Fishing the Zambezi: where to catch the action

Wild Zambezi • 6 September 2019

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As the hot spring months turn to summer in September, October and November, sport-fishing along the Zambezi River is at its best - especially for those wanting to pit their strength and skill against the fierce-fighting African Tigerfish.

Zimbabwe's wonderful, wild stretches of this river (including where it is dammed at Lake Kariba) have become a favourite for sport-fishermen and women from all over the world.  This isn't surprising - for two main reasons:-  

1.We have one of the best climates in the world. During the best fishing months, the sun shines every day and a cool breeze on the river or the lake cools the heat as daytime temperatures rise. Evenings are balmy and sublime.

2.  Much of the Zambezi River frontage (especially within Zimbabwe) lies within wilderness and wildlife areas which are protected either as National Parks or Safari Areas. So, while you are out enjoying your fishing, in the best climate in the world, you can also have the most wonderful wildlife sightings.  

The annual Kariba Invitation Tiger Fishing Tournament, held every year in October, has long been an extremely popular event on the angling calendar, attracting teams from all over the world.

The fish of the Zambezi

The African Tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) is a voracious predator (hence the huge, sharp teeth) which attacks with vigour.  This makes for exciting sport.  They mainly prey on other fish, but there are records of them jumping out of the water after passing swallows in flight!  Their beautiful, heavily-scaled, silvery bodies are strongly marked with horizontal black stripes and their fins are a deep orange-red colour.  They are usually caught using live-bait or lures, but are increasingly sought after by experienced fly-fishing enthusiasts.


As they grow larger, these fish are difficult to land because of their aggressive nature and sharp teeth, but they are also extremely sensitive, and may die if not carefully handled and quickly released after catching.  

In line with current ecological trends, most of the sport-fishing along the Zambezi and on Lake Kariba is carried out on Catch and Release principles.  There are also guidelines produced by the Lower Zambezi Catch and Release Initiative for minimising the injuries caused to fish by hooks. 

Apart from the well-known Tigerfish, the Zambezi areas are known for other fantastic catches. 

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.  Vundu are a protected species and so they, too, are caught on a Catch and Release only basis.

These monsters can reach up to 1.5m (5ft) in length and up to 55kg (121lb) in weight, and require considerable strength and effort to land.  

The one pictured above weighed 23kgs (50lb)! 

There are a number of other sport species to be caught in the Zambezi River including Cornish Jack (Mormyrops anguilloides) - below left and Nkupe (Distichodus mossambicus) - below right, The Eastern Bottlenose (Mormyrus longirostris) which has an elongated snout and a tiny mouth, is a popular catch during the rainy season months (December - April).

And of course there are others - several species of catfish, the most common being the African sharptooth catfish, (Clarias gariepnus) locally known as "barbel" and many species of Freshwater Bream - Tilapia -  (pictured below) which are delicious to eat, and extremely popular with fishing enthusiasts of all ages, especially on Lake Kariba.

So - where to go to catch some of this fishing action?

Check out the following Wild Zambezi travel network partners:-



Victoria Falls/Zambezi National Park

Lake Kariba

Mana Pools/Lower Zambezi




Related Wild Zambezi Blogs:-

A dozen a dime - family fun at Spurwing  (Aug 2019)
The Fisherman's Debate  (March 2019)
Fish of Kariba: the Vundu  (Oct 2018)
These are a few of our Favourite Things  (March 2018)
Fish of Kariba:  Bream & Tilapia  (June 2017)

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