by Nicolette Jacobi
Anglers are always trying their luck – predicting what the waters will give them today and finding the best place to catch the big one. The Namibian fishing waters has something to do with luck, but on the other hand, not.
Rock-and-surf angling hardly needs an introduction to visitors to the Namibian coast, as the practice has been going on for many years. Ever since the old recreational campsites were demarcated by the previous administration in the last century, visitors acknowledged that the fishing waters off the Namibian coast were among the best to be found.
Every year during the Easter Holidays and Christmas recess, thousands of Namibians visit their holiday homes, rented flats, chalets and camping sites along the coast at Henties Bay, Swakopmund, Long Beach, Walvis Bay and in the far north at Mile 108, Terrace and Torra Bay. Blessed with wonderfully sunny days and diminishing south-western winds at night, a camping site along the Namibian coast is simply a magnificent choice for a December outing.
While angling in this day and age, according to the fundies, is mediocre at best – they contend that the days when men told stories of really big ones caught at the high- or low-water mark are gone. However, off the Namibian coast, steenbras, galjoen, kabeljou and blacktail are still there for the taking, all, of course, according to a set of rules designed to preserve the Namibian sport-fishing industry.
A variation of sport-fishing species that are sometimes tagged and released, are also being hunted in Namibian waters.
South African tourists target especially the edible fish. During the season, just after local holidaymakers have left the coast, these travellers come in their droves to catch kabeljou. The so-called kabeljou run traditionally starts in the north sometime in February and ends in the Sandwich Harbour breeding area in late April or early May. The popular belief is that only a month later – from the end of May until July – the fat galjoen is out there.
A strong industry has developed around rock-and-surf angling, including boating trips to areas where hunting fish such as snoek can be found offshore. Proof of the confidence in the industry lies in stocking up with the latest in angling gear by investment shopkeepers and utility stores along the coast.
Anglers must be aware of the rules and regulations put in place by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR). They must not embark on an outing without a valid fishing permit, which is cheap and can be obtained at very reasonable times from MFMR offices at the more important settlements along the coast. From the same authorities visitors can obtain information on the numbers, sizes and species of fish they are allowed to keep for their own consumption.
Operators offer fishing excursions in ski-boats with up to eight persons per boat along the coast. Half-day or day trips with all the necessary angling equipment and bait and accompanied by experienced guides; fishing trips lasting several days; and game-fishing excursions, can be arranged. Likewise surf-fishing trips in 4×4 vehicles are also offered, and from November until March, game-fishing outings into the deep sea for snoek, yellowtail and tuna.
Shark angling is becoming an increasingly popular sport in Namibia. Because certain species are found mainly in shallow waters – at a depth up to 100 m – sharks are often taken by sports anglers. The bigger shark species, when caught, are normally tagged and returned to the sea. The season for shark angling is from November to May.
• Anglers must be in the possession of a fishing permit, obtainable from the offices of the MFMR in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Lüderitz and/or the Henties Bay Hanganeni Fishing Centre. Permits cost N$14 per month or N$168 per year.
• The daily bag limit is 10, comprising one or more of the following species: blacktail (dassie), galjoen, kabeljou (kob) and West Coast steenbras. Minimum sizes are: blacktail (dassie) 25 cm, galjoen 30 cm, kabeljou (kob) 40 cm, and West Coast steenbras 40 cm.
• Anglers may not harvest more than two kob longer than 70 cm each and two West Coast steenbras exceeding 65 cm each (both measurements including the head and tail) in one day.
• A maximum of 30 fish per bona fide angler may be transported in a vehicle, which is three days’ catch, subject to not more than 10 fish per species per angler.
• Bait and shellfish may be harvested anywhere along the coast in the Dorob National Park except in desig-nated Ramsar sites (Sandwich Harbour and the Walvis Bay Lagoon)
• There are also limitations on the quantities of a wide variety of marine resources that may be harvested for own use without a fishing permit.
• Angling destinations along the central Namib coast include the area between Paaltjies and the northern boundary of Sandwich Harbour and the coastal strip between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Except for demarcated zones, the entire coastline that falls in the Dorob National Park is open for anglers and extends over 200 km.
• Angling, fishing and catching rock lobster are off limits in the following areas: designated Ramsar sites (Sandwich Harbour and the Walvis Bay Lagoon)
• Shark angling is practised throughout the year, with the months between November and May being the best for copper shark. Also known as the bronzy, the copper shark reaches weights of between 15 and 190 kg. A strong fighter, it is an excellent sport fish.
• Smaller sharks include the cow shark, smooth hound shark and spotted gully shark, also known as the spotty.
• Shark-angling excursions are offered by tour operators in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Henties Bay.
• Namibia follows a national action plan to conserve shark species under which all sharks should be returned to the sea live and unharmed.
• The open season for rock lobster is from 1 November to 30 April. The minimum carapace length is 65 mm. The daily bag limit is seven rock lobsters. A maximum of seven rock lobsters in a whole state may be transported at one time.
This article appeared in the Aug/ Sep 2011 edition of Travel News Namibia.