Zambezi Kariba – Fishing

Lake Kariba –  Fishing & Species

Tiger Fishing Competition

Discover: the amazing Tiger Fish, one of the top freshwater fighters in the world.

Houseboat berthing in wild and remote areas where you will likely be the only fisher person around, no crowds, no vehicles, no one else except you and nature

Tiger Fishing Times  ( January & February are breeding months on Zambezi so they are the only taboo months)

on the Lower and Upper Zambezi the months of May, June and July are best using lure and feather.

By May the river has reached its highest level over the floodplains and starts to empty into its main channel.

Mid January on the floodplains sees such species as barbs and bream, feeding and breeding and fishing is not permitted on the Upper Zambezi.

Before the water levels drop they must make their way into the main channel

The tigerfish, and other predatory fish such as the Nembwe bream and sharp tooth catfish, feed on these “baitfish”.

In June there is a mass exodus of these bait fish, moving downstream to areas of more cover and structure. This movement causes “bait balls” to be formed as they separate from the safety of the clay bank edges and move out into deeper waters.

As the water level drop from August to November, so the targeting of shallow water tigers becomes more of a reality from the confines of wooden dugout mokoro

This is truly the most natural way of fishing for tigerfish, also lending itself to great bird watching and the feeling of really being one with the river

By the end of November, the rainy season starts, and water levels start to steadily rise again, bringing with it dirty water and an end to fly fishing in the Zambezi

For the experienced fly fisherman, the Upper-Zambezi yellowfish and Thinface can also be found amongst the rapids

Catch and release is encouraged as much as possible

Kariba & Lower Zambezi

Tiger Fish 

Game fishing in never complete until you have fished the beautiful waters of Lake Kariba. People from all over the world come to these waters to fish for one fish alone, the ferocious tigerfish.Good fishing occurs throughout the year, August to October is best, however during the rainy season between October and February, it is extremely hot and humid, and not for the faint hearted.

True game fish, they head for the open, believing that sheer strength, speed and somersaults will grant them freedom. And they’re right, most of the time Although not unique to Zimbabwe, it is certainly more prolific than elsewhere in Africa.

The tigerfish is extremely streamlined and have a fine set of razor sharp, pointed, interlocking teeth- it does not attack humans.

There are many fish caught these days in the 3 to 6 kgs bracket with some still tipping the scales in the region of 8-10kgs

Sharptooth Catfish-Barbel (Clarias gariepinus) 

This catfish has been known to leap out of the water at birds perched on low overhanging branches.

These can be found throughout the lake in the shallow waters and using its ancillary breathing organs, it can survive in almost any type of water. They eat anything including frogs, insects, and fish

Feeding mainly at night, when hooked, the angler will feel a constant steady pull. The fish will not hesitate to attempt to free itself by swimming into obstacles. The Sharptooth is fished extensively for commercial purposes and although the average catch weight is 3kg, they can reach about 6kg.

Electric Catfish (Malapterurus electricus)

It also puts on a good fight but only grows to about 5kg. Feeding almost exclusively on other fish, they stun their prey with a high voltage shock at close range.

If you touch it you will more likely than not, be put off fishing for life with a jolt of up to 450 volts


The largest fish in the Zambezi system, only found below Victoria Falls, is the vundu (Heterobranchis longifilis), a giant catfish which attains well over 60 kg (the very similar barbel, up to 20 kg, is found both above and below the Falls.) A bottom-feeding river species usually taken on fillet bait, Strangely, cheap strong smelling soap is an excellent bait.

The vundu is becoming rare in Kariba and should always be released; there’s no point in killing it.

Brown Squeaker (Synodontis zambezensis)

alternative name Chokachok This is a member of the catfish family and is quite common to the lake . It can be identified by the three spines, one dorsal and two lateral.

The name Brown Squeaker comes from the fact that when these fish are caught, they move their two lateral spines rapidly in their sockets which emits a squeaking sound. These spines are capable of inflicting a painful wound that is very likely to turn septic if not treated at once.

Some anglers are known to remove these spines with a knife or side cutters before handling the fish. You will not be the only one trying to catch this fish as the Squeaker is preyed upon by crocodiles and Tigerfish, and the spines can often cause fatal injuries to the predator

Bait – They eat anything, insects, mud, algae and fish, and are mostly caught at night. They are disliked by anglers who are fishing with worm on the bottom, as once they get a bite from this fish they rarely catch anything else.

The Brown Squeaker is surprisingly tasty but plays no significant role in the commercial catches on the lake. The fish seldom exceeds 0.5kg in weight

Red Breasted Tilapia (Tilapia rendally)

This pretty looking fish is commonly known as a ‘pinkie’ and was introduced into the Lake in the late 1950’s. Seldom exceeding a kilo but a hard fighter often encountered in large numbers.

In Lake Kariba the Nile bream (Oreochromis niloticus) is now also being taken by anglers.

Kariba Tilapia (Oreochromis mortimeri) 

Known in South Africa as the blue kurper this fish was mistakenly known as a Mozambique bream and were called ‘mozzie’s, until it was found that the Mozambique bream was only found in the Zambezi River below the lake and beyond the dam

Chessa (Distichodus schenga) 

Nkupe (Distichodus mossambicus) The chessa and related nkupe are both rough-scaled, small-mouthed, broad-bodied fish renowned for their strength, speed and stamina. Both exceed six kilos and are usually caught on earthworm and small hooks, but will also take fish fillets

Found only in the mainstream of larger rivers and even in Lake Kariba prefers more riverine habitats. Omnivorous, feeds on insects, snails, small fish, and aquatic plants. Breeds in summer, moving upstream to suitable sites

Eastern Bottlenose ( Mormyrus longirostris)

Aptly named because of its elongated snout. It has a tiny mouth, so needs to be caught on small hooks with worms as bait. This species is active mainly at night, and is often caught in the early evening, in fairly deep pools where there is little or no current. It is not a good fighter, and, once hooked, feels much like reeling a heavy sack of potatoes to the surface! Sluggish… is a word that comes to mind.

Purple Labeo (Labeo congoro)

A river fish living in the estuaries and feeding on algae

Hunyani Labeo (Labeo altivelis)

Commonly called a “Pink Lady” this fish enjoys similar habitat and feeding preference to that of the Purple labeo

forms large schools. Mainly nocturnal and feeds on plankton (especially atyid shrimps, also copepods, prawns), but larger individuals take larval Stolothrissa. Cannibalism does occur. Breeds close to shore throughout the rainy seasons, but with peaks in May to June and December to January. Fire is used to attract the fish and caught by means of scoop nets

Kapenta Forms large schools. Mainly nocturnal and feeds on plankton (especially atyid shrimps, also copepods, prawns), but larger individuals take larval Stolothrissa. Cannibalism does occur. Breeds close to shore throughout the rainy seasons, but with peaks in May to June and December to January. Fire is used to attract the fish and caught by means of scoop nets

Tiger Fishing Competition – Join The Event

So popular is tiger fishing among the locals that the National Anglers union organizes the annual Kariba International Tiger fishing tournament. This event normally takes place at the beginning of October at Lake Kariba. It is a three-day event and the majority of facilities in the form of a well-appointed holiday camps and hotels are situated off the shores of lake Kariba for those who would like to try their hand at tigerfish and other game fish

Lake Kariba Fishing Permits and Fees

Guide to Kariba National Parks Costs and Regulations

Parks fees are paid directly to the officials before boarding and the receipt must be kept with clients at all times as the officials often do spot checks on the lake

National Parks also reserve the right to request proof of I.D. so please provide your I.D. cards/Passports.

As Lake Kariba is a National Park we request that all visitors to the area adhere to the regulations imposed by the Parks Board.

Littering is strictly prohibited.

Please do not try to touch or feed the wildlife and under no circumstances try to approach the wildlife on foot.

Swimming in Lake Kariba or the cages on the houseboats is done so entirely at your own risk.

Kariba is malaria area so please remember to take precaution against malaria at least 6 weeks before arriving in Kariba and continue with it for at least 3-4 weeks after your trip has ended.

Lake Navigation will not permit a charter to leave the harbour after 4:30p.m. so please ensure that you are onboard and ready to leave by 3:30p.m. the very latest.

For those passengers flying please check all tickets for arrival times to make sure you have given the transfer operator enough time to get you to the boat before this cut-off time. No refunds will be offered if you do not make the charter on time

There is a “Noise Pollution” rule that states, “all generators and ship to shore radio communications be shut down from 6:00p.m. through to 6:00a.m. and music players be turned down from 10:00p.m. onwards.”

We ask you to think of others who have also travelled from far to enjoy the natural sounds of nature.

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