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Fishing on Lake Kariba

Plentiful fish in an outstanding location

Lake Kariba is 300 km long and covers an area of 5,000 square kms. This vast expanse of fresh water is home to some fantastic species of fish including the Tiger fish, Bream, Tilapia, Catfish, Barbel, Labeo, Jack and the mighty Vundu, that commonly attains the size of a fully grown man.The Tiger fish is responsible for the now world renowned ‘Tiger Fish Tournament’ that is held every year on the lake in October.

Tiger fish are considered by many to be one of the most exciting game fish (pound for pound) and they have flourished in the rich waters of Lake Kariba with the average weight caught in competition being just under eight pounds. The speed, courage and strength of the tiger fish make it a worthy opponent for the skilful angler.
Safaris on Lake Kariba are usually conducted from a houseboat with this platform providing ample opportunity to fish for tiger and bream or just to kick back, relax and do some leisurely game viewing along the lake shores.

Tiger Fish

( Hydrocynus vittatus)
The Tiger fish has been officially recognised by the International Game Fishing Association as a game fish and a world renown tournament is held annually on Lake Kariba. The most rewarding Tiger fishing ground is the Masuna area along the Zambezi River, mainly during the months of October through to December. The Tiger is best caught with Kapenta, but will also take other fish fillets, lures and spinners. It can be caught along the dead tree lines in underwater features such as holes, drop-offs and ridges. It can also be found in river estuaries and off weed beds.


(Oreochromis mortimeri)
The Kariba bream is easily recognizable with olive green blotches and/or bands on its back and side. They are usually caught at around 2kg and make up a large percentage commercial catch on the lake. The bream mainly feed amongst weed beds along the dead tree lines and are a popular angling fish caught on worm.

Electric catfish

( Malapterurus electricus)
Landing this fish and failing to identify it could result in an experience that may put you off of fishing for life!The Electric Catfish can discharge a voltage as high as 450 volts and they have been known to temporarily immobilize fisherman who have ventured too close. Feeding almost exclusively on other fish, they stun their prey with a high voltage shock at close range. Perhaps it won’t be a surprise to learn that they are not caught commercially. If you do catch one of these fish, you must treat it with respect. Carefully cut your gear and invite it back into the lake.


( Heterobranchus longifilis)
This fish is often mistaken for the Barbel because of their similarity in shape, but can be told apart mainly by their colour.The Vundu is much browner than the Sharptooth Barbel, and has longer whiskers and two dorsal fins as opposed to the Sharptooth’s one. It feeds mainly at night and will eat almost anything. These strange large fish usually weigh-in at around 25kg, but can be caught weighing as much as 50kg. Heavy tackle is definitely the ‘order of the day’ when fishing for Vundu. Vundu are scarce in the lake and so to try and help the dwindling population all catches are now released immediately back into the water.

Red Breasted Tilapia

( Tilapia rendally)
This pretty looking fish is commonly known as a ‘pinkie’ and were introduced into the Lake in the late 1950’s.The Red Breasted Bream is a herbivore and feeds mainly on aquatic plants and algae, but will also feed on shrimps and small fish. They represent a large percentage of the commercial catch from the lake. Initially abundant in the lake, in the mid 1960’s the fish declined in numbers and then saw a considerable increase again in the mid 1970’s. This is thought to be due to the aquatic vegetation becoming more plentiful as the lake eco-system began to evolve. Traditionally the fish are caught where grassy shores exist where men beat the water in the shallows to frighten the fish into gillnets set in deep water. The Red Breasted bream can be caught on worms and will, on occasion, take a spinner in the breeding season. Although not often available a favorite bait of the Redbreast are flying ants.


( Distichodus schenga)
The Chessa is very similar in appearance to the Nkupe and enjoys similar conditions. This causes confusion amongst new anglers. The Chessa will eat small fish, insects and worms. Novice anglers are often unaware of this fishes unique ability to strip bait from a hook extremely quickly without the fisherman even noticing. Although once they have been struck they are very strong fighters, particularly when in fast-flowing water. Chessa are not usually caught above 2kg but can reach 6kg.


( Distichodus mossambicus)
Usually found in the western area of the lake where the Zambezi River meets the lake, the Nkupe enjoys river conditions. The Nkupe is a powerful fighting fish and usually caught on small varieties of fish, kapenta and worms.These fish are mainly caught in areas where the water flows over a sandy bottom. Nkupe are usually caught at around 3kg, but bigger fish of up to 8kg make this a major contributor to the commercial fishing on the lake.The bream mainly feed amongst weed beds along the dead tree lines and are a popular angling fish caught on worm.

Purple Labeo

( Labeo congoro)
In the early years of lake Kariba’s growth these fish were very plentiful, particularly in the Sanyati Basin at the western end of the lake.The Purple Labeo is recognizable by it’s purplish colour and very high dorsal fin. It is similar in appearance to the Hunyani Labeo, but can be told apart by the rounded back edge of the dorsal fin.They are primarily a river fish living in the estuaries and feeding on algae. During the fishes breeding season the fish moves upstream along the rivers that feed the lake and so are extremely susceptible to poaching from villagers living beside the rivers. Consequently this fish is seldom caught now.Most of these fish caught today are no more than 2.5kg, but occasionally they are caught weighing up to 7kg.The Purple Labeo can be caught using mealie-meal or worms whilst fishing on the bottom in areas with a rocky bed.