Fish of Kariba - The Vundu

Changa Safari Camp • 6 October 2018

A fisherman’s dream begins at Lake Kariba – the world’s largest man-made lake covering almost 5,600 square kilometres.

This expansive body of life-giving water is home to some of the most exciting freshwater fish species known to man, including the famous Tiger fish, Tilapia bream, the mighty Vundu and many others. The lake is one of the greatest places for fishing in Africa -all year round – a major attraction which keeps visitors coming back each year, and also a major reason why many visitors choose to stay at Changa Safari Camp. Catching visitors hook, line and sinker!

Passionate fishermen and women staying with us set their sights on catching a wide variety of fish, including the ever-feisty Tigerfish, the delicious and much easier to attain Tilapia bream or the impressive Vundu – which is sometimes fished as a sought-after prize or sometimes just an unexpected catch.

According to our knowledgeable fisherman and guide, Gregory Kurisa, the Vundu (Heterobranchus longifilis) is a large species of air-breathing catfish found widely in rivers and other freshwater habitats of sub-Saharan Africa, including Lake Kariba. It is commonly called the Solomon fish, tsuni, mazunda, sampa, cur, lenda or certa, depending on which region of Africa you are in.

The Vundu is a protected fish species in Zimbabwe and is therefore a catch-and-release only fish. It is well-known for being the largest freshwater fish in Southern Africa, reaching up to 1.5m (5ft) in length and up to 55kg (121lb) in weight. Few other catches have such a large second dorsal (adipose) fin or barbel, as that of the Vundu. The colouring of these enormous fish can be a light to dark olive brown on its dorsal surface, gradually getting lighter over the mid-body to a light brown to off-white on the belly.

Due to ineffective eyesight, Vundu rely on vibrations and smell to hunt for their food. They tend to stay in deep water, generally surfacing at night to feed on any available food, including fish, small vertebrates or even small animal carcasses.

When trying to catch them, our expert guides recommend using liver, beef or chicken pieces, cow heart or a piece of a brown bar washing soap as bait. These cast an alluring odour for the fish. A long strong single hook with an 80lb mono-trace and a running sinker is recommended, paired with a strong arm as they are known to be incredibly powerful and put up a good fight to reel in.

Once you’ve managed to catch one of these freshwater monsters, Vundu can survive out of water for extended periods of time providing you enough time to weight it, photograph it and release it back into the wild. Vundu can live as long as 12 years.

Our team of experienced and knowledgeable guides are on hand to assist you with fish handling or unhooking and will ensure you are in the best possible position to catch. The famous Sanyati Gorge river mouth – just a 20-minute boat ride from camp – is renowned for some of the biggest recorded Vundu in the area and often the first point of call when fishing for them.

No fishing article would be complete without sharing a fisherman’s tale. This one is taken from expert fisherman and Changa guide Gregory Kurisa.

One day we were fishing for Vundu, and we caught a nice sized one. On the next cast, we thought we had caught a much bigger one because the line was whizzing quickly, and we had to follow with the boat. The line was going round and round and we got to a point of wanting to cut the line. But before we cut the line, the catch seemed to be giving in…

As we got closer to it, I went to the front of the boat with a catch net to retrieve our hard-earned catch. I got the fright of my life when I saw what we had caught. It was a hippopotamus! I quickly bit the line and jumped back in the boat, and the fisherman also fell inside the boat. The hippopotamus happily swam away, not impressed by our measly attempt to catch him.

We almost reeled in much more than we bargained for that day – so I think we’ll just stick to catching Vundu in the future!

If the challenge of catching a Vundu sounds exciting to you, then Changa Safari Camp is the place to visit, and our expert guides will be delighted to take you on a memorable fishing trip that will leave you with thrilling fishing tales of your own that you can recount for years to come.

Don’t miss out on our mid-season special rates (September-October).  Possibly the best fishing time in Zimbabwe!

 

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