11 April 2012

Namibia: 'Big-Game Hunting' On the Zambezi River

THE Zambezi River is best known for its tiger fish and the world's rich and famous visit this river to try their luck in catching one of these ferocious predator fish.

Thadius Tebuho, who is employed by the Impalila Island Lodge, has been taking tourists on fishing excursions for the past 15 years.

Tebuho was born on the island and fishing is in his blood. "I like to catch the tiger fish, he is a good fighter and it is always fun to see who wins," he says.

He is especially proud of his "personal best" of a 9,5-kilogram tiger.

When he is not catching tiger fish he likes to catch bream, which he takes home to his family to eat. "Tiger is not very nice to eat, it is very, very bony - that one you catch for the love of fishing," he said.

A person can catch tiger fish all year round, although June to August are the best months. In those three months lures, spinners, flies and any other artificial bait are used.

"The water is very clear that time and the fish relies on his sight and reacts to the shiny bait," says Tebuho.

In the other months when the water is murky, small fish are used as bait because they attract the tiger by smell.

A fishing trip takes about four hours and Tebuho knows his trade. After reaching the ideal hunting ground of the tiger he switches off the boat's engine. He then hooks the bait and throws in the line and hands over the rods to his customers.

Then the waiting game begins, as the boat and the line are gently swept away by the current. Tebuho has endless patience in explaining to the layman how to cast the line. When a first-time angler gets excited about feeling something on the other end of the line, Tebuho patiently explains that there is no mistaking the strike of the tiger - you'll know it when you've caught one.

Tiger fishing requires patience and every now and then, Tebuho requests all lines to be reeled in and he starts the engine to try another spot.

True to Tebuho's word, everyone instinctively knows when a tiger has taken the bait, as the strength of the fish is unmistakable and it leaps from the water as it fights for its life.

Words of encouragement are shouted at the lucky angler until the magnificent fish is in the boat. After Tebuho has taken the hook from the mouth and photos are taken, the fish is released back into the water.

First-time angler Pearl Coetzee, on her first fishing trip, was overcome with excitement after hooking her first fish ever, a 1,5-kilogram tiger. She jumped for joy, shouting: "My first fish, and that in Namibian waters, and on top of that a tiger. What a fight, what a feeling!"

Four of the eight people on the excursion managed to land tigers and found it an unforgettable experience.

Most of the lodges along the Kavango and Zambezi rivers offer tiger fishing excursions, supplying all bait and tackle, the boat and the guide.

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