Kingfisher report: Sardine news direct from the bait ball

2009-06-20 00:00

Speculation over the past few days that there is sardine activity on the lower South Coast and even rumors that some were netted in the Port Edward area really got anglers aspirations up. At this time of the year there are undoubtedly a few scattered shoals around and could even be shoals of red eye sardines that were spotted but to date nothing substantial has come out of these rumors. However there is some bird and dolphin action down in the lower Transkei, namely in the Bashee River mouth area which for the past few weeks seems to have kept much of the anticipated action.

For anglers wishing to travel, the Transkei is now fishing very well. Shad are being caught at all known spots down there and anglers fishing the upper Transkei, namely the Mkabati and Grosvener areas are finding that fishing with live bait can produce the odd big couta. A few specimens in the 20 kg range have already been accounted for in these specific areas. Apart from the couta there are also garrick and kob around as well as a variety of big sharks at the more well known spots. The river at Port St Johns has also started fishing well, particularly at night where anglers are catching some fair size grunter and kob.

For those of you that don't know OJ and her fiancée Rus, are currently in East London diving in the sardine run with film crews - the dive trip was an amazing opportunity from Gail and Mark Addison.( - the same pair that have made OJ fall in love with sharks. “I didn't think anything could top our tiger dives at Aliwal but the sardine run is incredible!!! It is high drama and completely draining... I LOVE IT! It has blown me away...These little silver fish cause a full scale war. Every morning at 06h30 the Blue Wilderness pilot takes off and scans the coastline for signs of activity and by 08h00 we are at sea taking directions from the plane and getting put in the perfect place to maximise the biggest bait balls. Having read about the "armada of predators" that hunt the sards and now having witnessed it firsthand I can safely say it is a war of epic proportions and it's also not for the fainthearted. The gannets sound like canon-fire underwater and the whales even manage to sound threatening on the surface. Big sharks come out of nowhere and are super bold occasionally buzzing us in the confusion and the common dolphins are expertly coordinated killing machines as they round up the bait balls before rocketing off like large missiles when they go in for the kill. It is thrilling beyond all belief and hard to describe how overwhelming it is being underwater freediving with these chaps amidst the chaos and predatory acrobatics. I have been shrieking through my snorkel and "whoooo whooooing" a lot. It is impossible to try to relax and slow your heart rate down to do proper freediving breathing exercises when this swirling mass of silver and big animals is hurtling all around you.

At this point I must let you know that in our briefing we were warned about the way that the sardines "take refuge around the divers". This is true. You end up involuntarily becoming the bait ball at times and it's impossible to shoo the little buggers away which of course adds to the excitement!

The dolphins are in fact the key to the sardine run. When there are birds but no dolphins the action is scattered with sharks just creating dead zone spaces in between the shoal. The dolphins are the guys that round everything up and actually form the swirling bait balls which the other predators then also benefit from. Rus jumped in at the perfect time on day one to see a Brydes Whale swim through the bait ball with its mouth wide open. The group last week even got to swim with orcas (killer whales) and because of it the Blue Wilderness team made it to the front page of the Daily Dispatch the day we arrived! ITO sharks we have seen some very big Zambezis, Duskies and Copper sharks (never knew Duskies got so massive and full of themselves!). We haven't seen one yet but apparently Great Whites can join in on the action too. Once the sardines have been smashed there are little silver scales that shine so brilliantly and "blingy" in the aftermath that they actually look like stars on a cloudless night amidst the oily, bloodied, feather-peppered water. At this point the gannets have gorged themselves to the extent that they are so stuffed that they can barely take off and the fatties float around like marshmallows on the surface. Gannets are beautiful creatures they have really perfect eye make-up and sweet little faces although you seldom get the chance to appreciate this when they are falling from the sky... I keep getting the "raining men" soundtrack in my head when I see them dive-bombing and obviously adapt the tune to the gannet theme. Hallelujah!

We have seen it all and it is definitely something everyone should do at least once before they die. It has been one of the biggest privileges to be able to experience it in the water and not just from a boat. There are so many humpback whales around and they have been super playful putting on some spectacular performances breaching and slapping the water with their pectoral fins and showing off their tails too. Such a treat.

At this point (day 3 of 6) our bums and backs are shot, we are sore everywhere, have some nasty wetsuit rashes, eggs on our heads from colliding with people in the water and are emotionally exhausted. We are spending pretty much the whole day on the water and have travelled hundreds of kilometres in our dive boat to places like Haga Haga and remote Transkei spots tracking the action. On a "bad day" we see scores of whales at least ten and we have dolphins playing alongside us most of the time.” Thanks OJ for this truly outstanding report, greatly appreciated that you could share your adventure with us.

Locally much of the action has been on the south coast where quite a few good size garrick have been caught, mainly in the Foster Road area at Winkle. There have also been some good catches down at the Sandspit at Port Shepsone. Shad have also moved in at most spots on the south coast and anglers fishing the early morning session are getting their quotas. The Durban area has also started coming into the action as anglers fishing the Durban piers are now getting some nice size shad. The Umgeni stretch is producing some shad as well as some shoal kob and the odd grunter. Peter Gething has sent in this report of his great catch, “I landed this 9.1kg (measured 912mm) cat face rockod on Sunday of Umhlanga Lighthouse. The fish was caught using a Kingfisher Poseidon Magnum 14 ft rod and a Saltist 40H reel loaded with 0.52  line and 1mm Kingfisher leader. Trace was a 700mm non return slide trace with 2 x 10 Mustard hooks. Bait was a whole Mozambique Chokka (from my private collection). The fight took approximately 10 minutes and was landed at 11h50am on Sunday 14/06/2009. I unfortunately am not a member of any fishing organization so the fish would not count, but, from what I can understand, it is a South African record by sum way for shore angling”. As a matter of interest the rock and surf record for a cat face rockod, is 7kg’s, so this is indeed a great catch.


Catch the ESA team doing battle on ESA Saltwater at 7:30pm on Thursday and don’t miss the bass show at 7:00pm every Tuesday on Super sport 1 (unless mentioned otherwise – check your DSTV guide for details) The latest ESA magazine is out and on sale at The Kingfisher for R19.95. This issue it is jammed packed with great features.

"Hier Gaan Ons Alweer" is airing on Thursday evenings on Kyknet, channel 111 at the following times: Thursday 7th of may18:30hr. There will be six rebroadcast as follows: Fri 13:00, Sat 9:00 and 0:00, Mon 13:30, Tue 9:00 and 1:00.This series will run for three months. “Hier Gaan Ons Alweer” is in "Stywe Lyne” as well as "Fish" magazine. Both magazines are doing a series of articles on this fishing series. Petri and his team fish all over Southern Africa, fishing in salt and fresh water and will be fishing with The Kingfisher products, reels, rods, lines lures etc.

Ski boats fishing down at Port Edward are still getting some big couta mainly in the vicinity of Red Sands in the Transkei. Further north boats fishing in the Durban and surrounding areas are mainly concentrating on bottom fishing where some good catches of geelbek salmon and general bottom fishing has been reported. There are still some snoek around and are being caught In the Umgeni mouth and Glen Ashley areas.

The Kingfisher’s trading hours are Monday, Wednesday to Friday 8:00 to 17:00, Tuesday 8:30 to 17:00 and Saturday 8:00 to 13:00.

The Kingfisher at 53, Hunter Street, Durban hosts a free Fishing Ski Clinic on their premises once a month by Markham Pollard. These monthly clinics are there to help beginners and experienced anglers to see what the sport is all about and how to target certain species of fish. It also shows anglers what equipment to use and also elaborates on safety. Over and above this they also hold Rock and Surf clinics run by Ivan Stopforth and a Drop Shot clinic by Lloyd Pereira. These Clinics are very informative and covers all the basics, including equipment, knots, bait presentation, and tactics. To book for one of these free clinics phone the Kingfisher on 031- 368 3903. Any info about fishing, fish caught or competitions in your area please send to or fax 031- 368 4137, attention, Mike. For the latest KZN fishing news presented by O.J., tune into East Coast Radio at 5.40am Monday - Friday.

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