Know your bait: Mackerel (Part 1)

Most people use their bait without giving a second thought of how it got into their bait box. We thought we would share a bit of light on the subject. We will start off our “Know your bait series” with the death cycle of a “bait” mackerel. 

S. japonicus, commonly known as  mackerel, is a widespread coastal shoaling pelagic species which is found to occur in the warmer waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans as well as in the Mediterranean. Mackerel is commercially exploited throughout its geographical range.

Our local bait market is supplied by a number of dedicated mackerel handline boats. There are also large purse seiners which target mackerel however these fish are often of a lower quality and mostly end up in our canneries.

Mackerel boats usually head out to sea late afternoon. Before leaving port the boat loads up with sardine and ice. The skipper will usually sound around an area where mackerel has recently been found- once a trace of mackerel is detected, anchor will be dropped and the crew will begin to chum vigorously in order to lure them closer to the boat. Crew usually fish with a single handline with a single hook – this is the most efficient method of fishing as they are normally caught within 5m of the boat. A few mackerel are sacrificed on the boat, cut into small blocks and used as bait. The mackerel are then placed directly into insulated laaitjies, which are filled with an ice-water slurry. The ice-slurry rapidly reduces the core temperature of the mackerel and thereby not only acts as a form of euthanasia but also allows for the quality of the fish to be maintained at the highest possible level. How a fish is handled within the first 30minutes after being land plays a HUGE role in determining the quality of the catch. After a number of hours, each crew will weigh their catch, pack it into crates and place it on ice in the holds. Upon returning to the harbour,  in the early hours of the morning, a refrigerated vehicle will collect the catch for the evening and transport it to the factory. The fish are then sorted according to size, packaged and placed into the blast freezer where chilled air (normally -40degrees celcius) is blown over the trays, rapidly freezing the fish. The packaged, blast frozen fish is then distributed to tackle shops, where it is later purchased, placed back onto a hook and returned to the ocean!

Next time you bait up and admire that beautiful bait on your hook, take a moment to appreciate the way in which your bait has been caught and handled and the people who have worked hard, long hours to supply you with the best product possible!

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Recreational “raggie ban”…

The recent listing of the spotted ragged-tooth shark as a vulnerable species, by the Department of Environmental Affairs, caused a significant amount of confusion and frustration, especially after the classification of Hammerhead sharks as prohibited species (as stated by the Marine Recreational Activity Information Brochure 2016/2017) only a few months prior. The release of the Government Gazette, which stated that the “catching and capturing” or “hunting and killing” of the much loved spotted ragged-tooth shark was from now on, prohibited. This resulted in a large number of recreational anglers questioning the new regulations regarding the species. Anglers from all over the country flocked to social media and popular forums to vent their frustrations, question the regulations and debate over the topic. However in the calm of the storm it still remains unclear to many how this is going to effect recreational fishing in South Africa, particularly those that compete on a provincial and national level, if it is to have any effect at all. A recent statement from SASAA has indicated that as for now the catching of raggies will be allowed for all SASAA competitions.

Not too shabby for a first raggie. Caught at Sunday’s, Eastern Cape.

A bit of background information on the species:

The spotted ragged-tooth shark (Carcharias taurus), affectionately known as the “raggie” in South African waters, is also known as the grey nurse shark or sand tiger shark. The species is relatively well distributed, occurring in most subtropical and warm temperate oceans on the globe (other than the Eastern Pacific). Raggies are considered to have a relatively slow growth rate (something we noticed on a recent recapture – in which said female raggie grew a total of 370mm in the 1643 between the tag and recapture events. Just to put things into perspective thats a grand total of 1.6mm per week!!). Males can reach sexual maturity between 6 /7 years of age (which equates to a total length of roughly 190cm in size) and females at 9/10 years of age (approx. 220cm total length).

C. taurus is ovoviviparous, meaning that the eggs hatch within the body and the juveniles remain in the uterus until fully developed. However, high levels of intrauterine cannabilism, during their approx. 9 month gestation period, results in only one or two pups per litter – yip, survival of the fittest begins before they have even entered into the big, bad world! Females are thought to only give birth to young once every two years.

Distribution of the spotted ragged tooth shark, C. taurus. (Map source:

The social and economic use and value of ragged-tooth sharks is seen to diversify throughout the distribution. In South Africa, raggies are an important species for recreational anglers. They are also sometimes landed as by-catch by commercial fishing vessels.

Why they need our help?

In order to protect the species it is important to recognise that the life history characteristics (e.g. low number of offspring, sexual maturity at > 5 years of age, do not breed annually) of ragged tooth sharks make the species easily susceptible to a rapid population decline. Interestingly, the Australian Government was the first to recognise the threat the species faced and as such it was declared the worlds first protected shark species, in 1984 (thats nearly half a decade before South Africa initiated conservation efforts on the iconic Great White shark!!). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently recognises C. taurus as vulnerable.

How can we make a difference?

As a recreational angler it is crucial for us to all realise the role we play in conserving our stocks. Probably one of the most important things when actively targeting sharks is to make use of adequate tackle – a minimum of 50lb braid or .55 nylon. It is possible to land a substantial raggie on light tackle but it is not ideal for the fish. The less stress on the fish, the higher the chance of a successful release. We can never emphasise too much the importance of being ready with a pliers and camera before the fish hits the beach. The unhooking, photographing and releasing of the fish should ideally not take longer than 1 minute.

As with any species, a large amount of energy is expended during the fight, ensure that fish are released in an adequate depth of water giving him/her the best swim off possible. Rolling around in the shallows adds unnecessary extra stress. Once released, keep an eye on your fish to make sure that they have made it over the lip and into the deep.

Protea angler, Gerhard Guse, with a “black bag” caught in Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape.

Their rough skin and sharp teeth means that sharks are often viewed as being a lot tougher HOWEVER they need, and deserve, to be treated with as much respect and care as smaller edibles.

Sources and additional reading:

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009.

Pollard, D.A., M.P. Lincoln-Smith & A.K. Smith (1996). The biology and conservation of the grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus Rafinesque 1810) in New South Wales, Australia. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.

Let them go, watch them grow…

There has been a major (POSITIVE) mind shift in the recreational fishery with regards to the practice of catch and release angling. This has mainly been driven by the increase in the use of social media to share our “catch of the day” and TV shows.

Catch and release is crucial for our ever depleting fish stocks however the aim of this is to ensure that the fish is returned to the water in a state which maximises its chances of survival. Many assume that a fish which swims away is fit to survive however a lot of research has looked into the stress a fish is exposed to during such an event and the immediate and prolonged effects on them. By understanding a few basic principles and applying appropriate measures we can increase the survival rate of the fish we release.

Probably the most important thing to take into account is the amount of time a fish is held out of the water. Just like we need to breathe, so does a fish and a good rule of thumb to live by is to hold your breath when you remove the fish from the water, when you need to breathe, so does the fish! We often don’t realise how long it takes to unhook the fish, measure, photograph etc. A study conducted, by Ferguson and Tufts 1992, revealed that fish, which were exposed to a similar stress as that caused by the fight, had a survival rate of 88% after being out of the water for 30 seconds. However, after 60 seconds survival rates dropped to 62% and after 60 of seconds exposure to air, survival was a mere 28%! There are a number of simple ways to reduce the amount of time we expose our fish to air. Hold fish in the water for as long as possible. In some cases fish can be held in nets while removing hooks. In many instances taking photos is the main reason why fish are held out of the water for prolonged periods of time. Have cameras ready (switched on and ready to snap away) before landing your fish so that photos can be taken straight away. In some cases buckets/nets can be used for fish to be placed in till you are ready to take the snap.

Behinds the scenes with Craig Thomassen and the Inside Angling crew.

Removal of the hook is another factor which can influence fish survival post-release. The first thing to consider is hook type: using single hooks you increase the ease of removing the hook and consequently the tissue damage to the fish (trebles are nasty things – for both fish and angler!).  Secondly, hook position – in many cases it is better for a deeply set hook to be left, it will eventually dissolve. Thirdly, a long nose pliers or hook remover can be used to reduce time taken to remove the hook.

How we handle the fish whilst removing hooks and taking photos is fundamental to successful catch and release practices.

  • When handling a fish out of the water, it is best to ensure your hands are wet. This reduces the amount of slime which is removed from the skin of the fish. Fish slime (also known as the mucoprotein coating) acts as a protective coating, reducing the risk of attack from nasty pathogens.
  • Support the fish. Hold the fish with one hand firmly under the belly and the other close to the tail. With bigger fish it is better to keep the fish in the water – there are many ways to take nice photos of large fish whilst they are still in the water. Alternatively make use of a boga grip – this is particularly useful for fish such as shad who have a tendency to shake their way out of your hands.
  • DO NOT TOUCH THE GILLS! The gills of a fish are extremely sensitive and any damage to this organ will result in a slow death!

Niel du Toit holding a kingfish the correct way.

Once we have effectively landed our fish, removed the hook and taken our photo we are ready to release our catch. However, before we let our catch swim off it is often a good idea to revive the fish. Hold the fish gently by the tail and face it into  the current, this allows for fresh water to pass over the gills and allow it to recharge itself with much needed oxygen. Once your fish is ready to forcefully kick out of your hands let it go and watch it grow!

Kyle Galloway reviving a leerie before watching it swim off.

Ferguson, R.A. and B.L. Tufts. 1992. Physiological effects of brief air exposure in exhaustively exercised rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss): implications for “catch and release” fisheries. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 49:1157-1162.

Fishy Feature: Shad

We decided to start a new ‘series’ on our blog- “Fishy Features“. Watch out for this monthly feature on a fish species of our choice- featuring a few fishy facts, some targeting tips and a little bit of general information.

In light of the opening of the season this morning, we decided to begin our series with the well-known SHAD.


Why we are in love with Costa del Mar, and why you should be too…

A lot of time and effort goes into planning that perfect fishing trip to an exotic location or even just a short weekend getaway. Even the smallest of details are planned months in advance – the best lures, lines, rods, and reels often get packed and unpacked a hundred of times before the date of departure eventually arrives! The one thing however that most people often overlook which should probably be considered one of the most important for a good trip is excellent optics. A bad set of sunglasses can cause loads of frustration and missed opportunities. It is important to note that good pair of sunglasses not only protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and glare (as well as flying lures or flies – let’s be honest, we have all seen those disturbing images on the internet) but also play a crucial role in assisting anglers in spotting fish and identifying structure.

When it comes to optics anglers are confronted with the challenge of choosing from a wide variety of products from a number of manufacturers. However, from a personal perspective and years in both the commercial and recreational fishery, there is only one brand which is in a league of it’s own… Costa del Mar! Their mission was “to create the clearest sunglasses on the planet for life’s great adventures” and working along side skippers and fishermen, I think it is safe to say that the mission has been accomplished. However, it is important to note that this brand offers a wide array of products perfectly adapted to suit a variety of conditions so be sure to pick the right tool for the job!

What to consider when building (yes, thats right – you can order glasses to your specifications through the Costa online store – another reason why we love this brand)  or choosing a set of Costa sunglasses suited to your needs:

Lens colour:

Costa de Mar have six different lens colours on offer, each adapted to suit different light intensities ranging from extremely low light conditions to blinding glares. The infographic below, taken from the Costa website) provides a more detailed description of the different lens colours and what they are suited for. However, it is important to note that your eyes may prefer a different lens to another due to varying sensitivity. I have extremely sensitive eyes, and find that my BLUE MIRROR lenses are often my go to pair of glasses. Whilst these are labelled by Costa as being more suited to the offshore fishing environment, I can highly recommend them for shore-based fishing activities and would highly recommend them to anglers looking for an all-round pair of glasses. Living in the desert, often means long overcast days during winter, and this is where the COPPER lenses out perform the BLUE MIRROR. The copper lens is better suited to lower light conditions as they increase contrast and colour on even the dull days. However, I would not classify this lens as suited to an all-round pair of glasses, especially for those of you suffering from sensitive eyes. I often find that during days of partial sun and partial cloud these lenses can become a bit bright during moments of sunshine resulting in squinting.


Infographic taken from Costa del Mar .

Plastic or glass lenses? 

Once you have selected your lens colour, you will then need to choose whether you will be opting for the glass or plastic lens – each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. The scratch resistant 580G, Costa’s glass lens, is considered to offer the highest level of clarity. However, if you are opting for something a little cheaper or are just prone to clumsiness the plastic lens will not leave you disappointed. The 580P, Costa’s plastic lens, is considered to be a light, highly impact resistant lens. Their special C-WALL coating prevents water, dirt and oils from sticking to the lens, preventing those irritating marks from spoiling your view. Both the 580G and the 580P are top quality optics and provide 100% UV blockage and 100% polarisation meaning that your Costa’s will always be offering quality protection that your eyes deserve. Personally, nothing ruins a good pair of sunglasses more than a few scratches and this is where the slightly heavier glass lens wins in my opinion.

Frame style and size: 

With over 60 different styles of frame on offer as well as four different size categories, your pair of Costa’s can be selected to suit your style and needs. Having owned a number of different frames there are two things which I can recommend you take into consideration when choosing frames:

  • The rubber lining found on frames such as the BLACKFIN, can often part from the nylon frame, a source of great frustration! Carlos is generally considered to be one of those people which puts a products lifetime to the test however this seems to be a common problem. In order to avoid it I would suggest choosing an alternative frame.
  • The metal Costa decal found on frames such as the SEA FAN can develop green corrosion spots. If you are living close to the ocean, I would suggest investing in a pair which lacks this metal decal to prevent your investment from looking scruffy.

In conclusion, why choose Costa del Mar?

Having tried and tested a number of brands over the years this is one that we would without a doubt recommend to anyone looking to invest in an excellent pair of optics. The lens technology (varying light sensitivity, light-weight lenses) and option to customise (choice of lens, material, frame style and size etc) is what makes this a desirable product to all fishermen and women around the globe. What makes Costa del Mar even more appealing is their ‘backed for life’ policy. Costa del Mar has a lifetime warranty to protect consumers against defective materials and workmanship. Should you feel that your purchase has not lived up to your expectations a claim can be submitted.

Another reason to support the brand is their participation in a wide array of environmental and conservation efforts such as their ‘Kick Plastic’ campaign, Project Guyana and more.

The circle of trust…

One of our favourite fish to target are kob (also known as kabeljou, mulloway, jewfish). In my opinion, very few fish hit a lure as hard as a kob. While targeting any of the kob species you always stand a chance of catching that 100b fish you have been waiting for, as it is not uncommon for large fish to come out in-between a shoal of juveniles.


The one problem that makes targeting kob species on lure a challenge is their love for structure, as we all know that structure equates to snags. Attempting to catch these fish on lures often ends up being a pricey exercise. But there is a simple way to reduce our risks of turning that kob into a rockfish – circle hooks!

Spoons rigged with circle hooks take some getting used to as one often finds themselves falling into the trap of striking when you feel that bite. It is important to note that in order to increase your chances of a perfect hook set a slow, steady retrieve is required. Once you have felt that distinctive tap at the end of your line, maintain your constant, steady winding until the fish is on – it really is that easy! Another thing to take into account is the type and size of the circle hook you choose to use. I personally prefer the Eagle Claw Billfish L2004ELG-7/0 as to date they have resulted in the best hookup rates (they are also not so heavy on the pocket) – a smaller hook is better than a larger hook. Furthermore, we have found that by replacing your traditional split-ring with a homemade piano wire ring, one allows the circle hook free movement to do its thing – your hook is therefore more likely to be in the right position when the time is right.


Once you have mastered the technique you are bound to reap the benefits. Advantages of fishing with spoons rigged with circles include:
1) Your chances of getting stuck between the bricks is significantly reduced, allowing you to fish your spoon at a slower speed with more confidence.
2) You are not only limited to kob. Since using this technique we have landed a variety of “by-catch” using spoons rigged with circles, including leeries, shad, yellowbellies as well as a 50kg dusky shark.
3) Circle hooks are easier on the fish than J-hooks. Your chances of a successful release are therefore significantly increased when using this technique. Fish around the globe are under increasing threat – remember by letting them go, you let them grow.

So, next time you tempted to target a kob, take a leap into the circle of trust and give this method a try.

Reel Maintenance

Today we are covering a topic which is so simple but is often neglected by majority of anglers – reel maintenance. Any individual with a basic set of mechanical skills can carry out this task. However, here is a simple guideline to do a basic maintenance and cleaning “service”. Prevention is better (and cheaper) than cure!!

(Please note that full services should still be carried out by a professional – your local tackle shop should be able to point you in the right direction).

What you will need: A screwdriver with multi-bits, a non-abrasive rag (e.g. mutton cloth), cotton buds, fishing tackle protector, TG’s rocket fuel liquid grease and oil, multi-purpose lubricant (preferably WD40), marine grade lubricant (grease).


Step 1: After giving the reel a spray with some fresh water, allow it to dry. Remove the spool and handle and give each component a light coat of multi-purpose lubricant.


Step 2: Using the mutton cloth and cotton buds, give the entire reel a proper wipe down – be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies (this is where the ear buds come in handy).


Step 3: On most new reels there is a screw/cap that allows you access to the bearing in the handle. Add a few drops of liquid grease. The handle knob takes a lot of strain and is often one of the first components to pack up – a few drops of liquid grease will help to prolong the lifespan of your reel handle.


Step 4: Ensure that all salt residue is removed from working parts, in the handle, by giving it a decent spray of multi-purpose lubricant, wiping it down and then applying a light coat of grease. Be sure to apply some grease to the thread as well.


Step 5: Remove the handle screw cap and handle and apply some liquid grease to the bearings on both sides of the reel.


Step 6: Apply a few drops of liquid grease to the main shaft of the reel.


Step 7: Apply some grease to the thread of the shaft.


Step 8: Add a few drops of oil to the roller bearing and work it through by rolling it with your fingers or a piece of line. Wipe off the excess when complete.


Step 9: Give the reel and spool a light coat of tackle guard, wipe it lightly and re-assemble. Your reel is now ready to be stored or fished!

A few extra tips:

– Perform this basic service on your new reel before use, this will prolong your reels life by at least 40% by reducing the risks of corrosion. When the factory assembles any reel, minimal lubrication is used.

– Be sure to always tighten your drag before hosing down your reels. By tightening the drag you compact your drag washers which eliminates the chances of water from entering the drag assembly and later creating a sticky drag. After the hose down, be sure to loosen the drag and spin the spool freely before storage – this prevents the drag washers from sticking together.

– NEVER submerge your reel in a bucket of water, it is the worst thing you can ever do to it!

Mad Mullet

The use of soft plastics in salt water fishing has exploded over the last few years. A wide variety of plastics in differing shapes, sizes and colours is now available in most tackle shops. You then have the option to have a scented plastic, a glowing plastic, a vibrating plastic, something from a tiny sand lice plastic to a behemoth squid like creature – think of it and you pretty much will find it somewhere. But all that means nothing if you don’t have the right jighead to match your plastic.

Shaun Murphy Mad Mullet

Shaun Murphy, from Mad Mullet, with a Cunene kob.

The importance of the jighead is often overlooked. But what makes up a good jighead? Weight is probably the most critical factor. Coupled with that is the need for a thin, sharp, super-strong hook. Luckily for us, Mad Mullet has taken this all into consideration and has created a jighead for every application.

Mad Mullet logo

Frustrated by the lack of jigheads and the costs associated with imported jigheads, Shaun Murphy decided to take matters into his own hand and started to produce jigheads for his own use. It didn’t take long till friends came knocking on his door and over time he realised that the product had the potential to expand. Clyde Hare came in with his technical expertise and together they created a product ranging from 1/4oz up to a 10oz in a variety of styles such as bulletheads, arrowheads, shad heads as well as their own weedless design. Together they created a product range ‘made by fishermen for fishermen‘.

What makes Mad Mullet standout is the increase in 1/4oz increments from 1/4oz to 2oz. There is a big difference between a 1 and 2oz jighead – the 7 different weight options below 2oz, provided by Mad Mullet, allows you to fish as light as possible at all times while maintaining a feel for the bottom. By fishing lighter you get the most movement out of your plastic however sometimes when in strong winds or current you need to up your jighead weight accordingly. Rule of thumb when fishing for kob in an estuary or along a sandy beach – If you are feeling the bottom throughout your retrieve – your jighead is too heavy, if you are not feeling the bottom – its too light.

A common flaw in most jigheads are their hooks. Too thin and they straighten under pressure, too thick and you can’t set the hook. Mad Mullet makes use of only Mustad hooks – providing a super sharp, trustworthy hook allowing you to have the best opportunity you can have at successfully hooking and landing fish.

Every jighead which leaves the Mad Mullet workshop is personally inspected by Clyde – quality control is therefore nothing other than a top priority when it comes to this team.

All in all, Mad Mullet is a world class product… produced in our country to target our fish!

ProudlySA_Logo_Corporate_Reverse Black copy



Breakaway at the Breede

Breede River Lodge

In March, after applying for our visas, we had a few days to spare. It had been a long summer season at the lodge and we were desperately in need of a break! So, we went fishing!! Our destination, the Breede river – a first for myself and Chenelle. Rotten with flu, I missed most of the drive there, lying with the rentals seat as flat as it could go.

After booking into the Breede River Lodge (an awesome spot, with super helpful and friendly staff, which we would recommend to anyone) we made ourselves a comfortable bed infront of the fireplace and the TV and settled down to watch some T20.

The following day we had allocated to late lie in’s and lazing around. After a hearty brunch we headed down to the marina to book ourselves a boat for the next day. Your’s truly had no copy of his skippers ticket so we were limited to a 3m dingy and a 15hp. After a day of R&R and an afternoon prepping our tackle, we headed over for a braai and catch up with one of Nelle’s friends, Sarah Halse. Sarah is currently based at the Lower Breede River Conservancy ( or on Facebook). After a great supper, lots of chit chat and too much wine, we were off to bed.

At 5am the next day we got up and got ourselves sorted. Before 7am we were on the river on our ship (which later earned itself a name) – The Electric Ray. We started by drifting downstream off the NSRI between the kayaks which were partaking in a comp on the river that day. After a few casts we noticed some surface action closer to the lodge. We moved up as fast as we could, which was only slightly faster than a determined kayaker. On arrival we witnessed some leeries hitting small baitfish, which had now decided to seek refuge below our vessel. In situations like this you are extremely grateful for Costa’s.

After not a single follow on a surface lure we decided to change over to my “go-to” lure – a bucktail jig! First cast, three tweaks and ON! This carried on for about 2 hours – all that was needed was to locate the baitfish and the leeries were there. We never managed to land anything big but a leerie is a leerie, and on 8lb braid and a light rod, it’s always fun! We must have landed in excess of 20 fish between the two of us whilst surrounded by kayaks which seemed to be oblivious to the happenings on the Electric Ray. In between all the action we spotted a pair of humpback dolphins, we didn’t think too much of it as they are spotted regularly at Flamingo, however we later learnt that this was not a common occurrence.

Leerie reflections

As the tide began to push we decided to go have a look up river – what an amazing body of water! The guys which get to fish this river often are definitely nothing less than spoilt! Nelle managed to the leerie of the day after spotting some nervous mullet. By now the south easter was blowing a steady 20knots. Over the course of the day I had occasionally experienced the odd tingle from the tiller arm but took little notice. Heading back, into the chop, the motor got drenched. Needless to say the little tingle turned into a heart-stopping jolt which sent Nelle into hysterics everytime it gave a kick! We managed to work out a plan with a Shimano Terez and a cooler box, which allowed for minimum contact.

By now the wind was howling and spotting fish was impossible. We handed the boat back and decided it would be best to report the shock! After an office full of laughter it was revealed that they were aware of the problem and had forgotten to warn us – a good laugh was had by all!

Thank you to the Breede locals – Keith Tait, Paul Anderson and Mike Dolhoff who all steered us in the right direction allowing us to get the most out of our limited time on the river. It was also great catching up with my old friend, Arno Dames, who was spending some time on the river with his family.


A lot of upset was caused with the implementation of new rules on the river (i.e. no night fishing and no trolling of lures) but I honestly have to say well done to the people that made this possible. The Breede is a truly special place and should be looked after.

Our estuaries in South Africa are under severe fishing pressure and it is up to all of us to try and educate our fellow anglers of the importance of catch and release.We all need to play our role in ensuring healthy stocks for the next generation – each and everyone of us makes a difference.