TOUR DIARY: FISHING ON THE SKELETON COAST
HP Jordaan and his friends go in search of big kob
HP Jordaan and his friends simply love sea fishing – always from a responsible perspective. This is an edited diary excerpt from a recent trip along the Skeleton Coast north of Henties Bay.
You know it’s time to go fishing in Namibia when your inner caveman starts to claw to the surface. Yes, it was time to go back. We did the first leg of the trip, from Cradock to Windhoek, in one shot. There were nine of us in two bakkies: a Mazda Drifter and a VW Amarok. We arrived in time to watch Province sneak a win over the Lions and reclaim the Currie Cup.
We undertook the torturous 24-hour drive from the Eastern Cape so we could attend the Oktoberfest in Windhoek. Eisbein and sauerkraut were on the menu that evening, and yes, some beer too.
Next stop: St Nowhere
The gravel road turn-off (D1918) just beyond Usakos towards Henties Bay is always a sign that you’re getting close.
After stocking up on everything but the kitchen sink in Henties, we squeaked some takkie along the Salt Road (C34) to St Nowhere, about 104 km up the coast. Seriously, that’s the name of the place. And it’s an apt description. We had booked 11 nights at a cabin called Grootdrink – there are several similar cabins for rent in St Nowhere, as well as campsites.
After unpacking we had enough time for an afternoon fishing session. I drove the Amarok with my father Boel, brother Jayson, and Jaco and Pieter van der Westhuizen (also father and son) to an area called Richtersveld just south of St Nowhere. The others – Herman Neethling, Gerrit Goosen, Stoney Steenkamp and Johan Venter – drove the Mazda north, to a spot called Blare.
The sea looked amazing and the weather was great. For the first time I was able to fish in Namibia with my shirt sleeves rolled up, a welcome change from the beanie, Buff and jacket of previous years.
Some days are slower than others on the Skeleton Coast, but the fish are always there. Thankfully the sea didn’t disappoint and from the first cast we were vas. We landed a lot of young kob and a couple of decent-sized spotted gully sharks and smooth-hound sharks.
As darkness descended we headed back to Grootdrink, only to be greeted with the news that we had totally missed out. Apparently the big kob were on the bite at Blare. The guys had smashed most of their previous personal bests. Stoney caught a 18,47 kg kob – the fish of a lifetime!
The competition was on! Fathers and sons in the Amarok vs the manne in the Mazda. The next day we headed up to Ugab Fence, about 20 km north of St Nowhere, with plans to fish down to Blare.
We landed a lot of fish, but nothing spectacular. Pieter made a surprising catch: a young elf, something seldom caught along this coastline.
On the Skeleton Coast, fish are caught very shallow and thus it is often the complete novice – who can’t cast very far – who catches the most or the biggest fish. Many of the species feed right behind the breakers. This is one of the major attractions of fishing in Namibia, as it becomes a family affair, with kids, newbies and pros all able to catch good fish.
At Blare we caught many kob, but nothing noteworthy. It was not until sunset that my dad got stuck into a good fish. Confident that it was a shark, he pulled it hard. Generally one can feel the difference between a shark and a kob, but after fishing all day I suppose the tiredness allowed for an error in judgement. It turned out to be a kob, not a shark, but my dad managed to land it anyway, despite his heavy hand. It was a personal best for him: 102 cm. Welcome to the Metre Club!
In search of the elusive “diesel engine”
Smaller kob were ever present over the next few days, so I turned my attention to steenbras fishing using my light rig. (See sidebar “HP’s Fishing 101” – Ed.)
We eventually found the steenbras, but not at the size we were looking for. That elusive “diesel engine” still haunts my dreams and I will keep returning to stalk the flats until I master the art of catching the Namibian steenbras. (The West Coast or Namibian steenbras is not known for its speed, more for its strength and power, hence the nickname.)
Not only were we landing lots of young kob and steenbras, we also got stuck into the juvenile galjoen population. As soon as the water turned a little murky they were on the mussel bait like kids on cake.
I also witnessed something very sad: people fishing for galjoen with worms. They call them bloedwurm in Namibia, but they’re different from the bloodworm we get in South Africa. They’d caught bags of galjoen and steenbras. Cast for cast, they pulled them in, two at a time on occasion.
The harvesting of these worms is extremely damaging to the ecosystems along the coast, and the numbers of fish caught using them do serious damage to the sustainability of the species. Unscrupulous fishermen throw handfuls of these worms into the water before they start to angle, causing the fish to go into a feeding frenzy. An hour or so later, they haul the catch out in droves.
This can continue for a couple of days. It’s illegal to use these worms or be in possession of them in Namibia.
Four strikes, four fish
The days passed and our time in Namibia was slowly drawing to a close. By now, word had spread about the good catches at Blare. It looked like a Durban pier in shad season. Guys were shoulder to shoulder. Not my cup of tea, thank you.
My dad and I kept venturing north, working our way back down to Rondeklip each day. From there we would head to the main road and back to St Nowhere.
The last day of the trip coincided with the full moon spring tide. On the low we were able to reach areas that were usually inaccessible. It was one of those sessions that I’ll remember for a long time to come. It had everything I love about fishing: good conditions, uncongested water, some wading, lures, bait and the challenge of landing your gear in the right spot. The surges knocked us around on the sandbank while we struggled to find decent footing, but cast for cast I was getting pulled flat. My first cast landed a 75 cm kob. Second cast: 85 cm. Third: 88 cm. Fourth: 80 cm!
My dad somehow managed to lose a few fish in the process, but this ensured he was around to take photos of my catch.
Finally he got his turn in front of the camera, with a good 90 cm kob. I topped the trip off with one of the biggest fish I’ve ever caught in Namibia: a beaut of a kob, 101 cm, caught with a bucktail jig. I battled a seal, three or four other lines in the water, a big drop-off and rolling waves that had me nearly neck-deep at times.
A few snaps later, I managed to release the fish. The big kob caught from September onwards during the warmer months are all breeding fish, off to spawn in the calmer waters of Walvis Bay and Sandwich Harbour. Hopefully in years to come I can catch their offspring.
There was talk of our annual trip coming to an end. But after the good catches in November 2014, I’m not so sure any more.
Let’s just say, if I hear Namibia calling, try to stop me…
For accommodation in the Henties Bay area, see page 109. Visit rushofblue.com to read about more of HP’s fishing adventures.