Catching Tigers on the Zambezi

Southern Africa is a fly-fisher’s paradise, and the Tigerfish its greatest prize!

If you want to hook a Tigerfish then the Zambezi River is arguably the best spot in Southern Africa, home to some of the biggest tigers in the world. To experience Tigerfishing at its best, head to the mighty Zambezi in the Southern African countries of Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

The Upper and Lower Zambezi regions in Zambia are a hot favourite, hosting a huge abundance of Tigerfish which makes for some of the most rewarding fishing.

Game Fishing & Big Five Safari – Zambia

Elephants along the Zambezi River by Martintom

Besides the great thrill of catching these wily fish, the challenging task is made all the more worthwhile for the wild and remote African settings in which Tigerfish are found. Tigerfishing locations include some of the best national parks and wildlife areas along the Zambezi and Chobe River, as well as in the world-famous Okavango Delta. This means fishing fanatics enjoy the added bonus of game viewing and experiencing stunning natural places. Alternatively, wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers get to try out world-class fishing, while encountering plenty of game on boat-based fishing trips and on game drives.

In the untamed Zambezi Valley visitors get the once in a lifetime African Safari experience of combining the thrill of catching a big Tigerfish with Big Five game viewing along the banks of the Zambezi River, in remote and wild spots! The Zambezi Valley offers the perfect blend of world-class game fishing and top-notch game viewing from some exceptional safari lodges. While catching Tigerfish in the Lower Zambezi River anglers get to spot an array of wildlife, including elephants, herds of buffalo, zebras, lions, leopards, kudus, impalas and more, from the fishing boat.

Hippos in the Zambezi River

Tigerfish – Ferocious Fighters

The Tigerfish, like the land feline that shares its moniker, is an aggressive predator with sharp teeth. The tigers land and water, share the traits of power, grace, ferocity and speed. The legendary Tigerfish is said to be the hardest fighting freshwater game fish in the world, as the world’s most ferocious freshwater species.

The most coveted freshwater catch in Africa, the name Tigerfish literally translates to ‘striped water dog’. These ferocious predators have large heads sporting bony cheeks and jaws with extremely sharp, serrated teeth (8 razor-sharp teeth per jaw). Tigerfish can easily bite through nylon lines, so short steel traces are used when fishing for the heavy weights of this sharp-toothed quarry. In addition to the challenge of sharp teeth, Tigerfish leap and try to speed away once hooked, making it even more difficult to catch these strong fish.

Tigerfish are usually found in shoals of similarly sized specimens, because these fierce fighters readily gobble up smaller members of their own species!

14 pound Tiger fish trying to escape by Kobus Botha

For more info about Tigerfish.

Not just Tigers – More Catches

Some other fishy species found in the freshwater systems of Southern Africa include Catfish, Bream, Tilapia, African pike and African yellow fish.

When to Go Fishing on the Zambezi

August through December are the best months for flyfishing in the Lower Zambezi region below Lake Kariba, as well as along the nearby Chobe and Okavango Rivers, which are also top gamefishing spots. This is when the water levels are lower and the water temperatures are highest. Tiger fishing in the Lower Zambezi National Park of Zambia, a top flyfishing destination, is best from September to early November with other sought-after catches including a variety of bream species. The added bonus is that this is a fatastic all-round travel destination, providing excellent game viewing, luxurious accommodation and superb service!

May to July (and even August) are the best months for flyfishing on the Upper Zambezi, when lures and feathers are the best to use. Tigerfish pulled from the fast-flowing Upper Zambezi River reach up to 10kg’s in weight. This flyfishing haven is known as Tiger Country, where low-lying floodplains serve as breeding grounds for tiger and bream fish. During the prime fishing season the flood waters subside and flow into the flat floodplains, resulting in a feeding frenzy among large Tigerfish in the main river channels.

The topography of the Zambezi Valley determines the best time for Tigerfishing at various spots along the mighty river.

About Tigerfishing in the Zambezi

Tigerfishing in Zambia by Paul Kane

On average Tigerfish caught in the Zambezi River and lakes, weigh in at 3 to 5 kilograms, with the real prize specimens reaching up to 9 or so kilos. Sport fishing on the Zambezi River is done from boats, as wading isn’t an option given the resident crocodiles and hippos. Catching such big tigers often requires the use of 8 or 9 weight outfits, to avoid getting pulled into the water or losing your trophy.

A recommended spot, that some anglers refer to as Tigerfish Heaven, is a stretch on the Upper Zambezi River, between Impalila Island (where eastern Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana meet), and Katima Mulilo, the largest town in the Caprivi Strip.

Best Tiger Fishing Destinations in Southern Africa

Tigerfish on the Zambezi by Kobus Botha

Tigerfish are most abundant south of the Equator, down to the Tropic of Capricorn on the African continent. These fierce creatures are also found in the Congo River and Lake Tanganyika, as well as a few river systems in North and West Africa. As mentioned, Tigerfish are most numerous in the Zambezi, Okavango and Chobe rivers of central Southern Africa in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The Pongola River system, close to the eastern border of South Africa with Mozambique, is the only exception where Tigerfish occurs south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Here Tigerfishing takes place in Lake Jozini inside the Pongola Game Reserve of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Other top spots include Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe and Cabora Basa in Mozambique.

Banner image taken at Ichingo Chobe River Lodge, on Impalila Island.

Experience this for yourself with Giltedge Africa. Get in touch if you’d like to experience an African safari that includes the thrill of tigerfishing.