The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Its tiger fishing time, once again

- Isdore Guvamombe Tourism Talk

AT 6am sharp, a gunshot and a magenta flare fired high up against the sunrise silhouette, sends engine-powered boats puffing off to the various corners of Lake Kariba to catch the big one. Then you know it’s tiger time!

Tiger fish is known for its sheer speed and aggression, pound for pound and is ranked as the world’s most powerful fresh water species that grows up to 45kg.

On catching it, the tiger fish’s initial run is fast and strong and is usually followed by spectacula­r leaps of one or two metres into the air to shake off the hook, and then a series of deep, determined runs, which chew every ounce of strength from this game fish.

Finally, after about 10 minutes of fighting, the tiger fish is pulled, belly-up, to the side of the boat, where it tries to make one or two last breaks to freedom — like a man trying to break from chains — but is gaffed and brought onto the boat. The very tackle many fishermen use for tiger is in itself, a telling tribute to the fighting qualities of Africa’s most elusive, ferocious and speedy game fish. In Zimbabwe, the biggest catch record stands at 15,5kg.

The tiger tournament is slated for October every year on the two darkest nights, because traditiona­lly, the tiger does not feed at night when it is dark, hence it becomes susceptibl­e to anglers the next daybreak. So, the weekend of October 2, is tiger time. The big prize is a vehicle for any angler who catches the biggest tiger above 10kg.

For the supporting staff and spouses, game viewing and the multifario­us array of hotels and lodges are the places to be. Despite the declining water levels, the tournament is on this year and its indeed game for anglers.

Tiger fish is known throughout the world for its ferocity and fighting spirit, traits that make it one of the most sought-after game fish in the world. The sporting quality of tiger fish can only be truly appreciate­d if fairly light tackle — with one to 4kg line — is used.

Tiger fish is Africa’s most elusive, finest and flamboyant game fish.

It possesses a ferocious set of razor-sharp teeth enclosed in a bony head. Many fishermen have lost their fingers from these sharp teeth. Its blue or blackish lateral stripes — like a land tiger — and bright red to yellow caudal fin completes the picture. Females are larger than the males.

For any discerning fisherman, catching the tiger is the greatest experience as the fish bravely darts from one place to another, leaping upwards, downwards and sideways for several minutes before eventually succumbing to the angler.

The Kariba is left with less than 30 percent of its water but the spirits are high that the annual Kariba Invitation­al Tiger Fishing Tournament that brings in fishermen from all over the world continues.

National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority are the vanguards of the lake and the shepherds of the fish.

The annual tournament is meant to capture the biggest tiger fish of the year and the current record is that of 15,507kg caught in Lake Kariba in 1962. The first tournament was organised by the Rhodesian National Anglers Union and took place in June 1962, with 142 fishermen participat­ing.

In the southern hemisphere, the biggest tiger fish caught and dubbed the Goliath weighed about 45kg in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Zimbabwe, tiger is distribute­d throughout the Kariba Dam, the Zambezi River and its tributarie­s. The tiger is also found in Lake Chivero and Manyame Dam. Naunetsi, Bubi and Mzingwane rivers also have tiger fish.

Its primary food is kapenta, bream, cat fish and squeakers. These are normally abundant in Zimbabwe. They also eat their own kind as long as it is less than 40 percent their body weight.

It is fascinatio­n with this game fish that led to the formation of the Kariba Internatio­nal Tiger Fishing Competitio­n, now the Kariba Tiger Invitation­al Fishing Tournament, which has run for 58 years, simply to catch this game fish.

It is a huge internatio­nal fishing event, which attracts hundreds of teams from all over the world.

Kariba Dam is shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia but the Zimbabwean side has, for long, been famed for hosting the tiger tournament.

There is no doubt that the Kariba Invitation­al Fishing Tournament will continue attracting more participan­ts. The success of this tournament is a tribute to the popularity of tiger fishing.

There is no question the importance of the tournament on the internatio­nal angling calendar, and win or lose, it is just a great event to be part of. Tiger time is still on!

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