The giant man-made lake bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe is an angler’s paradise famed for its tiger fish
If you believe that there are no tigers in Africa, here’s a quick update. The continent may not be home to the royal felines, but its rivers are teeming with some namesake creatures that draw tourists from far and wide. We’re talking about tiger fish, those stripy creatures with sharp teeth that are regarded by majority as being the best freshwater game fish in Africa.
But before we go about fishing ‘tigers’, here’s a bit about Lake Kariba. Located at a distance of about 1,300 kms upstream from the Indian Ocean, along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Lake Kariba was filled between 1958 and 1963 following the completion of the Kariba Dam at its northeastern end, flooding the Kariba Gorge on the Zambezi River. It is the world’s largest artificial lake and reservoir by volume. The sheer size of it makes one forget it’s a dam and in certain places it almost feels like an ocean!
Lake Kariba offers picturesque views, breathtaking sunsets, boating opportunities, water sports and a host of relaxing options to soak up the sunshine. The weather here is mostly sunny and it can get quite hot in mid-summer. Fishing in the Zambezi can be best experienced between September and May, however, a lot depends on the methods used to entice the fish.
Kariba is experienced best on the Zimbabwe side but the safest approach is from Lusaka, the Zambian capital. From Lusaka, it’s an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive to Siavonga through the scenic Zambezi Rift Valley. You can take the T2 to Chirundu and turn right onto the M15, 18 km before the Zimbabwe border. From Harare, take the turnoff to Kariba and cross over the dam wall to Siavonga. An airstrip does exist at Siavonga but is unmanned.
Back to the flamboyant game fish, the tiger fish must rank as one of the world’s most powerful freshwater species for its sheer aggression. There are several members of the tiger fish family found throughout the continent, the most notable being the Goliath (Hydrocynus Goliath) found in the Congo (Zaire) system.
From an angling point of view, only in the last few years has Kariba’s local strain been recognised by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). In the past, this had clearly put anglers in the southern hemisphere at a disadvantage, as the Goliath is believed to exceed 45 kg (100lbs) whereas the African tiger fish (Hydrocynus Vittatus) only averages between six and eight kilograms. The current Zimbabwean record of 16.1 kg was caught in Kariba in 2001.
Anglers usually opt for small boats whereupon they embark on a drift. Casts are made towards the shore line and at the many dead trees and structures that lie in the river! However, you need some basic skills to catch that big fish. Sometimes anglers are safely dropped off on sandbank and allowed to cast into the moving waters that hold many tiger fish.
Words: Ted Berry