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SSouth African freshwater fishing has become somewhat besotted with catfish of late. Once much maligned as a muddy bottom-feeder, this whiskered fish, also known as barbel, now makes for lively angling. But the main attractions remain trout, bass, carp and the feisty yellowfish.
Freshwater fishing in South Africa is diverse, taking you to some of the most dramatic settings on the continent. Fishing is, after all, about where you are – and in South Africa, you could be in glorious mountains, surrounded by 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 dismissed 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 barbel because they say it’s a very smart fish.
Catfish central in the freshwater fishing world remains the Orange River. The best barbel 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 upon 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 barbel.
Centuries ago, local cooks discovered the secret of an overnight vinegar-and-herb marinade, which removes barbel’s muddy taint, and these days the sharp-toothed catfish is the particular 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.
TTravel 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 will cost more.
What to pack
Fishing equipment can be bought and hired throughout South Africa, but bring you own if you prefer. Sunscreen is highly recommended all year round.