All you need to know to become a Better Angler!
Pictures courtesy of top Angler Rudolph Venter
Mudfish / Modderbek (Labeo)
Mudfish are targeted in much the same way as for Carp. The mudfish is a very strong fighter for its size and it is great fun to catch.
Many anglers catch mudfish while targeting Carp in the dams.
Having said that, there are some techniques that will improve your chances of hooking mudfish when they are specifically targeted.
A mudfish looks similar to Yellowfish only their mouth is on the underside facing down.
The name mudfish is derived from their rooting around in the mud for decomposing vegetation and small insects.
Mudfish are packed with small bones and therefore are not targeted for the pan, but rather as a sportfish. Rather Photograph and Release.
They are found in some of our dams but are very abundant in our rivers.
Hooks & Trace:
Mudfish have very small mouths and so one needs to use very small hooks when targeting them. Size 8 to size 12 are recommended.
The preferred rig would be a baby-shoes style rig with two small hooks and a very light running sinker or small bait feeder spring.
They are also targeted using a “float” with the length of the line equal to the depth of water.
The bait needs to be right on the ground. One can attach a small split shot or small lead just above the hooks to get the bait down to the ground.
Bait up, cast out and fish with a free spool for best results.
A small piece of dough can be used as a bite indicator.
Mudfish love Red, so it is recommended that you use Red floroscene or food coloring to tint your feed or bait.
Mudfish feed mostly on bread or a flour dough, this is best made with the water at the fishing spot.
A very small ball or worm-shaped piece of dough or bread is applied to the hook, just enough to cover the hook, the smaller the better.
A conventional ground bait feed can be used or finely ground mielies with the addition of Sweetness, castor sugar is best, also, flavors like strawberry, caramel or vanilla can be added.
Another good additive for your feed is pellets. Don’t forget the Red!
When making your hook bait, use Cake flour, an egg to bind, castor sugar, sweet flavor, Red color and water from the spot!
Lures & Flies:
It is rather difficult to target mudfish this way as one has to get the lure or fly right onto the bottom and into the mud, the aid of a split shot will help.
The lures that have been producing the fish are very small drop shot type baits designed for Bluegill and Tilapia, fished very slowly on the bottom.
Yellowfish / Geelvis (Labeobarbus)
Pictures courtesy of top Angler Rudolph Venter
Yellowfish are found in our dams as well as in our rivers. Yellows are targeted using the same methods as we apply to Carp fishing.
Yellows are a protected species here in South Africa and they are a priority target species for the serious angler especially on artificial baits.
Yellows are a priority catch and release species, they have many small bones so they are not good as a table fish.
Yellows are a great sport fish, giving a good hard fight, especially the river yellows as they battle strong currents daily.
You probably want to get a good camera to capture the moment, or you can shoot a video underwater!
The KwaZulu Natal Yellowfish only found in Natal, is more silver rather than yellow and it is referred to as a Natal Scaley.
It is also in most of the dams and rivers, it sadly also does not grow to the size of its Transvaal, Cape and Orange Freestate members.
There are two main types of Yellowfish, that is Smallmouth and Largemouth yellows.
The best method is to use a free spool or the lightest drag possible.
They have very soft mouths so don’t strike, just lift the rod and begin to reel.
Where in dams:
To target Yellows in dams, one would look for them closer to the inlet, where the river meets the dam and there is a lot of movement and current in the water, usually a very rocky area.
Look for deep pools that have current passing through them, also reeds in the current.
Fish near all the structure and you are bound to get some Yellows.
Yellows do move about so one can find them throughout a body of water as long as the current or stream is detected.
They don’t tend to wander too far from the stream.
Because of the structure that yellows love, we will use only one hook in order to avoid getting snagged each time we reel in.
We use a light running weight or a small bait feeder and a short hook link.
If you are fishing open water that doesn’t seem to have too many snags, then, by all means, use two hooks.
Size 8 to size 10 should do well.
With Pap, Dough or bread use only enough to cover the hook.
Ground bait used can be the same as for Carp or Mudfish, only this time you want to add some green colorant to it as Yellows love Green.
Plain or custard flavors work well for Yellows.
Lures & Flies:
Lures used to target Yellows are Small or Micro Spinners, Crankbaits, and Stick baits.
Favorite flies for targeting yellows are Copper John, Brassie, Hotspot nymph, Diablo, Spider, Beetle.
Colors are Greens, Browns, Yellows, White, and Black. Hotspots in Red or Orange.
It often helps to fish a dropper fly with your lure and when fly fishing for Yellows use a team of flies, normally with a weighted fly at the bottom in order to get them down to the gravel quite quickly.
The Salmo range of lures has been doing very well for the largemouth yellows.
Look for Broken water and structure.
The fish will hold up and feed in water that is broken or choppy as they use this as opposed to smooth calm water as cover from birds.
They will also use the structure as cover and take rest here out of the fast-flowing stream.
Look out for feeding spots. This is normally seen in the early morning and late afternoon when there are hatches of insects in the water.
You will often see the fish “tailing.” This is where a fishes “tail” or a small part of its tail sticks out of the water as the fish sucks up the hatching insects from the gravel bottom.
A fly fishers dream come true!
In the rivers target Smallmouth yellows in the very busy water, rapids or stream.
They will often be found facing upstream taking shelter behind a rock and waiting for the food to wash down to them.
Cast upstream and let the fly flow down, remember to keep as much tension on the line as possible.
A small cork is often used on the line as an indicator in fast-moving water.
Largemouth Yellows are normally in the deeper pools in quieter water.
Look for them near structure: Banks, Rocks, Weeds, Reeds, Tree stumps or Roots.
Largemouth Yellows are better targeted in the early morning and late afternoon or on very overcast days as the pools are normally very quiet and the fish are extremely wary.
Barbel / Sharptooth Catfish (Clarias Gariepinus)
Catfish are one of the easiest fish to catch and great fun at that.
Although Cats are caught during the day, they are more abundant at night so when targeting them it is best to be out camping.
Cats move into shallow water to feed at night on chicks that fall out of trees and also frogs and baitfish that hold close to the banks and in the structure, so one doesn’t have to cast very deep at night.
A great way to attract them is to flick your bait out weightless into the structure and move the rod tip rapidly from side to side in the surface of the water while having the reel set on a very loose drag.
This splashing movement attracts the Catfish and entices a strike.
A specially designed rod called a “Roepstok” can be used for this although it is also done with any rod quite successfully.
You will need a rod with a good backbone and a reel that holds a good line capacity.
You will need a 25lb line or a 20 to 30lb braid.
Fish weightless for short casts or you will need a running sinker or ground bait feeder for long casts.
Use a circle hook preferably between 2/0 and 8/0 depending on the size of cats you are targeting, they have very big mouths.
It is a good idea if you plan on releasing your Catfish, to remove the barbs from your hook as the Catfish do a proper job when they swallow a bait.
More often than not, you will find the hook deep inside its throat.
Using a Circle hook does help to prevent this.
Pictures courtesy of top Angler Rudolph Venter
otherwise, you can use a wide-gape hook such as a bass hook.
Remember when using fish baits or live baits to give the Cat a chance to chew the bait, normally about 30 to 40 seconds.
Barbel will eat just about anything, I have caught them on Tigernuts while targeting Carp on specimen tackle. Cats love tigernuts.
They do also readily take all the baits used to target Carp and can become quite a nuisance when trying to catch Carp when they are in feeding mode.
Barbel loves any form of meaty baits and the more blood and smell, the better.
They take earthworms and just love chicken hearts and chicken or ox liver.
They also go crazy for Platties.
I have also very successfully caught Cats on Steak, cut into finger-like strips and it is normally my goto bait that always produces good results.
For targeting the bigger Cats one would use a number of bigger baits.
Day-old chickens with head, feet, wings, and skin removed are excellent and are normally cast out under overhanging trees.
Groundbait or Feed:
Cats have a super sense of smell and will come from a long way to take your bait.
Ground bait should include some or all of the following: Chicken blood, Livers, Hearts, Gizzards, and intestines.
Catfish a regularly targeted on lures and flies.
Bucktail jigs and drop shot rigs a used most successfully used in and around structure.
Don’t forget to call them with your rod tip!
There is a great number of bream in our waters. here we will discuss some of the more commonly targeted species.
Tilapia / Kurper (Tilapia Rendalli) (Oreochromis Aureus)
Tilapia are awesome table fish and are targeted regularly although they are sometimes caught while targeting other fish.
Tilapia range in size, from small to specimen sizes.
There are a number of different breeds of Tilapia available.
They can be targeted on light tackle and give quite a good account for themselves in the duration of the fight.
Tilapia can be targeted on baits, lures, and flies.
They are quite protective of their territory and their nests and they will attack a fly or lure with super aggression when it is cast into these areas.
They do feed better in the warmer months but can be targeted all year round.
One can use a size 6 or 8 or a size 10 to 14 hook depending on the size of the fish being targeted.
Use a small running sinker or a split shot to get the bait down.
Also, one can use a float, adjusted for depth with a small split shot just above the hook.
Tilapia will take Carp baits but they love Earthworms, Crickets, Grasshoppers, Flying ants, and Shrimp.
You want your bait to be as close to the ground as possible.
If the bite is slow then a good trick is to move it slightly in the water by giving the rod a twitch now and then.
Tilapia will readily take lures and flies when they are fished over nests or in territorial waters.
Fish them close to the bottom with a lot of jerky intimidating action.
Often a lure with a dropper fly will get you a strike.
The Salmo range of lures has been doing very well for the larger Tilapia.
Bluegill / Copper Nose (Lepomis)
Bluegill is a very small fish and is only really good for making fishcakes, so mostly they are targeted for fun or for live bait.
They are very easy to catch and therefore a good starting point for youngsters and beginners to learn to fish.
Bluegill spawns for about 9 months of the year and is normally found in very large schools.
They can be targeted in most of our dams, ponds, lakes, and rivers often in abundance in shallow bays and inlets.
They can be readily found hugging the banks, grass, weeds, reeds, rocks, tree roots, logs, water lilies, swamps, jetties and any form of structure that offers them protection from predators.
One can make use of very light tackle when targeting Bluegill.
Size 8 to 14 hooks can be used depending on the size of the fish being targeted.
The most common method used is a float rig adjusted for the desired depth with a small split shot just above the hooks.
Two hooks can be used here if the structure is not too dense.
For targeting bigger fish at a distance one can use a light running sinker and one hook.
When there are bigger Bluegill around then one can use small pieces of chicken fillet, livers, and hearts or bits of raw meat.
When these fish are in a feeding frenzy and depleting your bait, I found that using a small piece of silicon tube on the hook also works well.
Only the bigger Bluegill are targeted on artificial baits. They have been known to attack small micro spinners and jig baits.
They also readily take a small fly.
Perch / River Bream:
Perch are actually a mix between, both saltwater and freshwater fish, but because they spend a lot of time in freshwater I figured they are worth a mention.
They are mostly held up in freshwater and spawn here, their eggs are swept down the system in the currents and out to sea and then back again into a freshwater system to hatch.
Perch are mostly found in Estuaries, Lagoons, canals, and lakes.
They are very strong fish and give a good fight when captured.
Where and When:
Perch are best targeted early morning and late afternoon or on very overcast days, it also helps if the water is off-color and or a strong wind is blowing.
They love shallow or deep warm to hot water.
They are most common where the water changes from salt to fresh, having said this, they can be found in quite a large area as the freshwater current runs in a stream towards the mouth, providing a mixture of both fresh and salt.
They love to hold up in and around rocks, trees, mangroves, gravel beds, reeds, jetties, and bridges.
One can use fairly light tackle here with a size 4 to 8 hook.
Use either a float setup or a light running sinker trace fished close to the structure.
Free spool or a very light drag is preferable.
Perch love to eat earthworms, Chokka, prawn, crab, and shrimp.
They also eat fry or tiny minnow type fish.
Perch will readily take a well-presented bait as they are very territorial and will protect their habitat with superb aggression.
So one needs to cast very close to structure and having said this, it is important to have a high abrasion leader attached to your mainline.
The better colors here are bronze, clear and yellows.
A micro drop shot is also quite productive, camo worm coming out tops!
For the bigger ones, use a small paddle tail or minnow jig.
“PLEASE remember to practice Catch & Release!” in order to preserve our fish stocks!
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