South African freshwater fishing has become somewhat besotted with catfish of late. Much maligned as a muddy bottom-feeder, this whiskered fish, also known as barbel, makes for lively angling. But the main attractions remain trout, bass, carp, and the feisty yellowfish.

Did you know?

Numerous carp weighing more than 20kg have been pulled out of South African dams.



Freshwater fishing in South Africa is diverse, locating you in some of the most dramatic settings on the continent. Fishing is, after all, about where you are. And in South Africa, you're in glorious mountains, down in golden grasslands and at the side of a pond far away from civilisation.

Then consider the 150-odd species of common freshwater fish in South Africa. They bear names like lungfish, oxeye tarpon, river sardine, mouthbrooder, chubbyhead barb, papermouth, climbing perch, short-tail pipefish, moggel, pennant-tailed suckermouth, spotted killfish and guppy.

You also get your various types of bass, eels, minnows, yellowfish and the legendary catfish, known in these parts simply as barbel.

Formerly much-maligned as a 'slow, muddy, bottom-dweller', the catfish is now a popular South African resident. It has spread all over the country and fishermen like to go after them because they say it's a very smart fish.

Catfish central in the freshwater fishing world remains the Orange River. The best catfish tour you can do is to drift down the Orange River through the moonscapes of the barren Richtersveld. This is where the big catfish live, where the real big fight is.

The South African catfish can live for 10 years, eats just about anything and is preyed on by humans, leopards, crocodiles, storks and fish eagles with strong necks. Fishermen in the know swear by something called a Mrs Simpson Fly for the catching of a catfish.

The sharp-toothed catfish, in particular, is said to be the dinner preference of about half the fishermen you speak to. The other half? They'd rather put him back in the water for the next time.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Fishing South Africa


What will it cost

Fishing at most national parks in South Africa will generally cost between R45 and R200. Trout fishing in certain areas may cost a little more.

What to pack

Fishing equipment can be bought and hired throughout South Africa, but bring you own if you prefer.