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.
The two species that we have targeted on these trips have been spotted grunter and dusky kob. Both have been targeted on artificial lures, but with quite different techniques and tackle.
These shy and elusive fish are becoming a very popular species to target on lure and fly. While a few are caught on bucktail jigs, soft plastics and even hard baits on occasion, the easiest way to target them is to use surface lures. In the last few years we have been catching a lot of grunter on topwater lures, and this type of fishing has gained popularity, especially in the Eastern and Western Cape.
It is quite interesting to note that this species seems to behave differently in different areas. For some reason grunter appear to be more susceptible to surface lures in the waters of the Cape, and generally ignore them in KZN. This has to be linked to their feeding, and what triggers the strike response. There are a number of differences in food sources in the two areas. Most significantly the presence of mudprawn and swimming prawn in the Cape rivers, which are rare or absent in most KZN waters.
Anyhow, regardless of the theories of why they feed this way, there are some environmental conditions that also have an effect on how willingly they feed.
Like all fish, grunters’ feeding behaviour is affected by the temperature of the water that they swim in. They don’t like it to be too cold, and are definitely less aggressive in the cooler winter months. For this reason it is best to fish for them with lures during the summer.
While grunter can be caught on lures in crystal clear water, it is definitely better to fish for them in water that is discoloured. They probably don’t see the lure as well as they would in clear water, and there are less refusals. They probably also are more confident and don’t feel as exposed and skittish in discoloured water. Water that is very muddy is also not ideal.
I find that the grunter feed better when the surface is ruffled by wind, than they do when it is glassy calm.
Grunter definitely bite more when there is current running. They will often go off the bite on the slack tides, and can be less aggressive on the neaps than the springs, due to stronger currents over the spring tide period.
Grunter definitely feed more freely during low light periods. Dawn and dusk are far more productive than the bright hours of the day.
Casting the lure so that it doesn’t land on top of fish feeding in shallow water is important. Rather cast is up current from the feeding fish and give it time to drift over them. Fish feeding in shallow water feel exposed and are skittish, it takes very little to give them a fright and for them to leave the area.
When the water is still too low for fish to move onto a prawn bank, they can be caught by working the lure in the deeper water, over the drop off, where the fish should be waiting to move onto the bank. Grunter will eat a surface lure in 1.5m metres of water or more at times.
The lure should be twitched a few times, then allowed to pause for a few seconds. The fish usually come to the lure while it is lying still. Sometimes they hit it with an aggressive smash, much like a Garrick, other times they sip gently at the lure. Quite often there are a few attempts to eat the lure, with some soft swirls on the surface as the fish turns below the lure. Just keep doing what you were doing, if he is going to eat it, he will.
I like to use very light tackle for grunter. It makes it possible to cast the lure a long way, which is a big advantage with spooky fish, and also makes it less likely for the fish to detect the leader or line.
My ideal grunter rig at the moment is:
Rod: Shimano Crucial 7’2”
Reel: Shimano Sustain 3000FG
Line: Sufix Pro 8 14lb
Leader: Double X Fluorocarbon 12lb
Lure: Rapala Skitter-V, any colour will work. I use the pink when it is windy, as I can see it better in the chop at a distance.
Kob are plentiful in the Breede, with some very big adult specimens spending a lot of time in the river.
There are many deep holes and channels where these big fish can comfortably rest when not feeding. There are also a number of rocky ledges, points and reefs in the river, which are great places to fish for kob.
The best way to target kob on artificials in the Breede, is to fish with big soft plastics on jig heads, or large, bulky bucktail jigs. Big sinking stickbaits will also produce bites.
Kob will aslo feed more freely during low light conditions, with dawn and dusk being good times to target them. They should ideally be fished for in turbid water, with less chances of a bite in clear water.
Current is also important to kob, with better fishing around the spring tide periods.
I like to use a light, but strong rod for kob. It can be hard work fishing a heavy jig for hours, but you need strength to lift a heavy fish to the surface at times.
Rod: Shimano Trevala S, 6’3”
Reel: Shimano Sustain 5000FG
Line: Sufix 832 30lb
Leader: Sufix Zippy 50lb
Lures: 7” soft plastic paddle tails or jerk minnows.