Fishing for tiger fish is a seasonal specialty of the Zambezi River. We say seasonal as the best time to catch them is from late August to mid November during the hotter months, however, tiger fish and other species can be caught throughout our Zambian safari season. Netting and killing of any fish is not permitted within the National Park, and a 100% catch & release applies for all species.
Additionally, no live or cut bait is permitted (artificial lures only), no ultra light tackle (minimum 20lb) and only one single de-barbed hook per line is allowed. These measures have all been proven by science to reduce stress and mortality of caught and released fish, making this activity in the National Park more sustainable, and hence making this stretch of the Zambezi River the most protected stretch along its length. Consequently, this stretch of the river also offers some of the most productive sport angling opportunities available. Both Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro have expert river guides who have grown up on the Zambezi and who have been guiding anglers, novice and expert alike, for a decade and more. With our custom built 18’ pontoon boats and intimate, local knowledge of the river there is nowhere else on the Zambezi that offers finer opportunities to fish from. Over the years absolute beginners and world-class anglers alike have set a number of IGFA World Records for tiger fish at Chiawa Camp.
The tiger fish is a wily and strong adversary. Somewhere between a trout and a piranha on the evolutionary scale, they are equipped with large bony jaws and a mouthful of razor sharp interlocking teeth. Wire leaders and strong, sharp hooks are a must. Apex predators, they eat smaller fish up to 75% their own length including their own species, and even young ducks and swimming reptiles.
Your guide will position the boat to help you get the right cast to the fish, usually towards the bank behind cover and structure, in eddies and over sand bars on the drop offs. Casting slightly upstream you will let your lure sink to about 7 foot depending on water depth, and then retrieve as the current brings your lure roughly adjacent to you, with an erratic jigging action. One often gets the strike on the pick-up, but in reality tigers are so aggressive they are known to strike at pretty much any lure at any speed at any depth. Getting them to strike is the easier part, setting the hook is less easy – 50% skill and 50% luck - a sharp snap of the wrist on conventional gear and a strong strip on fly is the best you can do. Getting them to stay hooked is trickier still with strike to catch ratios of roughly 10:1 whereby after their initial and unmistakable hit, they tear line off the spool with a short, intensive run before leaping into the air, shaking their heads and usually throwing the hook at that point. At this point keep your rod tip down and your fingers crossed, don’t allow any slack line, ever, and don’t stop working until the fish is at the boat or lost! Tiger fish are strong fighters but don’t have much stamina so even big ones should be gotten to the boat quickly – we strongly discourage fighting fish to exhaustion which otherwise increases stress and mortality.
Once secured by the boat side, whilst watching out for crocs and ensuring the boat does not drift over a pod of hippos, your river guide will help revive your fish before lifting it out briefly for you to hold and photograph and then release.
Like fishing anywhere, some days you are going to get skunked and catch nothing, but most days anglers can expect multiple bites and boat perhaps half a dozen. On a really good day an accomplished fly fisherman can boat 40+ fish. Most common size is about 3lbs, average size 5lbs, a trophy would be in excess of 8lbs, and a monster in excess of 12lbs. Camp record is 21lbs and there are still stories of the one that got away, so we believe that there are fish in excess of 25lbs waiting …
FISHING POLICY at no charge to help you in your quest. However one should be prepared for lost and broken tackle and all losses and breakages whatsoever will be charged for, in lieu of a tackle rental fee, and we strongly recommend that serious anglers bring their own tackle according to this LIST, which has been crafted over years of experience.