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10 Jul 2020

#FishEagle: Has the sardine run come to an end?

Sealice Freelancer (North Coast Courier) Picture: Jennifer Everett captured this school of dolphins surfing off Salt Rock last week. The master fishermen swim past their house daily.

A cold front moved up the coast last week, bringing rough seas and chilly weather. The swell began building on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning there was a sizable ground swell and a strong pounding surf. Fortunately, strong surf conditions subsided quite rapidly and anglers were back at first light on Friday. Then the swell returned and surf was ‘smoking’ on Saturday morning.

More sardines were netted at Winkelspruit on Monday. It was hoped that the large swell would move them closer to shore, but that never happened.

I don’t think the sardine run is yet over because it is still too early in July and sardines have been netted along Durban beachfront as late as September in the past. But anglers will soon be hoping for sardines to disappear, because they are a nuisance if fish come on the bite.

The recent slaughter of parrot fish at Chaka’s Rock can only be described as criminal. These beautiful fish keep the coral reefs healthy. It always was the practice to return parrot fish unharmed to water by rock and surf anglers. But it seems this has now been forgotten. To remove these fish from a tidal pool is inexcusable. It is a pity the Natal Parks Board is not still operational.

Rock and surf anglers managed to catch a few fish locally when conditions allowed, but fishing has not yet really come alive. Some small shad were caught at first light but they did not remain on the bite for long. Some were definitely undersized.

The season normally starts from August when the first of the blue shad arrive. Until then, anglers tend to catch the small green (or China) shad. While I struggled last week with heavy sea conditions I did see one nice stumpie weighing 3kgs caught in Umdloti.

The South Coast had experienced some hectic fishing until the rough seas arrived, but there were still a few substantial fish caught. An angler fishing in the dark on the Margate pier managed to catch a daga salmon weighing 27 kgs, using a live shad as bait.

There have been a few decent salmon caught so far this season and even bay anglers have managed a few decent salmon in the 6 kg range.

At one stage shad were going dilly, eating any bait thrown into the water. The guys using spoon caught fish shot for shot and in the excitement no limit catches were observed. Unfortunately, most of the popular fishing spots are crowded and there have been some of the usual shenanigans.

Sheltered rocky outcrops down south produced a few decent-sized fish.

A few copper bream, rock-cod and even small kingfish were all caught by anglers who persevered.

Apparently, some big black-tail like those in the Transkei were also caught by South Coast anglers.

Offshore anglers down south recently caught a few really big yellow-fin tuna plus a few couta, as well as some really nice bottom fish. There are some really big soldiers caught by bottom anglers along with big yellow-belly and spotted rock-cod. Guys fishing deeper have found some big captain fine rock-cod challenging the cracker for baits dropped to the bottom.

I was told by an offshore angler that with patches of sardines in deeper waters just north of Durban, bottom fishing was a bit patchy. But what was caught were all of a decent size.

Rock and surf anglers fishing for shad should watch their favourite beaches carefully. Shad could move inshore at any time from now, so keep a ready supply of bait handy.