If you’re an avid fisherman, chances are that you know what an estuary is. If not, here’s the lowdown: an estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of brackish (mixed) water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it and a direct connection to the open sea. The lush South African coastline is dotted with such estuaries – from the famous Breede River Estuary forming the banks of beautiful Breede River Lodges to the scenic Knysna estuary which attracts fisherman from all over the country.
Fishing in an estuary is popular for a number of reasons. Firstly; fish living in estuarine areas exhibit a variety of traits that are adapted and influenced by the daily tidal fluctuations. The daily rise and fall of the tide creates a flow that helps to flush and distribute various foods that fish need. Fishermen take note of these tides by fishing when the tides are high or just beginning to fall. It is at this time that the fish are more active and swim closer to the shoreline as the availability of food is high.
The movement of fish in estuaries is also influenced by the weather. Rainy weather causes bay and delta waters to become ‘fresher’ due to the influx of water from overflowing rivers and streams. This fresh water encourages fish such as bass and bream to move farther downstream. Alternatively, when dry weather occurs, the fish that prefer salty water will move farther upstream.
Part of the charm of estuary fishing is that fisherman can easily gauge when the best fishing times and spots are due to the flow of the tides and as mentioned above, the influence of the weather. If you’re thinking of dropping a line in a South African estuary, below are the three most popular spots in the country:
The Breede River Estuary: this famous estuary is the Cape’s premier fishing estuary and one of the finest in South Africa. With scenic Breede River Lodges dotting the banks of the estuary, it is also a popular tourist destination. The most common fish found in this estuary is the Spotted Grunter which attains a weight of around 6kg. Other common fish caught are the Big Kob, Leervis and Steenbras.
St. Lucia Estuary: For many years, the small town of St. Lucia had an economy solely based on the thousands of anglers visiting the estuary. Still today, angles flock from all over to try their luck. St. Lucia offers a variety of options for fisherman including deep sea charters, specialised charters for marlin and sharks, boat-based spear fishing, shore angling, salt-water fly fishing and more.
Knysna Lagoon estuary: The beautiful Knysna estuary is a hugely popular fishing destination due to the vast variety of fish the area offers. Catches range from the White Mussel Cracker and White Steenbras to the sought-after Garrick (Leerie), Kob and Spotted Grunter.