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Fishing on The Zambezi River

Fishing on the Zambezi River to the novice or experienced angler is possibly as close as one can get to absolute perfection. But what can one expect to catch and how? What are the best times of year and what are the potential dangers if any?

Our focus on this page is fishing on the Zambezi River in the section above the Victoria Falls.

As all fishermen know it is not only about the catch but it's about being at one with nature and your surroundings. Well what better place can you do this than on the Mighty Zambezi River?

Fishing on the Zambezi

"One of the greatest charms of angling is that of all the sports , it affords the best opportunity to enjoy the wonders and beauty of nature."
J.J. Manley

It is ever changing through the seasons so one visit is never the same as the next keeping you spell bound every time. Wildlife and birds are in abundance and for me nothing much can be finer than a day spent fishing on the Zambezi River.

What You Can Catch

There are over 75 fish species found inhabiting these waters. The most sought-after of these is the Tiger Fish, well renowned as probably the greatest fighting fresh water fish around. It is a ferocious species with a record for the largest catch in Zimbabwe being 16.10kgs out on Lake Kariba.

However, you can also potentially catch three-spot, pink-happy and Yellow-belly bream (Nembwe), Upper Zambezi Yellowfish, African Pike and Silver Barbel.

The gorgeous Yellow-belly Bream (Nembwe) reach over 6kgs (13.2 lbs) in weight and is very popular amongst anglers. It is a great fighting fish and although not as well-known as the tiger fish, this species is relatively common to catch on the Upper Zambezi (average size is 2 to 3kgs). It is a thrill to catch these and well worth any fishing trip.

Vundu is a type of catfish and is the largest fish found in the Zambezi, and can grow as large as 55kg (121 lbs). However the Vundu is only found below the Victoria falls and not on the Zambezi River above the falls.

Fishing on a boat above the Victoria Falls, Zimbabawe

"Lord grant that I may catch a fish so big that even I in telling of it afterwards would have no need to tell a lie."
The Fisherman's Prayer

How To Catch It

Trolling and spinning with artificial lures for both Tiger fish and Nembwe are the standard methods used.

Bottom fishing and drift bait (fillet or live bait) are also 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 tour with one of the fishing companies in Victoria Falls.

Drifting slowly down with the current and casting into the calm backwaters often yields great fish.

The large tiger fish generally hang out in the deep water so drifting with a fish fillet or live bait is possibly the best way to catch one of these fish. Big Tiger fish are not common on the Upper Zambezi, these days. Most likely due to intense fish poaching over many years.

Fishing from the river bank in the Zambezi National Park can be rewarding if you can find the right spot for both spinning and fly fishing. Sometimes giving you that extra mobility to search out fishes in exact spots especially during the very dry season when you can creep up on the shallow waters or jump onto the rocks and cast into the fast flowing current.

Morning fishing on the Zambezi River above the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

"Fish come and go, but it's the memory of the Afternoons on the stream that endure."
E. Donnall Thomas

Targeting Tiger fish on fly is definitely one of the most challenging and exciting experiences any angler can have. Heart stopping strikes are always followed by fantastic acrobatic aerial displays, as the tigers dance across the water's surface trying to throw your fly from their bony mouth (often successfully).

These tremendous fighters swim against the current all day long and are extremely fit. Their fight is unsurpassed by any other fish, so catching them on normal tackle is exciting in itself, but to catch one on a fly rod is beyond belief.

When to Catch Fish

Tigers Fish and Nembwe are targeted all year round, but are particularly prolific from late May through to December.

The rains generally start around the end of November, and with the rain comes muddy water and lots of debris as well as food. As the water levels rise through January many species of fish move into the floodplains to feed and breed.

In May the water levels reach their peak and then start to subside through the next few months until they are again at their lowest in November. It is as these water levels start to recede that one can have some truly excellent fishing on the Zambezi.

The bait fish, normally around June, have to leave the security of the floodplains and make their way back to the main channel, these "bait balls" are followed by the predators, and this is when a lot of action takes place and there is excellent fishing to be had with both lure and fly.

As the water levels continue to drop, the temperatures start to increase and the water becomes crystal clear from August through to November superb fishing of all species is to be had.

Fishing on the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

"The two best times to go fishing are when it's raining and when it is not!"
Fisherman saying

What to Look Out For While Fishing on the Zambezi River

The Zambezi is really in the wild, so there is no getting away from the fact that hippos and crocodiles live in these waters in profusion. Experienced guides however know how to avoid these animals and let them be, so that both man and animal can enjoy this magical place. So don't let these dangers stop you from going rather make sure you go only with someone who knows what they are doing.

If you are fishing on the Zambezi from the bank don't stand on the river bank next to a deep water channel for long periods of time, keep moving every few minutes. But in all honesty your biggest enemy here is the sun, the cool air blowing off the water lulls you into believing you are not getting burnt. So ensure that you have a wide brimmed hat, sun protection cream and even long sleeved shirts.

Mosquitoes won't worry you during the day, but at dusk they come out in full force so if you are going to be on the water at that time make sure you have some mosquito repellent with you.

Who to Go With

There are a couple of fishing companies operating in Victoria Falls. Fishing trips are not cheap and the last thing you want is to be landed up with a guide who has no interest in what he is doing or has forgotten the worms!! Yip that happened to us.

In our view the success of one's fishing trip entirely depends on your guide. Please contact us to book a fishing trip for you with a reputable company.

Fishing trips on the Zambezi include:

• Boat hire and equipment
• Boat fuel
• Captain
• Fishing equipment and bait
• Cooler box with ice and drinks, snacks.
• Maximum 2 fishermen per boat. This is optimum for the best fishing.
Contact us for the current price of full and half day fishing trips.

Prices Exclude

• National park fees - US$10 per person
• Transfers to the jetty and back

A good fishing trip, like a well cooked meal or a well lived life, always ends a little too soon.

Here's an article on A List Of The Top Fishing Spots In Zimbabwe

Do You Have A Great Story, Tips or Advice About Fishing on the Zambezi?

Please Share it with us, we would Love to hear it!

Stories, Tips and Advice From Other Fishermen

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Super Morning on the River 
3 September 2018 Super morning, we were on the river for four hours. Elephant Bull swimming, Hippo, Impala, Bushbuck, Baboon, Warthog.... Almost a …

The legendary Tigerfish 
The Tigerfish (Hydrocynus forskalii) need no introduction with this species being the southernmost and second largest with the current angling record of …

8.5kg Tiger caught in the Zambezi at "Tiger valley" 
Hi , Last week we stayed at Kalizo lodge, about 40 kilos downstream from Katima Molilo, and I caught this lovely 8.5kg Tiger . It was caught at a section …

Click here to write your own.

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