Tigerfish are Africa’s own freshwater game fish, they occur nowhere else in the world. There are five species of tigerfish on the African continent, of which three are considered to be prime angling species. The best known of these is Hydrocynus vitatus, the species that is caught in the Zambezi and Okavango river systems and southwards. Goliath tigers which occur in the Congo river are another and then Hydrocynus tanzaniae, the Tanzania tigerfish is the third. This third species was only discovered in 1986, and has a small distribution, being found in the Kilombero and Rufiji river systems in Tanzania.
When fishing for tiger fish with bait, live or dead, one of the most effective methods is using a circle hook. These hooks ensure a good hookset, and also enable fish to be released in good shape after the fight.
How Circle Hooks Work:
Circle hooks look odd, with the point facing inwards, and for this reason many people are not that keen to try them out. They are designed to hook fish on the way out of the mouth, after the bait has been swallowed, and line tension pulls the hook back out of the mouth from the throat of the fish. The in bent point prevents the hook from hooking the fish in the throat, gills or stomach, but swivels into place and penetrates the fishes jaw as it exits the mouth.
On a recent trip to Barotse Tiger Camp In Zambia I decided that I was going to dedicate a fair bit of time to catching tigerfish on surface lures. My mate Gerard Simpson, who is one of the co-owners of the camp told me that they had been having some success with tigers on the surface in the early mornings. This was great news and I rigged one rod specifically for topwater lure fishing.
The rod that I used was a Shimano Beastmaster Special Tiger, with a Shimano Stella 5000 reel, loaded with 20lb Power Pro Super 8 Slick braid on it. I had tied on a 1m piece of 50lb Sufix Zippy leader and added a 40lb nylon coated wire trace of about 30cm with a quick release snap on the end. I decided to use the 9cm Rapala X-Rap Walk, rigged with single hooks. I used a 2/0 VMC Siwash hook on the belly, using two split rings linked together to make the hook ride point down. On the back I used a 3/0 Decoy Jigging Single, which I had modified slightly by bending the hook point out a little with a pair of pliers. I rigged this with on two splitrings with a power swivel between them, to give it lots of freedom of movement. See the pic below for the rigged lure:
One of the major fishing events in Africa is the annual Okavango catfish run. This takes place during spring and early summer each year. The catfish run coincides with the dropping of water levels on the floodplains in the panhandle area of the Okavango swamps. All of the smaller fish species, such as bream, momyrids, robbers, minnows and catlets which have taken advantage of the flooded areas around the channels for breeding and shelter are now forced back into the main channels and there are great concentrations of baitfish in the papyrus and floating hippo grass along the channel areas at this time.
Catfish from the entire Okavango area move into the panhandle in their thousands to take part in a feeding frenzy during this period. Both sharptooth catfish (Clarius gariepinus) and blunttooth catfish (Clarius ngamensis) take part in the runs. The catfish gather in large shoals and move up current, many of them in the grass and papyrus on the edge of the channel. The disturbance caused by the shaking of the reeds and the noise created by the slapping of tails and gulping of air of thousands of catfish is phenomenal. This noise disorientates the baitfish, and drives them out of cover.