The staff here at Leisure Boating enjoy wetting some line as much as the next avid angler and, if you ask me, there are few sensations in this world as thrilling and exhilarating as fighting a big game fish with nothing but a rod and reel. However, we also know that great care must be taken with the volatile fish stocks off our coast and we would like to implore all of our readers to fish responsibly, adhere to stipulated regulations and to know where to draw the proverbial line when the bite is hot.
Dr Nadine Strydom explains the angler’s role in the fast depleting fish stocks and why we as recreational anglers need to practise some sensibility when it comes to our favourite pastime.
Many an angler has approached me while on fieldtrips and asked, “why is fishing so poor these days?” This is a pertinent question, as anyone who has spent time fishing our shores knows that the fish we caught 10-20 years ago are just not around anymore. I usually respond with “it’s mainly over-fishing the stock” and the usual response is “yes, it’s those damn foreign trawlers coming over the horizon at night to net our fish.” I am always quick to reply that it is our inshore fish species that are in dire straits, not offshore species. The fishers of inshore stocks are the ski-boat and rock and surf anglers. This statement is usually greeted with horror and one angler actually said to me that he “refuses to believe that so much damage can be done with a hook and line” – before he stomped off in a huff.
Therein lies the first clue to the answer to the question. Public ignorance is a disease in South Africa, particularly when it comes to the environment around us, be it the content of chemicals emitted by local factories or the imminent collapse of many of our important sport fish species. The sooner anglers realise the cumulative power they carry in their rods, hooks and lines, the sooner we will start moving towards using our fish stocks in a sustainable way. Granted, many anglers stick to the bag limits and minimum sizes, but many don’t. It is this lack of self-control when the fish are biting that aggravates the situation. The situation, however, is far more complicated than non-ethical anglers and, without letting anglers off the hook, it is only fair to expand on the problems underpinning the fish stock crisis we find ourselves in and I will do this by example of the dusky kob, Argyrosomus japonicus.
Dusky kob is a favourite food fish species, targeted by recreational and commercial anglers along the entire coast of South Africa. The dusky kob is a shallow water fish species that relies heavily on estuaries as nursery areas. They are spawned in the marine environment, after which tiny larvae make their way shoreward, locating estuarine nurseries by smelling them out and actively swimming into these habitats by the time the fish is in an early juvenile stage.
They spend about 5-6 years in an estuary using it as a nursery area until they reach sexual maturity, after which they return to the ocean. Dusky kob adults frequent estuaries to feed and build energy reserves prior to annual spawning migrations, mainly to the KwaZulu-Natal coast…