I was truly amazed at the sheer numbers of kingfish we saw and managed to catch this summer.
After the rains, I noticed hundreds of juvenile sand gurnards in many of the smaller estuaries.
Live baiting with mullet and Cape stumpnose also accounted for some good fish, as well as a few huge ones lost.
The perch and kob were a bit scarce this summer.
Summer estuary report
With my estuary angling journey still in its relative infancy, this summer once again proved to be highly educational in my quest to master this facet of angling. <BYLINE> By Dean Pretorius
<PIC CREDIT>Dean Pretorius
In late November, the southern coast of KwaZulu-Natal and upper Pondoland was subjected to a sort of mini typhoon, with in excess of 400mm of rain falling in a short period of time. With the floods went all hopes of a good summer season fishing the estuaries in this region – or did it? After the big rains, Mother Nature seemed to take pity on us. It rained very little over the next month and, after a few spring tides, the rivers were once again looking fishable. In fact, in most cases the floods had purged many rivers of silt, opening up the mouths to allow fresh salt water in and, along with it, a host of species that I haven’t seen for some time.
I was truly amazed at the sheer numbers of kingfish we saw and managed to catch this summer. Not always the best of size, even these small fish are great sport on light tackle and every now and then there was a fish of more than 2kg to keep you busy or beat you. What was really encouraging to see was that all four species of kingfish were being caught in our rivers, namely, the GT, bigeye, blacktip and greenspot (brassy). The latter I have never caught in such great numbers in the rivers – this is surely a good sign for the future. Although all the species are often caught in the same areas, we learned a few subtle differences in lure choice and retrieve, preferred habitat, water depth and structure.
Without doubt, the biggest and most dogged of the kingfish found in our estuaries. These fish tend to be more solitary than the other species but are also often found with other kingfish species. We found that the bigger fish enjoy the deeper channels and holes, favouring rocky structure to hide and ambush baitfish, prawns and unsuspecting artificial lures. Lures that really worked were topwaters and poppers like the Owner Gobo Popper, StrikePro Taistick and the Storm Chug Bug. We had great success with our ‘lure of the summer’ – the StrikePro Sprat Stick, a tiny sinking stickbait that flutters as it sinks. Throwing lures into structure and working them back out worked well for the GTs.
Bigeyes, blacktips and greenspots
These fish tend to be found in the same habitat, often shoaling together. The bigeye seems to love reed beds the most, with the blacktip often found in open water. The greenspot also has a penchant for the reeds as well as enjoying fast-flowing water in the rapids – and in particular, at the base of a rapid. I hooked and landed a 50cm greenspot in the rapids at the top of the Umtamvuna River on ultralight braid, a light rod, a Daiwa Procaster 2500 and a little StrikePro Sprat Stick. It kept me busy for all of 20 minutes, using the fast-flowing water to gain every advantage. Whereas the greenspot tended towards a really quick retrieve, the bigeyes prefered the lure to sink, then jerk, then sink again – they often hit the lure as it is sinking. Smaller topwaters are also effective and the strike often occurs when the lures is just floating.
Although April and May are the best months to target this fish, we caught a number of nice specimens in early summer – a good sign for this month. Most of our fish were caught along reed banks and on the edge of shallow sunken rocks and small bays. Once again the little Sprat Stick did most of the damage. Small dropshot (3” McArthy Goldfish), the little Storm Chug Bug, Halco Sorcerer and Halco Twisty are all good bets for this fish. They also tend to enjoy the fall-and-jerk-retrieve technique but will also hit the lure if it is retrieved at pace. Be careful when handling these fish as they are slippery and have sharp teeth. I dropped one and got bitten on the shin – not pleasant.
After the rains, I noticed hundreds of juvenile sand gurnards in many of the smaller estuaries. A few bigger specimens were landed this summer, but the juveniles are a great sign as, personally, I love this species. Best targeted over sand banks or just on the edge of dropoffs, these fish will often take refuge near sunken trees or reef in shallow water. They have distinct liking for the colour chartreuse and bright bucktails or dropshots worked over the bottom produced top results. The Halco Sorcerer bumped on the sand also produced well.
Another fish seemed to thrive after the big rains. We managed to catch number of ‘rockys’ this summer – in fact, this summer has produced the best yet in numbers, with a few great fish as well.
Once again, the Sprat Stick produced a number of fish and a few bent trebles, but we still prefer catching these fish on the StrikePro Taistick – my preferred colour is the black, red and gold. Once again, this lure accounted for some awesome fish. As we are always saying, these fish are structure-orientated – rocks, cliffs, sunken trees and rapids are all good places to look for this fish.
We had good success this summer in fast-flowing shallow water in the rapids, working the topwater from calm water into the fast-flowing rapid. Trawling the Gravy Train Sorcerer along the cliffs also accounted for some fish. Live baiting with mullet and Cape stumpnose also accounted for some good fish, as well as a few huge ones lost.
Perch and others
The perch and kob were a bit scarce this summer; however, they do tend to be more abundant as winter approaches.
There are constantly new rods and reels coming onto the market – this summer was no different. My choice of new rods would have to be the Laguna series from Daiwa – well priced, good looking, light and functional, they are worth a look. The new Daiwa Procaster is an awesome reel for estuary angling; the new graphite frame is corrosion-resistant and the eight ball bearings make it really smooth. For throwing the light Sprat Stick, I used at length the 10lb Daiwa tournament braid – it stood up to everything. The cheaper 15lb Gator 4-weave also fished really well. The StrikePro Sprat Stick was definitely the lure of choice this summer. The Halco Twisty, the Maria Sprat Spoon and the good old favorites – the Taistick and the Chug Bug also did well.<ENDS>
As always I must stress the fact that our estuaries are nursery areas for many of our sport fish. It is very important to handle these fish with care when you intend to release.
- We changed the trebles on many of our lures for small strong single hooks. This worked like a charm, especially on the Sprat Stick as the trebles tend to do big damage, especially to the smaller kingfish.
- Instead of using trebles on live baits, fish one single or – better still – a circle hook. The chance of survival for a roman caught on one of these hooks increases greatly. Removing just one river roman from a small river can negatively affect future catches – rather release it to catch another day.