Zambia is a land of rivers and lakes and, for this reason, fishing holidays are a great attraction.
Zambia is part of two river basins. The Zambezi River basin includes the Kafue and Luangwa Rivers and covers most of Zambia. Both the Zambezi and Kafue Rivers offer some excellent fishing but the Luangwa River, being seasonal and drying up to a large trickle, is not a fishing destination. The other river basin is the Congo which includes parts of northern Zambia – Lakes Tanganyika, Bangweulu, Mweru and Mweru Wantipa.
Most of the fish in the Zambezi River Basin migrated from Central Africa over millions of years. Lake Tanganyika, being in a tropical river basin, has more fish species than Kafue and Zambezi Rivers.
There is a fishing ban during the breeding months for the fish – December, January and February.
Catch, photograph and release is encouraged
A Word of Warning
It must be remembered that crocodiles abound in rivers and lakes. You may not see them but they are there. Never stand on the edge of a river to fish; fish from a jetty or from a boat.
Only in Lake Tanganyika is swimming allowed but visitors do so under advice from operators.
Many of our lodges are along a riverbank or on the edge of a lake and visitors can be offered a fishing rod to try their luck. The map shows the camps which specialise in fishing.
In Livingstone we have three companies which offer fishing – Angle Zambia, Livingstone’s Adventure and Bundu.
There are fishing competitions on Lake Kariba in September and Lake Tanganyika in March/April.
The fish in our rivers and lakes
There are hundreds of different species of fish in Zambia but below I have listed those which are of interest to anglers.
Cornish Jack (Mormyrus deliciosus). Found in the Zambezi, below the Victoria Falls to the Luangwa River confluence. Also in Lake Tanganyika.
Kafue Pike (Hepsetus odoë). Found in the Kafue River and Upper Zambezi. It is a lurking predator which hides among reedbeds. Although it has been found in the Upper Zambezi it is not common there as it cannot compete with the Tiger fish.
Tiger fish (Hydrocynus vittatus). Found in the Zambezi River and Lake Tanganyika. This is one of the fish which anglers love to catch. It is a predatory fish with large teeth. It fights when caught on a line, leaping out of the water. The line has to be strong and needs a wire trace.
Nkupi (Distichodus mossambicus). Found in the Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls where it likes deep pools. Although generally smaller than the tiger fish, the nkupi puts up a good fight when caught on the line.
Chessa (Distichodus schenga). Found in the Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls. Likes deep pools.
Vundu (Heterobranchus longifilis). This is a large catfish. Found in Lake Kariba and downstream. Also in Lake Tanganyika. It eats anything that will fit in its large mouth, including birds and animals.
Barbel (Clarias). There are several species of barbel in our rivers. They can eat just about anything and survive really harsh conditions like very muddy water. They are also known to hunt together forming large shoals which will encircle small fish to feed on them. They are not often sought after by anglers, but if they are, a strong line is required.
Squeakers (Synodontis). This species is a small catfish and definitely not fished for but often arrive on an angler’s hook. When being landed they make a squeaking noise, hence the name. They are a menace to remove from the hook because of their sharp barbs.
Electric catfish (Malapterurus electricus). Again, this is never intentionally fished for and fortunately is not common. When accidentally caught by anglers it has to be carefully removed as it can give a shock of up to 450 volts.
Eels (Anguilla). Eels used to be common in the Zambezi but because of the dams – Kariba and Cahorra Bassa, they can no longer reach our rivers. (They spawn in the sea and then swim upstream).
Bream (Tilapia). There are several species of bream in our lakes and rivers. They form a large part of our fish-farming industry as they are good eating. These are some of those found: Green-headed bream, Three-spot bream, Red-breasted bream, Banded bream
Large-mouthed breams (Serranochromis). These are predatory fish living in calm water. Good for anglers. Here are some of them: Thin-faced bream, Njenja, Nembwe, Brown-spot bream, Codrington’s bream
Tanganyika Perch (Lates). A large fish growing up to 50 kg. Only found in Lake Tanganyika.
Lake Salmon (Lates). Not as big as the Tanganyika perch but grows up to 25kg. Only found in Lake Tanganyika.
African Cichlid or Frontosa. Often used as an aquarium fish it can grow up to 30 cm. Only found in Lake Tanganyika.
Crayfish. Over the past 10 years the Australian crayfish has got into some of our rivers and lakes, especially Lake Kariba. They were originally imported to private farms for commercial use but somehow escaped into the rivers. We are still assessing what effect they will have on our environment but there seems no way they can be eliminated. They are now being caught by the use of baited traps in Lake Kariba and making a tasty meal.