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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…

For The Umzimkulu Marina by The Sardine News