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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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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.

You can follow us on Facebook at

We run a YouTube channel at

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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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Hello world!

Welcome to Umzimkulu Online!

Our all-new website is looking like a lot of fun already…

Take a look through our offerings as catalogued in our “online store” at this link, or use the menu above.

We aim to provide you with a one-stop fun-shop where you can put together all sorts of cool things to do, for your family or friends. You could stage a celebration down here on the river with us – somebodies birthday? We do weddings too…click here to read all about what we can put together for you.