By Babington Maravanyika
I happen to be privileged enough to have also fished in Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, so I can speak with some authority about fishing in the region.
In Malawi I have fished on Lake Malawi and some smaller dams around the City of Blantyre and Lilongwe, while in Mozambique I have fished at Cabora Basa dam and on the Tete and Pfungwe rivers.
In Swaziland I have fished at Maguga and Lusip dams, while in Zimbabwe I have fished at a countless number of dams and rivers, including the mighty Zambezi River and Africa’s largest man-made water reservoir – Lake Kariba.
Of all these dams, I have found Klipvor dam to be the best when it comes to catching bream, which happens to be my favourite fish.
In SA I have fished at Inanda Dam on the outskirts of Durban and Midvaal Dam near Pietermaritzburg, both in KwaZulu Natal. In Gauteng I have fished at Rietvlei, Roodeplaat, Bronkohorstspruit, and some smaller private dams in farming communities.
In Mpumalanga I have fished at Rhenosterkop, Witbank, Da Gama and Bushbuckridge dams. I have also fished at a large dam near Barbeton, whose name I have forgotten. In Limpopo I have fished at Loskop, Arabi, Rust de Winter and Njelele. In North West province I have fished at Klipvor, Vaalkorp, Hartebeespoort, Molatedi and Roodekoppies dams.
Of all these dams, I have found Klipvor dam to be the best when it comes to catching bream, which happens to be my favourite fish. It is also very good at carp, but unfortunately it does not have my other favourite fish – bass.
Klipvor dam is located in Borakalalo Nature Reserve, a relatively well protected place against poachers, resulting in fish populations burgeoning.
Fishermen congregate at this dam from as far as Barberton in Mpumalanga, and Thohoyandou in Limpopo not only because of the abundance of fish, but also because of its relative safety, especially for those fishermen camping overnight.
It has the added bonus of an abundance of wildlife, and animals such as hippos, giraffe, zebra, topi, waterbuck, wildbeast, impala, baboons, monkeys and others which fishermen do not have to look for, as they come to the dam to drink.
The security at Borakalalo used to be among the tightest of any dam as the nature reserve was one of the few places at which rhinos were kept.
However, the remaining rhinos have since been moved to some safer undisclosed place following the slaughtering of nine rhinos by poachers in a single night, about six years ago. The departure of rhinos marked the end of the tight security for campers as night patrols were no longer as frequent as they used to be.
Buckets of bream
The dam has one of the highest densities of bream, as the tight security kept fish poachers at bay. So at the peak of the bream fishing season, it is easy for a fisherman to fill a bucket with breams in a day. The abundance of this species ensures its survival and multiplication as almost all fishermen practise catch and release as there is no need to keep the small ones.
Those who have been fishing at the place since the apartheid era say standards have also dropped, as the dam’s fishing areas used to be among the cleanest in the country, but are now littered with all sorts of dirt.
A retired former ranger at the reserve said during the apartheid era, the Bophuthatswana Bantustan premier, Lucas Mangope used to have a personal interest in the cleanliness of the dam, and would be seen leading by example by picking trash and placing it in dustbins whenever he visited the reserve.
The ranger decried the rate at which standards have fallen, saying the fishing sites were now dirty and security was no longer guaranteed for those camping overnight. He said the current management was no longer strict about separating day fishermen from campers, thus compromising the security of Pitje camping site.
Stories of campers having their tents cut at night and valuables stolen are now common, and this has resulted in a decreased number of campers. Gone are the days when the camping area would be declared full and therefore not taking any more campers, especially over public holidays when fishermen flocked to Klipvor for fishing and relaxing.
One day during the week – I think it was a Thursday if my memory serves me right – one of the few campers I had camped with at Klipvor dam, had his tent cut and his firearm stolen. His tent was the only one that was targeted, leading him to suspect that the theft was the work of rangers who were after his gun, since he had declared his firearm on entry at the gate as required by the law.
He believed strongly that this was the work of rangers as it was only his tent, among several, that was targeted. He said it was only the rangers who knew he had a firearm since he had declared it at the gate on entering the reserve, as is required by the law.
Besides that, the rangers who are supposed to patrol at night to keep campers safe had not seen any intruder that night. The man was so angry that he threatened to splash the incident on the internet and in the media so that other fishermen would not come to the dam and fall victim like him.
I must admit that since this incident, campers have become fewer and fewer. To make matters worse, the current management seems to have done away with a standing rule that requires the separation of day fishermen from campers.
Day fishermen are no longer restricted to their side of the dam, and can fish at the camping area which used to be strictly for campers only. This, campers allege, allows thieves posing as fishermen to scout the camping area during the day, then come back to steal from the campers at night.
Battle with poachers
The former ranger said standards had fallen so much because some parks staff, including top management, no longer consisted of professional rangers who have undergone training in wildlife management, but political appointees who know little about conservation. Animal poaching is said to be rife, both by armed poachers and pot poachers who come to hunt with dogs.
Sometimes fishermen can here poachers’ dogs barking as they chase animals in the park, and sometimes dogs get lost during the chase and end up by the fishing sites after losing track of their owners. When this happens, rangers are forced to shoot the stray dogs.
Bream fishing is now severely threatened at Klipvor dam as poachers from as far as Limpopo now frequent the dam, camp overnight and use nets at night when patrols few and far between.
A fisherman from Gauteng said the guys from Limpopo were soon going to destroy fishing at Klipvor as they have done to dams in their province. Besides using nets during the night, these unruly fishermen also jig both at night and in broad day light.
“Because they are poorly trained, most of the rangers do not know what jigging is, hence the unruly fishermen jig even during the rangers’ presence. Jigging is the use of multiple three-star hooks on a line, striking with speed where fish are congregated, therefore catching the fish by hook or crook – some by the stomach, eye, tail or any part where the hook lands on the unsuspecting fish.
“It’s a form of rape on the fish I must say,” said the Gauteng fisherman who complained that if this illicit way of catching fish was not brought to an end immediately, good fishing would soon be a thing of the past at Klipvor dam.
The Gauteng fisherman said he had repeatedly reported this illegal way of catching fish, but the rangers had shown little interest in confronting the poachers. “They come this far from Limpopo because they have finished fish in Limpopo, now if their activities go unchecked, they are going to finish fish here as well,” he said.
Lets Go Fishing is a website designed to provide information on fishing in South Africa in particular, and Southern Africa in general.
The blogger Babington Maravanyika is a journalist by profession but a fisherman at heart.
He has fished at many dams in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng and the North West provinces in South Africa. He has also fished in Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
This website will give information about such issues as security at the various dams, the type of fish that can be found, problems such as poaching, and facilities that can be found at the various fishing destinations.
The blogger provides fishing lessons to both children and adults for a fee, and will also provide transport to fishermen wishing to join him on fishing excursions at various destinations.
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