Tiger fishing in Namibia

From Strand Hotel to Sandwich Harbour
May 31, 2016
Proud to be
June 2, 2016
From Strand Hotel to Sandwich Harbour
May 31, 2016
Proud to be
June 2, 2016

Main photo ©Elzanne Erasmus

Razor-sharp teeth. Torpedo-shaped bodies. A bright glint in the water. A sudden strong tug on your line. Thrashing and splashing and an epic reel session. That’s what it’s like going fishing for tigers in the Zambezi. Searching for the unpredictable and fierce tigerfish can be one hell of an adventure. Do you think you have what it takes?

The tigerfish is Africa’s premier freshwater game fish. A relaxing day on a river can quickly give way to a pumping adrenaline rush as a feisty tiger grabs hold of your bait or spinner. Travel News Namibia recently interviewed owner and operator of Caprivi Adventures, Riaan Bester, to talk adventure safaris and fishing, and to get some pointers on how to land a sharp-toothed beauty.

The thrill of persuing the notoriously hard-to-catch ‘tiger of the Zambezi’ is what draws fishermen to the Zambezi Region time and again, especially if they’re on a mission to land the ‘one that got away’. Tigerfish are known for their aggressive temperament, supreme speed, aerobatic capabilities and steel-like jaws. They have silver-striped bodies with bright-red and yellow fins and tail, and they hunt in schools of like-sized fish.

According to Riaan, the best trophy fishing takes place from the start of December to the end of January. As from February the water in the north-eastern rivers is usually too high and too murky for effective angling. Another good time to head for the stream is toward the end of May, when the water level starts to drop again. The May/June/July period yields the most tigers, but these are usually smaller than those caught during December/January. A trophy tiger ranges from 4.5kg upwards. 10 pounds is the trophy standard.

The north-eastern rivers in the Kavango and Zambezi regions of Namibia are an essential life force to the people and wildlife of the area. Teeming with life, including crocs and hippos, the Okavango, Kwando, Linyanti (which becomes the Chobe) and the Zambezi are rich feeding grounds, each yielding different species in larger numbers.

There aren’t too many truly big tigerfish in the Okavango, though they are present in numbers, and the Kwando hasn’t relinquished much in recent years. Hands down, though, the Zambezi is the place to be for the angler serious about landing his tiger!

Only one out of ten tigers hooked is actually landed, and it can be a very difficult job to reel one in. Over the years Riaan has taken many people out on the river. For some it was a hobby they’d indulged in many times before and for these people the purpose of the expedition was to find that sought after trophy size.

Photo ©Elzanne Erasmus
Photo ©Marita van Rooyen
Photo ©Marita van Rooyen
Photo ©Marita van Rooyen

The thrill of hunting the notoriously hard-to-capture, ‘tiger of the Zambezi’ is what draws fishermen to the Zambezi Region time and again.

For others it was the first time and more of a passing fascination. But no matter how serious the fisherman is, great stories have been collected. One lady caught the first fish of her life while on tour with Caprivi Adventures. The fact that that particular fish just happened to be an 8kg whopper of a tiger was just incidental. On another excursion a man had to have a particularly hungry tiger’s strong jaws unclasped from around his arm. A 5-year old kid playing on the side of the boat with his little toy rod pulled out a four-kilogramer.

Riaan insists that you haven’t felt close enough to the action if you haven’t experienced a tiger jumping over the mokoro you’re seated in. You might want to give that particular mode of river transport a go too. On another occasion they had been fishing along a sandbank when a tiger was hooked. The fish thrashed around so aggressively that it landed itself on the boat. So much for looking forward to the fight… Thanks for the help, Mr Tiger!

Riaan advises that you always give yourself more than one day on the river. Fish don’t always bite as you would like or expect them to. Some informed individuals ponder the influence of humidity and water temperature on tiger behaviour, but sometimes they just aren’t in the mood for a nibble. With Caprivi Adventures, and all other legitimate operators in Namibia, fishing is strictly on a Catch and Release basis. There are three different techniques for tiger fishing: drifting, trawling and spinning. Each method uses a different kind of bait and the effectiveness of each of them varies in different locations. Drifting, for example, works best when the water is murkier and the water level higher. Trawling is best done with two rods leading out from behind the boat. Spinning is the more active, yet less effective method. With spinning it is best to target specific areas in the river, such as rapids, reeds and sandbanks. If you’re an avid fisherman you may want to sign up for one of the two big freshwater angling competitions that take place on the north-eastern rivers each year. The CrocKango is held on the Okavango River during May and the Zambezi Classic takes place toward the end of August. These competitions often attract as many as 60 boats-full of anglers and the prizes to be won are very alluring, no pun intended… If you’re out to go fishing just for pleasure it might be best, however, to avoid these rivers at those specific times.

If you are keen for a new adventure, a thrilling ride and a great story to add to your life’s tale, it may be worth it to visit one of Namibia’s tiger-infested rivers. Hop on a boat, cast a line and steel yourself against that exhilarating tug. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all and we wish you all the best on your tiger fishing expedition!


Any of the following establishments along the north-eastern rivers provide tiger fishing excursions:

  • Kalizo Lodge
  • Island View
  • Caprivi Collection
  • Shamvura
  • Caprivi Houseboat Safaris


Get the right gear to make the most of your tiger fishing adventure:

  • Daiwa Exceler Reel
  • 7ft P/Plus Tiger Edition Rod
  • Braid Fishing line
  • Gold Fish lure
  • Walker Pearl lure
  • Hot Head lure


15 Newcastle Street PO Box 726 Windhoek

Tel: (+264 61) 295 6000

info@cymot.com • www.cymot.com

This article was first published in the Winter 2016 issue of Travel News Namibia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *