Summer Fishing in the Cape

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It is a new year and summer is at its perfect, sundrenched pinnacle, so what to do? Go fishing of course!

Now to those of you who are fortunate enough to live at the coast, this may not be such a big deal but for the thousands of visitors who are spending their precious few holidays at the seaside, this is what they’ve dreamed of all year. I am therefore dedicating this article slot to all the visitors who will be coming to share the Cape, this wonderful place we call home.

December and January are among the best fishing months of the year in the Cape. It’s a time when the warm Indian Ocean currents wash onto our shores and at least we can swim again. I’m not talking East Coast-warm but Cape Town will at least see temperatures of up to about 20 degrees on the beaches and up to 24 degrees in the open ocean, but you won’t be swimming there…

These warm currents bring with them our summer fish which include Yellowtail, Kob, Geelbek, Yellowfin, Longfin, Big-eye and Skipjack tuna, and a few Marlin species as well, to name a few. Unfortunately, to take full advantage of all these fish you will need a boat and here you have a few options. You can bring your own boat all the way down to the coast, the downside being the schlep of towing it here and then spending precious hours getting to know the area well enough to actually catch a fish before having to tow the boat home again.

Another option is to have a friend down here with a boat and local fishing knowledge. Or you can get hold of a charter boat with a knowledgeable skipper, like me, who can almost guarantee you’ll catch fish because they’re out there all the time. Or you can bring a rock-and-surf rod and fish off the coast. You’ll still catch fish such as Kob, Dassies, Elf (Shad) and if you’re lucky, a Yellowtail.

Because shore fishing is a mode of fishing that can include the whole family, is far less hassle, and a means of getting those kids away from the computers and video games, I’ll cover it first.

Remember, during the summer months the waters west of Cape Point are ice cold while the waters to the east are nice and warm. For surf or beach fishing you’ll need to be able to cast a fair distance and, in many places, have to wade in up to your chest to reach the deeper water. This applies mainly to False Bay and beaches up the eastern side of the coast; the beaches on the west coast are steeper so the back-line breakers are closer to shore.

Casting from the rocks, distance is less important to reach the deep water but beware, our rocky outcrops can be extremely dangerous at times and it is better not to take unnecessary chances just to catch fish. Waves can quickly come out of nowhere, especially on the incoming tides, so NEVER turn your back on the sea; always have someone keeping an eye on it!

The more popular fish you’ll catch during this time of year include Kob, Elf (Shad), Dassies (Blacktail), Leerfish (Garrick), Geelbek (Cape Salmon), Musselcracker (Brusher), Baardman and the odd Steenbras in the warmer waters, and Hottentot and Klippies in the cold water. Galjoen are enjoying a closed season so don’t fish for them and make sure to release those you catch incidentally.

The best baits are Pilchard (Sardine), Chokka (Squid), White Mussels, Mackerel, Sand Prawns, Blood Worm, and live-bait such as mullet, maasbanker, etc. When fishing off the rocks for Dassies and Hottentot you can also use red-bait.

If you decide to try out rock fishing, ensure your sinker is designed for lying in stones and is fixed to the trace, not sliding, so that it doesn’t slide up the line and snag the reef while you are fighting a fish.

You can fish almost anywhere along our coast but you’ll find the best fish in the area where the wind is blowing directly onto the shore. That old adage “fish with the wind in your face” is so true, sometimes it’s really difficult fishing in these conditions but it’s worth it. The wind causes waves which tumble onto the bottom as they reach shallow water, disturbing the sand and uncovering food for the fish. Remember, you’ll need a licence to fish anywhere in South Africa, you’ll also need a licence to collect bait!

However, if you’re serious about catching fish your best bet will be to go out on a boat. If you don’t have your own or a friend who has one, then book yourself a charter – it’s cheaper in the long run and often more rewarding in terms of fish numbers. The best, and probably the safest, places to launch your boat will be from the Cape Boat and Ski-boat club at Millers Point, Harbour Island or Gordons Bay harbour, Hout Bay, Hermanus Harbour, Gaansbaai, and Kleinbaai. Always check out the website first and gather as much info as possible regarding regulations, safety, radio contact and requirements before taking your boat down to launch. Every skipper must be in possession of the relevant Skipper’s Certification and the vessel must have a current safety survey certificate.


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