Wednesday 13 March 2013

Fishing In Rhodesia

RHODESIA offers the angler the finest range of fresh-water fishing in Africa—in some of the most spectacular and beautiful settings in the world:

Lake Kariba, where 5 100 square kilometres of mountain-framed lake conceals the prince of freshwater sporting fish: the striped and long-toothed Tiger fish.

The Zambezi River, where Bream of different varieties and the giant catfish, the Vundu, share the depths with crocodile and hippo.

The Eastern Highlands, where among the soft, wooded peaks of the Invanga Mountains or the jagged crags of the Chimanimani Mountains, swiftly running streams abound with flashing trout.

Lakes where, in addition to indigenous species, Black Bass not normally found in the tropics have found a new home suitable for rapid growth.

 Much of Rhodesia is a watershed, and from the upland areas tiny springs rise, combining into streams and then into rivers, which flow north to the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba, south-west to the Limpopo, south-east to the Sabi and east to the Pungwe. Along these rivers many man-made lakes have been created, providing ideal habitats for the breeding and growth of indigenous and exotic species.

 In these clear, unpolluted waters over a hundred species thrive. Not all are, of course, of interest to the angler, but there are enough to furnish him with a dramatic repertoire of fishermen's tales.

In Rhodesia the angler may pass from one type of fishing to another in a matter of hours, on highways that link the tourist areas. And, in between his fishing, he and his family can enjoy the natural wonders  of this fortunate land.

While fishing on the Upper Zambezi, he is within earshot of the thunder of the world's largest waterfall,  the Victoria Falls, and within minutes of the Victoria Falls National Park, with its large population of  wild animals.

At Kariba, after experiencing the thrill of catching his first Tiger fish, he can enjoy other exciting  watersports or take time off to visit the slender, 129-metre-high concrete wall that seals the Kariba  Gorge and holds back the world's largest man-made lake.

At Lake Kyle, where the country's best Black Bass fishing can be enjoyed, he is only a few kilometres  from the ancient Zimbabwe Ruins, the remains of a walled city, the origins of which have been lost in  the dim past.

In the Eastern Highlands, superb scenery surrounds him, and here the sparkling streams cascade in beautiful waterfalls. Here, too, there is evidence, in stone walls stretching across hundreds of square kilometres of country, of a past occupation that is now forgotten.

Even while visiting the cities of Salisbury and Bulawayo, he is only minutes away from dams or rivers  that offer good sport

Above: The Zambezi River flows for 700 kilometres along Rhodesia's northern border. In addition to offering  some of the world's finest fresh-water fishing, along its length are the superb tourist attractions of the  Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba and Mana Pools Game Reserve.

Main species of fish in Rhodesia

Over 100 species of fish may be found in Rhodesia's lakes and rivers. Here is a brief guide to those that  will provide the angler with either excellent sport or a tasty addition to the table—or both.

TIGER-FISH  (Hydrocynus vittatus)
 Undoubtedly Rhodesia's finest sporting fish, noted for its striking appearance and fighting qualities. The  tiger fish has a streamlined silver body with black stripes, fins edged with orange, and a hard, bony head with long, razor-sharp, inter- locking teeth. Average size in Lake Kariba is 7 lb. to 9 lb., in rivers and other lakes, 2 lb. to 4 lb. A ferocious predator.

 This is a widely accepted misnomer for many fish in the Cichlidac family, subdivided into Small- Mouth  (non-predatory) and Large- Mouth (predatory) bream. These fish provide excellent sport, are good to eat,  and are widely distributed in rivers, lakes and dams. The main types are:

 Average size in most rivers and lakes 3 lb., but larger specimens are regularly caught in Lake Kariba.  Normally non-predator, but larger specimens omniverous.

RED-BREASTED BREAM (T.melanopleura): 
 Average size 2 lb. Red breast most vivid in breeding season (Nov.-Jan.). Wide distribution. Weed-eater, but also predatory.

 Feeds on minute animal and vegetable organisms. Found in Lake Mcllwaine and in the Zambezi River  above the Victoria Falls. Average weight 2 lb.

OLIVE OR YELLOW-BELLY BREAM (Serranochromis robustus).
 Predatory type. Found in the Zambezi River above Victoria Falls and recently successfully introduced to  Mazoe Dam, near Salisbury. Average size 4 lb..

Other bream the angler may encounter are the Black Bream (T. placida) at the confluence of the Sabi  and Lundi rivers, in the south east of the country, and the Three- Spot Bream (T. andersoni), above Victoria Falls, Banded Bream (T. sparrmanii) widespread, and Green Bream (Sargochromis codringtoni)  above the Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba.

BLACK BASS (Microptcrus salmoidei)
This fish is not native to Rhodesia, but has flourished since its introduction. Up to 8 lb. specimens have been landed at Lake Kyle, and many other dams have been stocked with this popular fish.

MIRROR CARP (Cyprinus carpio)
Although not native to Rhodesia, the carp has found conditions in Rhodesia suitable for rapid growth. 

The second largest carp ever caught was landed at Mazoe Dam, near Salisbury, in 1965. It weighed 53 lb. 12 oz. Not widespread.

There are four varieties of trout to be found in the Eastern Highlands, three of which have been  introduced from other parts of the world and one which has been developed at the National Parks trout  hatchery at Inyanga.

RAINBOW TROUT (Salmogairdneri): 
Most widespread of the trout family and a favourite sporting fish. Fish of at least 1 lb. are usual in the  streams, with larger fish in the dams and lakes. The largest rainbow trout caught in the Inyanga area  weighed 8 lb. 6 oz.

BROWN TROUT (Salmo nul- la): 
Considered by many to be the most wily of trout. In the best streams of the Inyanga National Park these  fish average 1½ lb. The record is 7 lb. 6 oz.

AMERICAN BROOK TROUT (Salvelinus fontinalis): 
Not widespread, but as it is easier to catch than the Rainbow or Brown trout, it is a popular fish with  beginners.

A hybrid from a Brown female and a Brook male. This fish has a very handsome appearance. The best  weight to date, after two seasons, was a three year fish of 4 lb. 3 oz.

VUNDU (Heterobranchus longifilis)
This giant catfish, found in I.ake Kariba and the Zambezi River below the lake, attains a weight of up to 100 lb. Average weights are 40-50 lb. A powerful fighter and the largest freshwater fish in South-Central Africa.

CHESSA (Distichodus schenga) and NKUPE (D. Mossambicus)
Two very similar fish of the Citharinidae family, with deep com- pressed bodies and small mouths. Strong  fighters, providing good sport if fished for with light tackle. Usually weights of 3 lb. (chcssa) and 4 ½ lb. (nkupe) are average, but at Kariba nkupe of 12 lb. have been landed. Found in Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River below the lake.

HUNYANI SALMON (Labeo altivelis)
A good fighting fish, especially if fished for with light tackle. Found over much of the country. Attains a size up to 7 lb.

Other fish the angler will encounter are: Botdenose (Mormyrus longirosiris), average, 10 lb.; Cornish Jack (Mormyrops dtlictosus), average 12-14 lb.; Barbel (Clariasgariepinus), above the Victoria Falls,  grows to a particularly large size, 50 lb. being fairly common; and Vaal River Yellowfish {Barbus  marequensis) up to 7 lb. at Lake Kyle and elsewhere.

Fish Head

Carp: 53lb. 12 oz.
Cornish Jack: 26 lb. 8 oz.
Bottlenose: 22 lb. 4 oz.
Bulldog: 11 oz
Tiger-fish: 34 lb. 3 oz.
Chessa: 7 lb. 4 oz.
Nkupe: 11 lb. 4 oz.
Yellowfish: 7 lb.
Gorge fish: 4 lb. 7 oz.
Purple Mudsucker: 7 lb.
Hunyani Salmon: 4 lb. 12 oz.
Vundu: 108 lb.
Barbel: 35lb. 12 oz.
Electric Barbel: 9 lb..
Mottled Eel: 30 lb.
Tilapia machrochir: 4 lb. 4 oz.
Tilapia mossambica: 7 lb. 12 oz.
Tilapia andersonii: 7lb
(Three-spot Bream)
Tilapia melanopleura: 7 lb. 14 oz.
 (Red-breasted Bream)
Serranochromis robustus: 7 lb 5 oz
(Olive or Yellow belly Bream)

13 lb. specimen caught from upper Zambezi River in 1958 on Hand Line and 5 n. spoon.

Serranochromis angusticeps: 5 lb. 8 oz
(Thin-faced Bream)
Brown Trout: 7 lb. 6 oz.
Rainbow Trout: 8 lb. 6 oz.
Tiger Trout: 4 lb. 3 oz.
Large-mouth Black Bass: 8 lb. 5oz.
Tench (Mazoe Dam): 3 lb.


Indian Ocean Tarpon: 3 lb.
Lower Lundi River
Sawfish: 38 lb.
Lower Lundi River
Zambezi shark: 91 lb.
Lower Zambezi River

It is possible that larger specimens have been caught, but were not recorded with angling societies.

Where to find the fish

Fishing locations are legion in Rhodesia, but the following is a general guide to areas that offer good fishing, are easily accessible on tarred highways, are within easy reach of tourist areas and offer facilities for accommodation.


Above the great Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River offers a wider variety of angling than any other single location in Rhodesia. The rapids and sandbanks, the swiftly flowing channels, sluggish lagoons and over hanging banks offer ideal breeding grounds for many species.

Along the Rhodesian shore of the river (which is the border with Zambia) the Victoria Falls National Park stretches for 55 km above the Falls themselves. Along this bank many fishing sites are provided. One is enclosed and has an ablution block.

On the river, within sight of the spray-clouds rising thousands of metres above the 1 700-metrc-wide, 100-metre-high, Victoria Falls, the angler can pit his skill against Tiger fish, up to eight varieties of Large-Mouth and Small-Mouth Bream, Yellowfish and large Barbel.

Accommodation at Victoria Falls ranges from luxury hotels (one with a Casino), to comfortable motels,to National Park cottagcs and camping and caravan sites. When not fishing, the visitor may view the Falls themselves, fly over them in light aircraft, cruise up the river, or view game in the nearby national park.'


After passing through the steep, inacccssible Kariba Gorge, the Zambezi River flows at a slower rate in a huge 200-kilomctre curve, changing its course from north to east. Here it passes through the wooded Zambezi Valley, where large populations of big game are to be found. At Mana Pools Game Reserve, 450 kilometres north of Salisbury, the angler can combine exciting fishing with game-viewing amongst superb riverine scenery. Tiger fish, Bream, Chessa and Nkupc are prolific, with Cornish Jack and Vundu  also present.

Accommodation is provided at a Tree Lodge, National Park lodges, and camping and caravan sites along the river bank. Anglers are warned to take care, for Mana Pools Game Reserve is well populated with crocodile and hippo in the river itself, and elephant, buffalo and many species of game on the banks and  in the surrounding area.


Good Black Bass and Bream fishing can be had in the Cleveland and Prince Edward dams close to the  city. The dams are under the jurisdiction of the Salisbury & District Angling Society, and permits to fish in Cleveland, at 50 cents per person per day, are obtainable at any fishing-tackle dealer.

Thirty-eight km from the city, on the main Bulawayo road, Lake Mcllwainc provides good Tiger fish, Bream (3 species), Barbel, Hunyani Salmon and Bottlenose sport. The largest Tiger-fish recorded weighed 16 lb. 4 oz., and a Bream of 7 lb. 7 oz. has been landed.

At week-ends, the clubs and boat stations of this national park bustle with activity, but boats can be hired throughout the week. Fishing fees are very reasonable.

On the southern shore of the lake is a game park.

Thirty-two km from Salisbury, on a fine broad road into the hills north of the capital, one of the country's loveliest dams—the Mazoe Dam— offers 3½ km of shoreline from which to fish for Black Bass and Carp, as well as Bream and Yellow fish. The present Rhodesian and South African record Carp was caught in these waters: it weighed 53 lb. 12 oz. This is the second- largest Carp ever officially recorded anywhere in the world. The largest Black Bass landed weighed about 7 lb.

A fee of 25 cents per angler is paid to the African warden who patrols the dam.


At Kariba, amid superb scenic surroundings, the angler will enjoy angling for Rhodesia's largest Tiger fish and Bream, as well as Vundu, Chessa, Nkupc, Bottlcnosc, Barbel and Hunyani Salmon.

Above: Within the Rhodes Motopos National Park, the angler may stay in National Parks accommodation, some of which ovorlooks the stocked dams, such as this lodge at Maleme.


The Rhodes Matopos National Park, with its fish-stocked dams constructed in most picturesque settings,  offers angling for Bream, Bass, Silverfish and Barbel. The main fishing-dams are Matopos on the border  of the park (with all the mentioned species and Carp), Mpopoma, Toghwana, Maleme, Mesilumu and  Mtsheleli.

Maleme Dam, a beautiful 17 hectare reach of water cradled in a narrow valley between wooded hills, is  especially inviting because comfortable accommodation in the form of attractive thatched National Park cottages is available there, as well as very good camping and caravanning facilities.

The Matopos, with its rugged scenery of granite rocks, game reserve where white rhino and a wide variety of antelope may be seen, rock paintings, and Cecil Rhodes's grave, is a concentrated and varied tourist area.
 East of Bulawayo are Ncema and Umzingwane dams (Bream, Barbel, Yellowfish) and Inyankuni dam (Bass, Bream and Barbel).

Hillside Dams, six kilometres south of Bulawayo, are well stocked with Black Bass and Bream. The  Upper and Lower Umgusa Dams, 14 kilometres north of Bulawayo, provide the area's best Black Bass,  Bream and Carp fishing, while Khami Dam, 21 kilometres west of Bulawayo, offers good Bream fishing.


The Que Que district is well endowed with fishing waters. The Umniati, flowing north to Lake Kariba, is  the principal river, and its large tributaries—the Ngezi, Urnsweswe, Sebakwe and Kwe Kwe— offer many  secluded fishing spots to be discovered by the exploring angler. The 580-hcctarc Ngezi Dam in the Ngezi  National Park and Lake Sebakwe (1 518 hectares), in the Sebakwe National Park, have also been  developed as fishing-waters. Ngezi offers good sport for Tiger fish, Yellowfish and Bottlenose, and at Sebakwe, Black Bass and Bream may be found. National Park accommodation, and caravan and camping facilities, are available at both national parks. 

Closer to Que Que itself are the smaller dams of Cactus Poort and Dutchman's Pool, the last-named  being extremely popular. Upstream of Cactus Poort, on the Kwe Kwe River, the Whitewaters Dam serves fishermen from Gwelo, as does the Ngamo Dam: they are stocked with Bream, Black Bass and Yellowfish.

The fisherman will find Rhodesia's waters pleasantly uncrowded, and scenically varied.
Above is a view of Lake Sebakwe in the Midlands area, near Que Que.


Twenty-five miles from Fort Victoria is 91-square-kilometre Lake Kyle, Rhodesia's largest lake after Kariba. Here excellent Black Bass and Bream fishing can be had. Bass over 6 lb. are becoming quite common, while the Bream average 1½ lb.

Among other projects, interesting work is being carried out at the Lake Kyle Fish Research Station on the introduction of non-indigenous species, notably the Vaal River, or Small-Mouth, Yellowfish. This  fish can grow to over 20 lb. in weight and has excellent sporting properties. Catches of Yellowfish have  already been reported.


The angler in search of trout in Rhodesia will find his sport lodged in beautiful surroundings, for most of the country's fishing is confined to the magnificent downlands and mountains on Rhodesia's eastern border, notably in the Inyanga region. The cold, steeply-falling streams and the attractive man-made  lakes (like Troutbeck and Mare) provide an ideal stronghold for Rainbow and Brown Trout, the former  being the most common species.

A constant restocking and management programme is maintained, and when necessary, large numbers of trout fingerlings are released into the Pungwe, Inyangombe, Marora and Mare rivers, as well as into  some of their small tributaries. At the Mare Dam a management programme is maintained to ensure good fishing throughout the season. Almost 3,000 fish were caught here during the last season. Over  4,000 were taken from the rivers, including some four-pounders.

There are also private lakes and streams in the Inyanga area, where visiting anglers may fish on payment of fees. At Troutbeck Inn, the private lake is stocked for the benefit of the hotel's guests.

The Inyanga area offers a choice of hotels, as well as National Parks lodges and cottages, and caravan and camping facilities.

There is good trout fishing also at Lake Alexander, 37 kilometres north of the eastern mountains centre  of Umtali. But perhaps the most spectacular setting for trout fishing exists in the Chimanimani National Park, set high in the Chimanimani Mountains, near the village of Melsetter. Access is on foot (there is no road into the mountains) and accommodation is in a mountain chalet with dormitories. The fishing here is excellent. It is a place for a real enthusiast and lover of the remote and lonely.

Fly only, dry or wet, is the rule for all trout fishing, some of the favourites being Walker's Killer, Wilber,  Wildcat, Coachman, Kemp's Favourite, Invicta and Coch-y-Bondhu.

Fishing other than for trout in this eastern region can be had five miles from Umtali at Fern Valley Lake,  which is stocked with Bream, Black Bass and Tiger-fish, amongst other species.


This is an area that in many ways typifies Rhodesia, for adjacent to each other are vast agricultural estates established on land only recently converted from virgin bush, and wild country teeming with wild animals.

Through this area, less than 1 000 metres above sea level, flow the Lundi, Chiredzi and Sabi rivers. At Chipinda Pools, and below the attractive Chiribira Falls on the Sabi and the Selawandoma Falls on the Lundi, the fishing is good for Tiger-fish, three species of Bream, Bottlenose and Yellowfish. At theconfluence of the Sabi and Lundi the river widens and here Tarpon and Sawfish have been occasionally caught.

Much of the fishing in the Low- veld is within the Gona-re-Zhou Game Reserve, where caravan and camping facilities are available. The nearest hotel is at Chiredzi, within 24 kilometres of some of the fishing waters.

Fishing clubs

There are 56 angling clubs in Rhodesia, representing 10 000 individual fishermen. The largest club is the Rhodesia Angling Society, with its headquarters in Bulawayo, which has an estimated membership of 4 000. The national body is the Rhodesia National Anglers' Union.

The visiting angler may well wish to contact the angling clubs along his route, for there is no substitute for local knowledge of fishing conditions and locations. The visitor will find he always receives a warm welcome.

Some clubs have private premises on lakes and rivers, and also control stretches of good fishing water near the towns and cities. To mention a few: Salisbury and District Angling Society have premises at Lake Mcllwainc, Fort Victoria and District Angling Club at Lake Kyle, Wankie Angling Club at the confluence of the Zambezi and Deka rivers, and the Rhodesian Anglers' Union at Charara, near Kariba town.

Thanks to Boet van der Walt
for the clipart
Fishing seasons and licences

Only for trout fishing is there a set fishing season in Rhodesia. In lakes and rivers outside the trout fishing areas the "season" is determined by the climate. As the weather becomes colder, the fish require less food, and "go off the bite". However, due to the variations in altitude in Rhodesia, even in the middle of winter the temperatures at Lake Kariba, the Zambezi River below the lake, and the South- Eastern Lowveld are high enough to allow year-round sport.

The trout fishing season at Inyanga is: in Mare Dam from 1st September to 31st May; in the rivers and streams from 1st November to 31st May. In the Chimanimani National Park the season runs from 1st October to 30th April.

The "winter", or cool season, in Rhodesia is from the middle of May to the middle of August. Trout fishing in Rhodesia is the cheapest in the world.

At Inyanga the charges are: daily, 50 cents; weekly, $2; monthly, $4 and yearly, $6. At the Chimanimani National Park the charges are: daily, $1; weekly, $4; and monthly, $8.

Permits are available from the local wardens' offices at Inyanga and Melsetter.

Fishing in the Zambezi River along its complete length (including Lake Kariba) is free.

At Lake Mcllwaine, Lake Kyle, the Matopos dams and other waters within national parks, permits areavailable from the local warden or game scouts who patrol the shores. Charges for fishing in these waters are (approximately): per day, 20 cents; per week, $I; per month, $2; and per year, $4.

Near the towns and cities there are private dams and stretches of rivers which are leased by fishing clubs. Details of these and the nominal charges imposed are available from tackle shops in the individual areas.

Trout hatchery

Fishery research and development is carried out in Rhodesia by the Department of National Parks and Wild Life Management. One of the most fascinating aspects of their work is undertaken at the Trout Hatchery just downstream from the Mare Dam, in the Rhodes Inyanga National Park.

Here, in large ponds, thousands of Rainbow, Brown and Brook trout are reared, for release into national park waters and private lakes. The public is permitted to visit the hatchery on Mondays to Fridays at 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays at 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The sight of the water being lashed into a foam by a thousand fish as food pellets are thrown into the ponds is something to be remembered.

The Department also maintains a Fisheries Research Institute at Kariba, and fish research stations at Lake Kyle and the Matopos.

 A fascinating sight for any ardent fisherman: thousands of trout fingerlings in one of the grading ponds at the National Parks trout hatchery in the Rhodes Inyanga National Park. Thou-sands of fish are reared here for release into the park's many streams and rivers and the Mare Dam.

International fishing competitions

There are two major international angling tournaments held in Rhodesia each year. Both are team events.

At Kariba there is tournament exclusively for Tiger fish and at Lake Kyle a similar contest for Black Bass.

The International Tiger-Fish Tournament is held each year towards the end of September at the Rhodesia National Anglers' Union site at Charara, a few miles from the town of Kariba.

During the 1970 contest, 348 anglers from many countries participated. The average catch of Tiger fish during the three-day contest is over 5,000 lb., and the largest Tiger-fish caught during any contest was a 20 lb. 2 oz. specimen landed in 1964.

Details of the tournament are available from the Secretary, International Tiger Fish Tournament P.O. Box 8062, Causeway, Salisbury.

At Lake Kyle, near Fort Victoria and the Zimbabwe Ruins, the 1971 Kyle International Bass Fishing Tournament is being held towards the end of July. During the 1970 tournament 288 anglers took part, catching 822 lb. of Black Bass. The largest specimen caught was 6 lb.½ oz.

Details of the tournament are available from the Director, Fort Victoria/ Zimbabwe Publicity Association, P.O. Box 340, Fort Victoria.

Rhodesia is basically a very healthy country to visit, as the large, permanent European population will  testify to. However, it does lie within the tropics in a continent that has certain endemic diseases. With  reasonable care, no-one need fear that he will contract any of these, but the following are brought to the  visitor's notice.

Bilharzia is a parasitic disease. Certain water snails found in water near the shores of all lakes, dams  and rivers below 1 800 metres act as hosts to the parasite which pass into the water. The parasite enters man through his skin when he swims in infected water, drinks it, or comes into contact with it. In some cases there are no symptoms, but there are standard tests to see if the disease is present. The cure consists of  a single intramuscular injection.

Needless to say, all water in towns, hotels and swimming pools is either from purified central water  supplies or boreholes tapping underground water sources, and is therefore perfectly safe for swimming and drinking.

On the Zambezi River, a few kilometres above the Victoria Falls.

Lake Kyle is Rhodesia's premier Black Bass fishing venue.

A Vundu, caught at Msuna, Kariba West.


Source: Rhodesia Calls, May - June 1971 made available by Denise Taylor.
Thanks Denise.
Extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris for use on "Our Rhodesian Heritage" blog.

Thanks to the author, the photographer, the publishers for the use of their material.
Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

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At 14 October 2013 at 13:20 , Blogger Abbey Inn Cedar said...

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