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Umzimkulu Estuary update April 2021: Come on in, the water is clean!

Umzimkulu Estuary Mouth April 2021

Umzimkulu Estuary update April 2021: Come on in, the water is clean!

Umzimkulu Estuary update April 2021: Finally! After a half dozen false alarms (every time the water cleaned up recently, the rain hammered down and brought more mud), we can as of this weekend, declare clean water in the Umzimkulu Estuary!


In fact, the blue stuff made it all the way up to Spiller’s Wharf yesterday. Another magnificently big tide conforming to the high coefficients typical of this time of the year. The lunchtime low tide revealed many new features about the estuary. Some sandbanks are literally moving around. Yesterday’s low tide in the estuary made any waters up from Spiller’s, unnavigable.

As you can see from this photograph…

The Umzimkulu Estuary at spring low tide and a heavy tidal co-efficient.

Spiller’s Wharf is at the far end of the sandbank. The estuary is only navigable south of this point, at huge spring lows like we are having at the moment.

Fish in the Umzimkulu Estuary

Guests at the Umzimkulu Marina this weekend caught a few river species including perch and grunter (small release candidates). And the rudimentary tales of the ones that got away! And when fishing down at the Block, came back with a few nice legally sized shad, and tales of a barbel. And another one that got away!

Fish out deep-sea

Digby Smith and his mate Smokey Joe shot out on Saturday and before breakfast was over, sent us this pic of Smokey Joe and his really pretty king mackerel, aka couta. Taken right out front of the Umzimkulu Estuary mouth launch.

Smokey Joe out off Port Shepstone, aboard Digby Smiths ride…

Digby has had a couple of these nice fish here now, this year already. And so are many others having a good ‘couta season this 2021. Small fish are coming out in reasonable numbers. Something that stopped happening around here 20 years ago.

Rock and Surf fishing

Shad, shad, and more shad. Literally all under-sized however. The odd last years models are swimming amongst the crowds of juveniles. But getting a little shad out live in the late evenings, wherever the shad were biting, will put you in the game for a kob.

Looking forward to our winter gamefish season, which is getting into full swing right now.

Sardines 2021

Yip! Only a month or two away, and already we have received extremely alarming news of huge congregations of sardines and predators out off False Bay, Cape Town, right now.

Book in at the Umzimkulu Marina for a front row seat at the annual sardine run migration. We are a quick boat ride away from the ocean. Where we can take you out on an Ocean Safari style trip right in amongst the sardine shoals. With predators everywhere!

The Sardine Run starts early winter sometimes, and sometimes they are late as hell, late winter. Get in touch if you would like to experience this natural phenomenon.

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Ox eye tarpon dreaming in the Umzimkulu

Estuary fishing in the Kulu - Ox eye tarpon by Chris Leppan in the Umzimkulu. Come and join us to catch your own trophy tarpon right here in South Africa!

Ox eye tarpon dreaming in the Umzimkulu

So when the photos came out, of the Happy Daze crew onboard their river cruiser down on the Kulu, hoisting a brand new very recently caught ox eye tarpon, I could hardly sleep.

I have seen quite a few of these majestic fish here in the river. And I have been lucky enough to fluke one on a hard trolling lure over a decade ago. The morning early, before we hooked and released that famous fish, I saw a different kind of attack happen in the reeds right near me. The fish showed itself, with huge shoulders and broad fins, as it smashed into the bait hiding in the shallows. All day that day I was left wondering what the hell fish that was.

Then that afternoon, all hell did break loose as we were busy entertaining a barge ride of foreign tourists, down near the mouth area. The fish took almost all the line off the reel in a few tailwalking cartwheeling jumps that took him way off into the distance. It took ages to get him back to the boat and then the party really started. As you can see in the video. That famed tarpon display of sheer aggro and agility. Spectacular.

The fish tired after some time, and was released healthily back into the salty water, to continue their purpose for being here in the first place. Ox eye tarpon are not saltwater fish. They do in fact, live way upstream. But they need salty water in which to spawn and breed successfully. And so this is why they are here right now. To breed.

I have however, also caught a much smaller one, when I was a kid. And I have heard many stories from fly-fishers who used to target these fish under the bridge. Which bridge I dont know. And then Mr. Andrew Olden who also is an Umzimkulu swampie by childhood, mentioned in a comment yesterday, that he used to observe them lolling on the surface! And there is only one reason any fish loll on the surface. Spawning.

This very morning on the jetty

And so, I awoke in the dark, and got the coffee on. I have been fishing with the Mydo SS Spoon, really fast. I like fishing fast and fishing fast in the river is quite a novel idea.

There was little going on early, except the millions of little mullet, that were hiding in the shallows and around the boats. I invested a good 30 casts. Then another 20. In between coffees from my flask next to me. After about 100 of these high-speed surface disturbing retrieves, I was taking another break when I saw something. I flicked to a projected target spot and started my crank. Half way and my spoon was hit twice in a quarter of a second. Huge fins broke the surface as it turned back on itself in an instant for the second go.

My single hook, especially bent out a tad for the tarpons bony mouth, and extremely sharp, never even stood a chance.

Tarpon hook up in a ratio of about 1:15. Yip. You will have to fish really hard to get your ox eye. I am not sure what Mr. Leppan was using when he got his over the weekend, but those guys are putting in the hours throwing poppers of all sorts at the fish. Its an impressive act as the lures fire like mortars and all come back to the boat together like that. By fishing like this, they are actually covering huge expanses of water as they search around.

Fishing options

If you stay with us here at the Umzimkulu Marina, it’s all very easy. Bait is literally on tap (catch your own), and the action is right out front. We literally watch Rory and friends fishing the afternoons away right outside the door.

If you day fish, that works too. We have a choice of boats that will suit you or your group. Or you can fish from the jetty or the river bank.

The options are listed in the Shop, so choose one that will suit you best as you come and hunt for your extremely challenging fish of a lifetime.

Enjoy this fun video of the ox eye tarpon we caught 11 years ago…

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Fishin’s Cool at Fishing School this 2020

Victor and Sean Blacktip Kingfish at Fishing School 2020 in the Umzimkulu

Fishin’s Cool at Fishing School this 2020

Fishin’s Cool at Fishing School has fired up again, this July, 2020. We are following all the rules and have therefore limited slots available. At this stage, we are offering Fishin’s Cool from 9am to 4pm, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Just down from Durban in KZN, South Africa, on the South Coast.

And we have this action-packed video with which to announce Fishing School 2020 with…please don’t forget to Like and Subscribe!

With the clean, clear water of winter moving into the Umzimkulu Estuary, come the kingfish. And the Garrick. The Kob. And the Grunter. To join the resident hunters already inside the bridge. Like the perch and the formidable rock salmon.

What a fantastico spot to run a fishing school!

From the vantage point of the Umzimkulu Marina, and utilising our little fleet of boats, we can strike inland up to the reefs under the main N2 bridge. We can fish the channels and the deep hole, on the way there and back. Or we can head south and towards the ocean. Following either of the twin channels that skirt the huge mudbank in the middle of the wide river. And into the basin, where the oceans energised saltwater comes right in. Bringing all sorts with it!

This is the seascape on offer at the meeting place of the mighty Umzimkulu River, and the mighty Indian Ocean.


This year, we have broken the syllabus down into a set of curriculums based on fish by specie. The ecology and conservation of each species is detailed. With positive steps that can be taken by individuals or groups, for each one.

Our fishing teaching has also changed to accomodate the ethics and values required when fishing in our sensitive environments. We use circle hooks mainly. And all our fish are released, unless in extenuating circumstances. We carry a tagging kit on board, and we use it a lot. We are affiliated with the Oceanographic Research Institutes tagging program.

Equipment and tackle

We provide everything but sure, if your kid has a rod, please let him bring it along. We also have available, on the Umzimkulu Marina online store, all the tackle you or your kid will require.

In fact, the MYDO Fishing Lure factory is on the premises! Check them out online right here.

This gallery, is all of fish, taken at the Umzimkulu Marina, this year only (2020). And there are many more we never photographed at all too!

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Video: Protea Reef in The Sardine Run 2020

Emperor Bream by Johan Wessels at Umzimkulu Marina

Protea Reef in The Sardine Run 2020

Protea Reef in The Sardine Run 2020: Well it’s been a fantastic few days as we had the very well fishing-centered Johan Wessels, of the Fishing Pro Shop in Pretoria, visiting us down here at the Umzimkulu Marina, in Port Shepstone.


His first day was spent catching GTs, shad and sardines – a whole lot of fun in an around the Umzimkulu Estuary Mouth. Trolling and casting lures all day long as we cruised the mighty Umzimkulu aboard our huge river cruiser boat.

Sardine Run 2020: Baby GT by Johan Wessels in the Umzimkulu River Port Shepstone
Another Baby GT by Johan Wessels in the Umzimkulu River Port Shepstone

Using tiny little hard baits an dropshots, even a spoon, will keep you busy for hours as you troll the channels and spin into the banks and ledges along the way.

The shad were so plentiful in amongst the shoals of sardines it was too easy. The garrick were there but they were full of sardines and just being plain lazy. There were sharks in the shorebreak too!

All-in-all, it has been a bumper sardine run which looks to continue as we expect a few more cold fronts to come along an do their part.

Tropical Yellowtail

His second day was a lot more serious as we took to the ocean in the late afternoon and fished into the evening. We were hoping for the elusive geelbek salmon but had to settle for some good rockcod and reef fish instead. But the highlight of this trip, was as we were sounding around looking for showings, Johan dropped his special Gomoku Slow Roller jig to the bottom an went vas straight away! He caught and released three shiny new baby tropical yellowtail in about ten minutes. Until a really big one said emphatically NO, to his 10lb ultra-light tackle.

Protea Reef

Sardine run 2020: Johan Wessels releases another Tropical Yellowtail on the Niteshift
Johan Wessels releases another Tropical Yellowtail on the Niteshift

Then, with Johan’s return to the Big Smoke looming, we spent his last day fishing hard. From very early, we launched out of the Umzimkulu Mouth at first light, and got to our beloved Protea Reef in no time flat on the Niteshift with her new 60hp high thrust outboards. It wasn’t minutes before Johan got his first of two yellowfin tuna. The he got us a bonnie, which was spooked by something big and flashy. Marlin! Since the sharks were all on the backline chasing sardines and bumping into eachother in the shorebreaks – we though maybe. But. Those huge trebles – meant for screaming couta or wahoo, were no good for the flashy fish, an the bonito survived the strike!

In fact, he survived right until we decided rather to use him as chum, as some really huge yellowfin (for our area) broke the surface wildly a hundred metres away. What a spectacle to see those gas bottle size YFT bouncing around on the surface like that! But, without hardly any current for a change, our baits did produce more reef fish, that took our chum baits meant for those huge tunas.

Luckily at least some of this action-packed day was recorded an we managed to scrape this cool 6 minute compilation, including a double-angle of the return through the surf launch.

The Umzimkulu Marina is OPEN for business. Regulations and guidelines apply. But we are stoked to report the sardine run this year is really on with loads of fun an excitement available on tap at literally any beach down here right now!

Possibilities are endless

We will get you and keep you in on the action, we can even take you out to sea to get right in the middle of the chaos! Bring your snorkeling equipment if you have the nerve! Its an amazing experience and the predators really are not interested in divers at all during this festive time underwater.

We have the river cruiser for fishing and cruising the estuary with. The valley is dotted with wildlife all over the place including the fish eagles, otters, turtle and even the odd zambezi shark! We fish for gamefish like kingfish (of which there are plenty right now) grunter, rock salmon, garrick and kob but along the way we are often surprised with perch, flagtail and all-sorts of good bait looking fishies.

Then we have the Niteshift, a 22 ft cat with two 60hp Yamaha four-stroked designed explicitly to handle the river mouth launch here at the Umzimkulu River. This boat is also rigged for night fishing which we love to do. We catch all sorts at night too but mainly we spend most of the time searching for those super-tasty geelbek salmon, which love the sardine run too! They are here at the moment, we have had a few successful outings but the stupid lockdown kept us at bay for the most part, these least few months.

And then last but not least, we have on premises at the Umzimkulu Marina, the MYDO fishing lures factory! Upstairs in the main boat house, we have all that it takes to produce baitswimmers, stripbaitswimmers, livebaitswimmers, luck shots, daisies and SS Spoons. Its a lot fun spending time up in the factory, where we have a collection of tackle stemming back from the seventies, for you to marvel at and draw inspiration from. We can make up lures exactly as you need them, for you and your mates. Or bring your boat and we can outfit the whole lot with the MYDO Fishing System, which featured in the video above.

Get in touch via many ways including Sean on or +27793269671 WhatsApp.

Watch our YouTube Channel right here. This is our Facebook page.

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Sardine Run 2020: the search is on!

Sardine Run 2020

Sardine Run 2020: the search is on!

Well, the same as this time last year, there are sardines everywhere!

And checking back through The Sardine News archives collected from over the years, we are following the same familiar pattern – and the next few weeks historically are the ones that really count.

So, stay posted here and also on The Sardine News.


In the meantime, many nets have gone in. Albeit in the rudimentary wild surf conditions also following in the annual pattern. It’s been a bit quiet as of the weekend.


Well oh well, these guys live for this time of the year. The fish are slow and lazy as their food is so plentiful and they are full half the time. The plentiful baitfish other than sardines have been making sure of this.

And so, Jason Heyne has been in on the action, and this is what I keep getting from him.

Rock n Surf

It’s tough this time of the year since there is so much food for all the fish out there. As said, it ain’t all about sardines. There are red-eyes, mackerel and shad to keep ’em all busy too.

The shad have been popping up all over very randomly.

It’s very disturbing to hear of poachers raping the poor kobbies up on the north coast. But also good hear the many concerned voices all trying to do something at least.

Hopefully they can also help us with the tardy behaviour by fishermen on every beach I visit. Fishing rubbish everywhere, all over the place.

Time to clean this act up by now?!

Deep Sea

Well as can be seen from the spearo’s gallery, ALL the suspects are here right now, even billfish. Sailfish are known to frequent this coastline in May through July, coinciding with the easy sardine prey too.

Those big couta are here. This photo keeps doing the rounds, it’s authenticity propagated by the mask only. And some rumours that it was 52kgs and caught up in Tanzania.

Staying on couta. Some very nice three-year-old fish have been caught in shoals, and also shot by the spearos. Who also reported, as did some commercials up north, that the shoal couta came through thick and strong for a few days. This hasn’t happened here in years and we are really hoping the shoalies come south to visit down here on Protea Reef and surrounds like they used to.

On a very interesting note, Captain Duarte Rato, our Sardine dude from up north, was fishing with his kid off Bartholomew Diaz, when, at 7 years old, he caught and released his first marlin!

It was a tough little guy of about 8 kgs or so, putting it at like almost a year old. It put up a great fight, some of which actually made it to video, and can be seen the following link. Which is all about these baby black marlin and their current proliferation.

A very cool read…


Well ok, I was fortunate enough, in 2017, to be flown by Captain John Marshall, from the Margate Airport, to Port St. Johns, on sardine patrol. I had an old camera along for the ride, and this is how the lush KZN South Coast and the Transkei Wild Coast look from the air.

We saw only one shoal on this flight, and nearly hit a car on the movie-scene-like PSJ runway. Vertical cliff face!

Back to the present, the Sardine Run 2020, and the Umzimkulu Marina. Which is is right in the middle of it all, but only an hour from Durban. We have all the facilities and we are perfectly positioned for your Sardine Run 2020.

The Umzimkulu Marina

Is open for business trips only!

But who knows really with this lot in charge?! We have just had our first guests, who are here on serious business – sardines! Ha ha, they do have work to do though, and so are legit. So can you be! Make up any excuse to come to the coast, and you are in business!

However the rules play out, we are sterile and conform to all the rules. We fish at least one metre apart which is actually a pleasure when the kids are about and the fish are biting!

Our boats are good-to-go. Deep-Sea for salmon and tuna and things. And in the river for rockies, perch, grunter and all sorts.

We can also maximise your Sardine Run 2020 experience with an Ocean Safari which gets you right in amongst the chaos.

Get in touch with Sean on +27793269671 WhatsApp or email to chat about fishing and accommodation options.

We run a YouTube channel right here…, we are Facebook at

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Aiming for a KZN Broadbill

Karel du Plessis with his line class 30lb Africa and SA record broadbill swordfish

Aiming for a KZN Broadbill

Aiming for a KZN Broadbill: Well finally the government has pulled itself towards itself and we have our rights back. This was a very serious infringement, and I sure hope none of us forget about this when voting again. Some of the people in charge are an absolute joke.

Some are not. And a special thanks to all those who went out of their way to teach certain of these ignorant idiocracies at the top, what running a country is all about. Please stay in politics! We need you there!

And now, we are fishing again!

My Dad has been itching at getting out obviously, but this time, on another special mission. We have tried this before, way back in the days when 8 miles out was considered far out to sea. Nowadays we been going 28 miles and more in the quest for those 100kg plus tuna that we know are out there. But this time – we are after that denizen of the deep. The gladiator of the oceans.

The broadbill swordfish!

Brian Lange researching broadbill fishing in a 1991 copy of The Sardine News.
Brian Lange researching broadbill swordfishing in a 1992 copy of The Sardine News. Which covered the Harbour Island Broadbill Classic held way off Cape Town in that same year. Erwin Bursik won that memorable event. Co-sponsored by the infamous Koos Jonker and Francois Stemmet.


Broadbill on the KZN South Coast: Tony Potgieter caused quite a stir down here in Port Shepstone back in the late eighties, when he caught a cute but feisty little baby 5kg KZN broadbill whilst bottom fishing on the Boboyi salmon reef. Then the Harbour Island Broadbill Classic was staged in Cape Town. This was after Nic de Kok got the ball rolling with his knowledge of broadbill swordfish coming out of the Cape Canyons, on the tuna longliner boats way back then. We caught a bunch. I was in the team that got the first broadbill to the boat. I will never forget seeing that monster tail-walking and somersaulting in the full moonlight, 40 miles out off Cape Point. I was 21. Erwin Bursik got the winning fish that first year – and a piece of land in the superfluous Harbour Island development at the Strand back then.

8 Miles out to sea

Is full of sharks. Just after the completely successful and ground-breaking broadbill competition, we launched the Niteshift out of the Umzimkulu on the KZN South Coast, and headed for our then-proverbial horizon. As stated, even 8 miles was miles for us back then. I was in charge of making the traces and setting the lines. My brother Marc was along. My Dad was driving. And we had the all-powerful Glynn Williams with us too. Who hurt many sharks that night before we realised that at 8 miles, which is just off the continental shelf, there were just too many teeth.

Click on the image for the full story…

And we kind of lost interest.

Until recently, when some boats have taken the tuna quest further and further out to sea, reaching even 50 miles and more! And winning. A handful of really impressive tuna have come to the scales over the last few years. Including these monsters by Nitro. Two in two days this guy went!

Click on this link for the full story on The Sardine News.

It opens in a new window. Very impressive achievement, I can still actually hardly believe it happened. I fished here since I was a kid and this was a ground-breaking moment for all of us around here. As a direct result, the horizon has moved further and further out!

16 Miles out to sea

Well, the theory is, that sharks won’t be so resident out here, where the broadbill are. These big game fish seem to all have their very own fun zones, and out at 16 miles, where it’s 800m to 1200m deep, it’s broadbill water. It also is yellowfin, big-eye and southern-bluefin water, and so this mission is double-function in that we may hook a big tuna too.

Crew required

And so we can take two passengers, perhaps three, out with us on these missions. It’s an all-night affair and we can only really go when the moon is black or full. This is when the tides allow us in and out through the river mouth of the Umzimkulu River. It’s very comfortable at these times, and we only go when the sea is flat and we have perfect weather.

The plan would be to come and spend a few days with us down at the Umzimkulu Marina. at around these ideal times. They are on right now, with that huge moon lighting the way for us. And some real full high tides. The next is in two weeks again, on the black moon. Our favourite moon. And then again two weeks after and so on.

My Dad’s boat Niteshift, is a very practical and well built 20 ft Supercat with twin 4-stroke Yamahas. She features a walkaround cabin with two berths and plenty of fishing space. She is berthed at the right in the following image. And right behind her is the way out to sea – under the Umzimkulu River bridge.

Maybe we will come home with a handsome KZN Broadbill!

If you would like to be a part of this unique and challenging mission, please get in touch and we can chat it all through. I am on or +27793269671 WhatsApp anytime.

The Umzimkulu Marina has a Facebook page here, where you can follow us along. We run an action-packed and ever-growing YouTube Channel which you can watch right here.

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The Umzimkulu Marina now offers day visits


The Umzimkulu Marina now offers day visits

Day trippin’ at the Umzimkulu Marina is now on!

Bring your picnic and/or braai goods down to the Umzimkulu Marina and spend the day right on the very edge of nature.

We have plenty of safe parking. A large lush lawned area where you can set up in the sun or under a tree in the shade. We have facilities including toilets and a kitchen/catering area. Which you are welcome to share. We limit numbers so it will never be crowded. There is plenty room however.

Fishing on the Umzimkulu

The fishing in the estuary is super fun. There are plenty small fish to keep the little ‘uns busy all day long. And there are some big fish that swim by too, for the grown-ups. Grunter, perch, rock salmon, garrick and kob are some of the highlights and some more rare species like tarpon and kingfish can also be encountered.

When the water goes brown in the wet season, the catfish aka barbel come down the river and take our baits wilfully. The biggest we have on record was 25kg!

This gallery features some of the cool catches made in the Umzimkulu River recently…


Luckily swimming in the river isn’t really an option as it is rather shallow and muddy. And there are sharks! Yip…zambezi sharks, aka bull sharks, love the river mouth waters. Each year, a few big mommas enter the river from the sea, swimming up into the dark brown flood waters, again of the wet season. These huge sharks then swim right up the flooding river, and give birth?! Just like mammals?!

They pop out 12 or 13 perfect little zambezis, teeth and all, ready for action.

We have caught these zambezis at these tiny sizes – on lure, before. Watch that video right here. And a couple of boats have reported 30 and 40kg models. I saw a 70 or 80kg guy free jumping three times. This guy might have grown up in the river, and his testosterone kicked in at around his age (maybe 7 yrs old). He was jumping all over the place. Right next to the low-level bridge too. Where he was spotted in mid-air by many surprised motorists. We haven’t seen him in a few years though, presumably, he has built up his courage and is now swimming with the gangsters on Protea Reef or someplace nearby.


Yip! Turtles use the river too. Story goes they use the fresh water to clean off parasites and other freeloaders clinging to their shells. We actually see a lot of turtles, of all species, in the estuary system.

Check this guy, he was rolled on his back by the waves on his way into the mouth. And he couldn’t right himself. Luckily the Gallagher kids were nearby and they rescued him with a flip over onto his tummy. Where he said thanks a million and swam right off!

Turtle in the Umzimkulu River
Turtle in the Umzimkulu River being rescued by the kids recently…anything can happen down here on the water!


Even otters hang out down on the Umzimkulu River! And they don’t only come out at night. In fact, we have been seeing two particularly cheeky little guys, playing around all over the river basin. They must be teenagers or something and they have staked claim to my newest fishing spot nearest the mangroves on the far end of the lodge.

Fish Eagles and the other birds…

The two fish eagles, that have lived here with us for the entire two decades we have, don’t only eat fish! Oh no, they also like to eat otter! We have seen a bunch of otters go down as prey to the fish eagles. Some huge ones a metre long. Which the two massive birds feasted on each time, on the sandbank right out front of the lodge.

Photographer guest Sean Prytz was right on location as he and his girlfriend lucked in on the giant pair of birds having a bath in some fresh floodwater. This is was in February…

The Umzimkulu Estuary is flanked on the north bank by the Umtentweni Conservancy. And it is in this hidden piece of nature, that the fish eagles have called home. They are such characters. Sometimes they bite off more than they can chew – we have seen them battling outsized kob and lose the fish back to the water ‘cos it’s too big!

Hadedas grace the flight paths above the river all day long. Hornbills come round all the time. The weavers have luckily checked out of the lodge and moved across the river – they can make a racket! Wagtails are the funniest little guys who have no fear of the dogs (security detail). Cormorants. Egyptian geese. Dabchicks. Are more aquatic birds we see all the time.

And just recently, we got a oyster catcher on the slipway!

Get in touch via our contact page or click here for even more information about the Umzimkulu Day Trippin’ Pass. Or call on +27793269671 anytime to arrange.

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Grunter: reliable and fun fishing

Grunter are also estuary fishing favourites

Grunter: reliable and fun fishing

The Umzimkulu Grunter up at the jetty area at the Umzimkulu Marina, don’t seem to get that big really. Our biggest fish around the jetty were all in one night. Caught on cracker shrimp. All the grunter that one evening were monsters – over 4kg’s (monsters to me). And we all caught so many (all released), that we actually stopped fishing before too long!

But as said, around the jetty, we normally catch small grunter. Like about 1kg or less. These fish are almost big enough to eat, but we tag a few and release them. After giving them a quick lecture about biting suspicious-looking baits. We use circle hooks and that really helps us not hurt the fish at all. They are tough and swim away with spirit every time.

Grunter baits

We use sardine fillets to target these energetic little guys. A running sinker. Some decent leader – the softer the better. And that groovy little circle hook. If you have fresh enough bait, and you bunch your bait up in the ‘circle’ of the ‘circle’ hook, you don’t even need to use cotton. Just cast gently.

However, if you are quick and/or lucky – you will get yourself a live prawn to bait with. The bigger the better. They are easily caught along with the baby mullet, with a good throw of a well-timed cast net. It’s best to bait the water before you throwm for about 15 mniutes, giving time for the message of free chow gets out there a bit. We have been lucky enough to catch tiger prawns up to 8 inches long like this! What a bait – they don’t even last a minute and a big grunter will be onto it.

We get other cool-looking prawns with long claws too. These guys cannot go in with the mullet (live well) as they grab ahold of them by the throat latch as they swim past and that’s that! The femail versions don’t have claws and are plump, often filled with roe too – these are the ones. As thick as your finger and full of zest.

To hook up, just thread the point of then circle hook throuigh once, right at the end of the tail, in the tough carapace skin. Flick that guy out there on the drift and see what happens!

Other baits are fresh squid and prawns frozen from the shop. Those worm thingies if you can find them. Crackers – also a story but well worth the extra effort of getting a few. Sea-lice are great too…I have a feeling sea-lice would be the trick for those big ones down in the cold at the mouth at night time.

Grunter on the circle hook

The circle hook fishing style is actually really exciting. Borrowed from my marlin fishing experience – I get the same buzz when anything comes along and tries to swallow my bait-laden circle hook. It’s such a rush. Because you see – with circle hooks – you don’t strike! None of that jab-jab-jab hit and miss stuff. Nope – the system works like this…since the hook is completely round, at has no sharp point stick outwards. So the fish swallows the entire lot, easily. Even the tiniest strepie or silver bream can get these hooks into their mouth and gut. Now he has your bait, swallowed – just like a marlin will have gulped down his tuna. And he will triumphantly be swimming off – oblivious to the trap sprung upon him.

As he swims away, all you do is gently and smoothly, engage, and up the pressure on the drag. Until you are up to strike, when you can lean in and feel how that hook slides up the fishes insides, without snagging a thing like a J-Hook would – and then flips over in the corner of the fishes mouth, where it engages every time. Well. Every time you get this right that is.

Now you have a grunter (or a marlin), hook perfectly in the corner of the mouth. Where the both of you can argue the fight out fair and square. And then when it’s time to release your fish, the circle hooks come out so very easily.

Tip: if the fish you are encountering, are bigger fish – then you have to immediately change your circle to suit the size of your target fish’s lips. Big fish = big lips. The bite of the hook you are using needs to effortlessly fit over the lip. Or you will not hook up. Heartbreaking when that first run is a blistering one and the hook just flips out and over because it’s too small. Rather have a bigger circle than a smaller one.

Otherwise this happens…from a recent trip out off Bazaruto…got to use the right sized hook!

Big grunter

Ok, now for the big grunter…

Down at the mouth area, of the Umzimkulu – I have seen the monsters with my own eyes. Free-swimming and caught on the beach. Grunter so big I thought they were daga salmon! A metre long and more. Shoaling. Feeding. WIth some trophy fish being landed. There are some very hot grunter hunters down in the mouth area. But man it’s hard work in tough conditions. Night-time only, and that offshore wind comes howling down the river.

But that is what it takes, to get your really big grunter. Sheer effort and will. At that size, they are a lot fussier and harder to fool too. Getting a decent prawn live bait is going to stand you a really good chance. Or some sea-lice maybe.

If a trophy grunter is your gig, come and join us at the Umzimkulu Marina.

Email Sean on or WhatsApp +27793269671 anytime!.

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