The magnificent Zambezi River has an abundance of wildlife, birds and flora found on its banks, which makes a cruise aboard the Ra-Ikane a must-do activity when you come on vacation to Victoria Falls. There is, of course, a similar abundance of fish, animals and vegetation under the water’s surface, that although you won’t be able to see, is just as interesting to learn about. Did you know that there over 75 freshwater species of fish that live in the Zambezi River – read on to discover to find out what is the tastiest fish, the feistiest fish and the most shocking fish you will find in the waters of the Zambezi River.
The Tastiest Fish
Locally, without a doubt, the tastiest fish is considered to be a bream (Abramis) or tilapia (Cichlidae). A bream and a tilapia are two different species under the family of Cichlids, and are very similar in both taste and appearance. A customer favourite at The Palm Restaurant, the bream is a whitefish and similar in taste to hake. The way to catch a bream is by line fishing, or as we say in Zimbabwe to “dobba dobba” for them. Most of the skill in catching a bream is trying to find the “right spot” as they like to live in weeds in shallower water, or under fallen down trees close to the bank. Once a spot has been chosen, the lines are dropped over the boat and fishermen have the opportunity to sit back and enjoy watching the birds and wildlife on the bank, until they get a bite and reel in. Bream can grow up to 4kg and then will put up quite a fight, but generally bream fishing is a relaxed activity.
The Fiestiest Fish
The same cannot be said for fishing for tiger fishing – to catch the most famous and prized freshwater fish of the Zambezi River you need to work for it! The African Tigerfish, (Hydrocynus vittatus) is the feistiest fish you will find in the Zambezi River. It is a fierce predator with razor-sharp teeth and quick strong bodies striped with silver and orange scales. Tigerfish hunt in packs, and are the top of the fish food chain in these fast-flowing river waters.
To catch a Tigerfish, you can either spin, troll or drift with live bait or artificial bait. Fishermen either stay in one position and cast from the boat into the current, or drift down the river and cast towards the bank – either way, it is an active type of fishing. Much of the skill of catching a tiger fishing is getting it into the boat once it takes the bait– tiger fish are known for running away from the boat, then leaping up and spitting out the bait. They do have powerful jaws so a landing net is needed to bring it into the boat, where a quick photo can be taken and then catch and release must be adhered to.
The Most Shocking Fish
Last but not least, the most shocking…or electrifying fish you will find in the Zambezi River is the electric catfish – malapterurus electricus. Catfish are named that because of their “whiskers” coming from its mouth – these are known are barbels, and they are long eel-like looking fish. The electric catfish is brown with irregular black dots, and can grow to reach 1.2m metres and 23 kilograms. Directly underneath the naked skin of the fish is the electric organ which forms a gelatinous layer. Using this, they generate and control the discharge of up to 450 volts of electricity. They generate the electricity to shock and catch prey, and defend themselves – included any unaware fishermen! If an electric catfish is caught, wary fishermen place them on the floor of a boat, use a keepnet and wooden stick to keep them still, carefully use pilers to remove the hook and toss them back into the water as quickly as possible.