enthusiast, I have fished this river a number of times lately. I have been fortunate to share the experience with Dr. Paul Cowley a few times, and benefitted from his vast knowledge on the Cape estuaries and the fish that live in them.

 

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My Quest For A Southern Pompano on Lure

My Quest For A Southern Pompano on Lure

In the Trachinotus genus there are 20 species worldwide, which make up the group of fish known as pompano, permit and darts. Of those, some feed by tailing, which means that they tilt their heads down and feed on the bottom, in shallow water, where their tails break the surface. Those ones are generally referred to as Permit. Only 4 of these species have been regularly caught on fly or artificial lure, being sight cast to while they are feeding. These challenging fish have earned a reputation as some of the most difficult and sought after species to catch on fly or lure, and have become known as ‘Holy Grail of flyfishing’ to those who seek them.

 

             There are guys who have spent a huge amount of time stalking and fishing for some of these shy and elusive fish, in various places. Brandon King from Arabian Fly is one of them. One thing that all the permit species have in common is that they are generally found exhibiting this tailing behaviour in specific areas. There are a number of criteria which they require, but one that stands out is that they prefer undisturbed sections of coastline that see relatively little human activity. This is in many cases on remote islands, with large areas of food rich shallow water. In other cases isolated and remote beaches can be home to these finicky fish.

 

In his explorations along the coastline of Southern Oman, where he is based, Brandon has come across a species of the Trachinotus family, Trachinotus africanus - also known as southern pompano, feeding by tailing in the shallows. This is pretty exciting, as this species is one of the largest growing of the Trachinotus genus. It is also exciting, as this behaviour, although witnessed in the past, has never been seen in water calm enough to present a fly or light lure in.

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Brandon King decodes new species of permit!

Brandon King decodes new species of permit!

In the fishing world, possibly the highest achievement that anybody can reach, is to genuinely 'decode' a species. Basically this is to take a species that has not been caught before on fly or lure and figure out how to regularly catch that species using one or both of those methods. Usually this is a collaborative effort, involving a group of dedicated fishermen, who spend time trying to figure a species out. In many cases it is not possible to give full credit to any one angler, as there has been input from a number of guys. A good example of this is the guys who have been trying for years to find a way to regularly catch spotted grunter on fly in South Africa. They are figuring it out, and getting pretty good at it, but it is difficult to give full credit to one individual, as it appears to have been a collective effort, by many anglers over many years.

It is a huge achievement to get this right as an individual, as people have been trying to catch fish on earth in different ways for hundreds of years, and most species have been figured out by now. So when somebody does manage to decode a species and catch the first few himself in a certain way, and then shares that knowledge and experience and allows others to do the same, he or she has made a very significant contribution to the world of angling.

Generally speaking fish that are being decoded in recent times are difficult and finicky species, which have up to now been considered un catchable on artificial or fly. Good examples are milkfish, grunter and permit.

The fish known as permit are those of the Trachinotus genus that feed by tailing. That is, they feed on the bottom, with their heads down and their tails breaking the surface in shallow water. When they do this they can be sight cast to. There are species that have been known to regularly display this behaviour and are caught on fly and lure; T. blochii, T. falcatus and T. anuk. 

Another species, which we get in South Africa, but which we cannot target by sight casting to, due to the rough conditions where it feeds is Trachinotus africanus, the southern pompano.

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The Amazing Queens of Oman

The Amazing Queens of Oman

We were recently invited by Brandon King, of Arabian fly to come and join him in Salalah, Southern Oman for some fishing. Not one to pass up an opportunity to fish new waters, I started packing my tackle immediately. Brandon was excited to have a chance to fish too, as he normally guides his clients and leaves his rod at home. That is the downside of guiding, you don't get to fish very often yourself! 

 

After a lengthy flight from Johannesburg to Doha, then Doha to Salalah with Qatar airlines we landed at 3.45 am. Brandon collected us in his Ford Ranger double cab and drove us to the Juweira Hotel, in a complex of hotels on a stunning marina.  Despite our heavy limbs and bleary eyes, we quickly unpacked our bags, set up tackle, and headed for the boat.

 

Brandon told us that the queenfish traditionally frequent the area during the Omani winter months, from February to April. He told us they had just arrived in the area, and that some local guys had started catching on spinning tackle with poppers from the break wall at the marina mouth.

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Dorado, light tackle fun!

Dorado, light tackle fun!

One of the most exciting things about summer arriving, is the arrival of dorado off the east coast of South Africa. These amazing fish are a firm favourite with many ski boat anglers. They look exotic with their beautiful colours, they seem to be almost perpetually hungry, and they provide a spectacular fight on light spinning tackle.

I always keep a flick stick handy on the boat, rigged with a small lure that can be cast quickly at any sighted fish. Dorado are attracted to floating debris in the ocean and often come close to boats to take a look and see if there are any small food items sheltering beneath them. Most times, if a lure is flicked out near one of these curious fish, they will attack instantly.

I have caught dorado on just about every type of lure in my box, so it doesn't take any specific lure to turn them on, but rather getting one into the water quickly when he is around. I think that a soft plastic jerk shad rigged on a jig head is probably the best all round lure to have rigged and ready. It casts well, sinks if you want it to, and has plenty of attractive movement in the water. I normally go for a 5 inch soft plastic in a natural colour and rig it on a 1/2 ounce jig head.

I would normally rig one on a light spinning setup, such as a Trevala rod and 5000 to 6000 size reel, loaded with 30 to 50lb braid. I do like to use a fluorocarbon leader, as dorado have pretty good eyesight and they are found in crystal clear water. 

The plop of the lure landing is often enough to bring the dorado charging in, and a quick twitch will almost guarantee that it gets inhaled quickly. Dorado are great fun once hooked, running hard and fast and jumping from the water during the fight. The hooked fish is often followed by another, which gets quite excited during the fight and will often take a second lure cast in near it.

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Dorado Facts

Dorado Facts

DORADO

 

Coryphaena hippurus

 

OTHER NAMES: Dolphin fish, Mahi Mahi.

 

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Some tips for targeting Dogtooth tuna

Some tips for targeting Dogtooth tuna

Dogtooth tuna are one of the toughest species to catch on artificial lures. They are restricted to specific areas, they can be moody and disinterested in lures and baits at times, they fight very hard when hooked and are known to cut lines off on rocks and reefs.

The first step to catching these elusive game fish, is establishing where to target them. Doggies like steep drop offs, with deep oceanic water nearby. They can be found in water as shallow as 30m, if there is deep water close by. These fish hang about in the mid water above the reef most of the time, though they can be right at the bottom at times, or on the surface if there is food there.

The best time to target these fish is when the current is moving from the deep water onto the drop off, usually this happens on an incoming tide, but it can also be due to wind or ocean currents. The water hits against the drop off and causes a bit of an upwelling, which seems to stimulate feeding in the tuna. When you are jigging or popping for these fish, you start in the deep water at around 100m depth and drift over the drop off into the shallower water.

There is no need to use wire for dogtooth tuna, heavy mono leader or fluorocarbon is fine. Although they have big, sharp pointed teeth, the teeth have no cutting edge and do not cut the leader. Some people claim to have been bitten off by doggies, but I have never seen that. I think they may have hooked a big wahoo or shark, and simply assumed that it was a doggie. I usually use a leader of 150lb Sufix Zippy or Double X Fluorocarbon.

When drifting from deep to shallow and hooking a dogtooth, it is advisable to immediately move the boat back over to the deep side of the drop off. The fish is most likely to head for deep water, and if it goes over the ledge while you are still on the shallow side, it will cut your line. 

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Dogtooth tuna facts

Dogtooth tuna facts

DOGTOOTH TUNA

Gymnosarda unicolor

OTHER NAMES: Pegtooth Tuna (USA), Scaleless Tuna (USA, Australia)

The Dogtooth Tuna is in fact more closely related to the Bonito’s than the true Tuna family. It falls under its own genus, Gymnosarda. It looks somewhat like a deeper bodied, very heavily built King Mackerel and is a powerful fighter of the tropical Indian Ocean. This species has become more popular with anglers in recent years due to the popularity of vertical jigging and popping offshore.

DESCRIPTION:

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Orange River Yellows

Orange River Yellows

 

 

7-12 October 2016, Tutwa Lodge and  Kalahari Outventures

 

Rods: Shimano Exage Telescopic rod, Shimano Sellus 2pce 7’2”

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How to approach busting tuna

How to approach busting tuna

Yellowfin tuna smash bait on the surface in a spectacular fashion and feeding shoals can be seen from some distance away. There are often birds diving in amongst the frenzy, picking up baitfish off the surface, the tuna smashes usually raise big geysers of white water, and on occasion tuna take to the air, allowing those watching to gauge the size of the feeding fish.

Seeing a feeding frenzy of yellowfin gets the blood rushing and the hands shaking. It is important to take a moment to weigh up the situation before rushing in with guns blazing.  

The first thing to do is for the skipper to check the wind direction, even if it is only a slight breeze. The fishermen should grab the right rigs for casting to tuna, and get into position on the boat. The skipper should then move the boat to a position upwind of the feeding fish. He can then directly approach the shoal, and as he gets into casting range swing the wheel hard to one side, putting the anglers on the side facing the fish. The engine should be switched off at the same time. The fishermen can start casting as soon as the boat starts to make its turn.

The reason for the hard turn is so that the momentum of the boat doesn't keep it moving fast towards the fish. If the boat keeps moving towards the fish, the line will stay slack after casting, no matter how fast you retrieve it, it will be very difficult to get the lure moving attractively in the water and to stay in touch with it. The boat turning 90 degrees actually helps with keeping the line tight on the cast. The wind behind the fishermen helps them to cast light lures further. Very often tuna will be feeding on tiny baitfish and will become locked on to that size, ignoring all larger offerings. The wind behind the boat will also keep the boat drifting slowly onto the shoal, side on, giving the fishermen a few more casts at the feeding fish before the shoal spooks and sounds.

It is often a good thing to have one angler throwing a popper and another casting a small spoon, to see what the tuna are keen to smash.

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Grunter on Rapala Skitter-V

Grunter on Rapala Skitter-V

I went down to PE last week, to fish for grunter on surface lure with my mate Chris Schoulz. I was keen to try the new Rapala Skitter-V lures for grunter and see for myself how they fared. I rigged them with single assist hooks on the back, as Chris swears by this method of getting a better hook up, especially when the fish sip at the lure on the surface. 

I used VMC 7102BN Carp hooks in the number 2 size, snelled on to either end of a short piece of 50lb braid, then looped onto the hook keeper on the back of the lure.

The west wind was pumping when I arrived, but we hit the Swartkops river anyway. We headed for a spot where the tide was pushing water over a mudprawn bank and started casting.

I was very surprised to get a grunter on my first cast. In the past I have put in a lot of effort before getting a fish, so this was a really nice surprise!

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Yellowfin Tuna Facts and Information

Yellowfin Tuna Facts and Information

YELLOWFIN TUNA

 

Latin Name: Thunnus albacares

 

OTHER NAMES: Tunny, Johadiri (Swahili), Jodari (Kenya) Ahi (Hawaii)

 

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Gearing up to spin for yellowfish

Gearing up to spin for yellowfish

Yellowfish are one of the finest indigenous freshwater fish that we can target with artificial lures. There are six true yellowfish species in South Africa, the largest of which is the largemouth yellowfish, found in the Orange/Vaal river system.

Each species has slightly different features, but most are remarkably similar when it comes to feeding habits. The largemouth yellowfish is by far the most aggressive of the family, as it is primarily a fish eater. The others eat mainly aquatic insects, crabs, and a few fish.

 

Yellowfish are considered as threatened, mainly due to habitat destruction, so the utmost care should be taken to look after each and every fish caught, and they should be carefully handled and released to fight another day.

 

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Kilombero Blues

Kilombero Blues

I have been fortunate to fish a number of areas which are unspoilt, undisturbed, and where the fishing remains as good today as it must have been at any stage in history. Last week I returned from another one of these special trips, where we had been fishing for tigerfish in the Kilombero North Safaris private hunting concession in Tanzania. Situated on the outskirts of the Selous Game Reserve in Western Tanzania, this is as wild a piece of Africa as you are ever likely to find. The Concession has over 100km of river to be used exclusively by guests of the company. There are never more than four rods on a river at one time and the fishery is extremely well managed by the safari company and Tourettes Fishing, who manage the fishing side of things in the concession. The two rivers that can be fished in the concession are the Mnyera and Ruhudji rivers, both of which eventually join together. These rivers are famed for producing many tigerfish in excess of 20lbs, a magic mark that I had yet to achieve in my years of hunting those toothy critters.

We flew in to the concession on a Cessna Caravan from Dar es Salaam, and were transferred from the airstrip to the camp on the Mnyera river bank by Des Fourie, the camp manager, in a Land Cruiser. On arrival, we started putting our fishing tackle together, excited by the prospect of fishing for some proper trophy tigerfish over the next week. I couldn't wait for the boats to be ready for our first fishing session, and went and threw a bucktail jig off the jetty in front of the camp. My casts were short, as there were overhanging trees in front of the jetty, but on my third cast my jig was hit hard and I was into a fish that jumped spectacularly a few times, before I landed it, a feisty 8lb tiger. I was happy with that for a start! The tigers in this area are a different species to the ones that inhabit the Okavango and Zambezi river systems. Those are Hydrocynus vitatus, while these are Hydrocynus tanzaniae, very similar, but with less colour and fainter stripes. The small adipose fin of the Tanzanian variety is a blue colour as opposed to the black fin on the vitatus, giving rise to its name of Blue Tigerfish.

 

On our first afternoon session we drifted along a stretch of river not too far away from the camp, casting lures at structure in the form of sunken trees, underwater drop offs and beneath overhanging trees. The river is about 50m to 60m in most places, with thick bush along the banks. There are many big waterberry trees, sausage trees, fig trees, mahogany trees etc growing on the banks and in many areas these hang right over the river, creating shade patches on the water.  On the bends of the river, trees on the cutaway banks have fallen into the water and been washed down into places where they remain in the channel, creating excellent structure for fish to hold around.

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Madagascar Maki Cat adventure

Madagascar Maki Cat adventure

We recently returned from a trip to northern Madagascar, where we spent five days on a liveaboard yacht, exploring some of the areas around the Mitsio islands and Cap San Sebastian. Dr Paul Cowley accompanied us on the trip, as we were hoping to catch a species of kingfish that has not yet been described. This was prompted by a fish that I had caught in the area a couple of years previously and had been unable to get a positive identification on from any of the experts around the world.

Maki Cat is an amazing boat, and is very well run by the skipper, Stefan, a Frenchman who has made Madagascar his home. There were two other crew members on board, Noel the deckhand, and Frederico, one of the finest onboard chefs I have had the good fortune to meet. The boat is very comfortable, with cold drinks, plenty of ice, great food and a good fishing platform, what more could we ask for!

Stefan, our skipper, was concerned about heading North during August, due to the possibility of strong wind and big seas, but we insisted that we wanted to go to that area, as the fish we were looking for had been caught there previously. We sailed North on the first morning and as we arrived at the first rocky outcrop, marking the start of the Mitsio islands, we saw kingfish smashing baitfish right next to the rocks. Sadly by the time we got into range the action was all over, and our feverish casting produced nothing but a few garfish and a brassy kingfish.

We went on into the Mitsios and caught a few bluefin kingfish, bigeye kingfish, GT's, yellowspot kingfish etc, but didn't come across our target species. We spent quite a bit of time jigging with trevalas and light Storm Koika and Slim jigs, which produced a variety of species, 29 in all. This included two new species for me, which was thrilling!

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Storm Gomoku Slim Micro Jig

Storm Gomoku Slim Micro Jig

Storm has come out with a couple of new ranges of smaller jigs for use offshore. I have been testing the Gomoku Slim Micro Jig recently, and have had a lot of fun with it. These jigs are designed for relatively deep jigging with lighter tackle, and less effort than traditional speed jigging.

I have been using mine on the Trevala S series 6'6" medium heavy rod and a Shimano Spheros 6000 reel, loaded with 50lb Power Pro braid. I have been using the 60g models of these little jigs, as I have been fishing in some strong current and at times, quite deep. In fact at one stage I was fishing at 120m, although I must point out that there was very little wind and current at the time.

I have really enjoyed testing these lures. Firstly it is very relaxing fishing, with little effort required. I have simply dropped the jigs to the bottom and then experimented with some slow lifting and dropping, and some twitching movements. The bottom fish have responded well to the lure, with many species having been caught, including my personal best dageraad! I have also caught some rockcod, slinger, trawl soldier, blue hottentot, amberjack, mackerel and lizardfish on the jig so far.

The jig comes with a small assist hook, which is actually very strong. I have had a couple of occasions where I have been taxed by sharks while bringing fish up and had to put massive pressure onto the sharks. I have managed to bring a couple to the boat, including a small mako shark!

I fished the jigs on one occasion with another angler fishing bait on a traditional bottom rig. I outfished the bait rig to the point that the other angler  asked me for some jigs and changed his style! 

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Brands that Support our roam free project

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