Fishing on the Zambezi River for the novice or experienced angler is perhaps as close to absolute perfection as it gets. But what can we expect and how? What are the best times of the year and what are the potential dangers, if any?
As all fishermen know, it’s not just about fishing, it’s about being one with nature and its environment. Well, what better place can you do that than on the mighty Zambezi River?
It constantly changes with the seasons, so one visit is never the same as the next, keeping you spellbound every time. Wildlife and birds are in abundance and for me nothing could be more beautiful than a day of fishing on the Zambezi River.
What you can catch
There are over 75 species of fish found in these waters. The most sought after of these is the tiger fish, which is reputed to be possibly the largest freshwater fighting fish. It is a fierce species that can reach 15 kg (33 lbs).
However, you can also expect to catch Vundu, Three spot and Yellow-belly bream, Upper Zambezi Yellowfish, and Barbel to name a few of the more common.
Vundu is a type of catfish and is the largest fish found in the Zambezi, and can reach 100 pounds. The magnificent yellow-bellied sea bream (Nembwe) weighs over 4 kg and is very popular among fishermen.
How to catch it
Trolling and spinning with artificial lures for tiger fish and sea bream are the standard methods used. Bottom fishing and drift bait (net or live bait) are also very successful methods.
Some of these methods obviously require the use of a boat, so unless you have your own it is definitely advisable to take a ride with one of the quality fishing companies. Drifting slowly with the current and jumping into the swirling whirlpools often results in good fish. Very large tiger fish usually hang out in deep water, so drifting with a chicken or a fish net may be the best way to catch one of these monsters.
Shore fishing in the Zambezi National Park can be very rewarding if you can find the right spot for spinning and fly fishing. This sometimes gives you that extra mobility to search for fish in specific places, especially in the very dry season when you can climb shallow water or jump over rocks and jump into the swift current.
Targeting tiger fish on the fly is certainly one of the most difficult and exciting experiences an angler can have. Heart-breaking strikes are always followed by fantastic acrobatic aerial displays, as tigers dance across the surface of the water trying to throw your fly from their bony mouths (often successfully).
These formidable fighters swim against the tide all day and are extremely fit, their fight is unmatched by any other fish, so catching them with a normal tackle is exciting in itself, but catching one on a fly rod is amazing.
When to catch it
Tigers Fish and Nembwe are targeted year round, but are particularly prolific from late May through December.
The rains usually start around the end of November, with muddy water and a lot of debris as well as food. As water levels rise through January, many species of fish move across floodplains to feed and breed. In May, water levels reach their peak and then begin to decline over the next several months until they are again at their lowest in November. It is as these water levels begin to drop that one can have truly excellent fishing on the Zambezi.
The baitfish, normally around June, must leave the safety of the floodplains and return to the main channel, these “bait balls” are followed by predators, and this is where a lot of the action takes place and there is has excellent both lure and fly fishing.
As water levels continue to drop, temperatures begin to rise and the water becomes crystal clear from August to November, superb fishing of all species is to be had.
The Zambezi is a real Africa, so it is impossible to escape the fact that hippos and crocodiles inhabit these waters in abundance. The experienced guides, however, know exactly how to avoid these animals and let them do it, so that man and animal can enjoy this magical place. So don’t let these dangers stop you from leaving, make sure you only go with someone who knows what they’re doing.
If you are fishing the Zambezi from the shore, do not stay on the river bank next to a deep water channel for long periods of time, keep moving every few minutes. But in all fairness your biggest enemy here is the sun, the cool air blowing over the water makes you think you’re not getting burned. So make sure you have a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and even long-sleeved shirts.
Mosquitoes won’t worry you during the day, but at dusk they come out in force, so if you are going to be out on the water by this time make sure you have mosquito repellent with you.
The water in this section of the Zambezi above Victoria Falls is very pure and good to drink.
Who to go with
There are a few fishing companies operating in Victoria Falls. Boats and equipment are available on an hourly basis (minimum 2 hours), rates vary but you can expect to pay around $ 50 per hour per boat and if you book three or more hours you will get an hour free.