Zambia offers a year-round fishing experience

Zambia offers a year-round fishing experience

Over and above its strength as a wildlife destination, Zambia is known for its fishing. Zambia Tourism says most rivers and lakes carry good stocks of fish, making for a successful day out.  The country is particularly well known for tiger fishing.

“Tigerfish and bream are plentiful in the Zambezi and are extremely popular species amongst fishing enthusiasts. The tiger fish is a particularly sought-after fish for game fishers, as it is known to be extremely difficult to catch,” says Cathlyn Grieb, Digital Marketing Assistant at Bushtracks Africa.

Vanessa Nielsen, Marketing Manager of Safari Par Excellence (Safpar), says a section of the upper Zambezi River that stretches 100km from Katima Mulilo to Impalila Island (where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe all meet), is known as ‘tiger country’.

The river rises for six months of the year, from December through to May, she says, forming floodplains. Annual floods rejuvenate the river system and the river restocks, with everything from crustaceans to insects and fish.

The annual variation in water level can reach 7-8m in Caprivi, says Nielsen, with an annual average of 5m. The water level usually rises sharply in January, with one or more peaks between February and April, before a decline between May and June.

Nielsen says tiger fish are found in the upper Zambezi River year round, despite changing conditions. They adapt their feeding habits according to the ever-changing river levels, water clarity and temperature, and food sources. “This means that we have to change our preferred tiger fishing methods and tackle (trolling, drift baiting, spinning and fly fishing) throughout the year.”

She suggests Shackletons Tiger Fishing Lodge for fishing enthusiasts, as it is half way between Katima Mulilo and Impalila Island. Due to its position in the Matoya Channel, a small oxbow river off the main Zambezi, the lodge escapes flooding.

As for the best time for tiger fishing, Nielsen suggests any time from April to January in this location.

According to Herman Miles, Director of Wildlife Camp Zambia, the best time for fishing enthusiasts is between May and November, with the best locations being in Kafue and the Upper and Lower Zambezi.

Bryony Acutt, Group Head of Marketing for Zambezi Cruise Safaris, states the ideal time for a fishing excursion is between January and April, as well as September through to December.

As for combining fishing excursions with a safari in Zambia, Herman says this is not a popular option, possibly due to distance and thereby the expense of travel between the fishing in the Lower Zambezi and game viewing in locations like South Luangwa. There are flights if the tourist is willing to spend money or time on lengthy road travel.

However, Grieb says many popular fishing spots on the Zambezi are often close to national parks or reserves, thus providing the perfect opportunity to combine a fishing trip with a morning or afternoon game drive.

She adds that there is an opportunity for birding, as many water-based bird species that can be seen on fishing trips are unlikely to be spotted further inland.

According to Miles, the best location for a combination of fishing and game viewing would be the Lower Zambezi.

Zambia Tourism reports that there are few hotels off the main roads, and fewer still in fishing areas, however the tourism board is conducting a drive for more accommodation facilities, particularly lodges in national parks, where good fishing can be had on the rivers.

For those opting for a camping holiday, there are a variety of options. The best months for camping are between August and September, where there is little rain and the nights are warm enough to make for a pleasant outdoor experience.

Zambia Tourism cautions that hippos and crocodiles are found in nearly all Zambian waters, thus wading can be dangerous. Hippos with calves should especially be given a wide berth. The board also recommends insecticide spray against tsetse flies and the use of a malarial prophylactic.

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