Tight lines, warm breezes, good friends, plenty of bait…

You either love fishing, or you hate it. For those that love it, it is an all-encompassing hobby that is ruled by the seasons, the tide and the weather.

Recreational anglers in the greater Knysna area are spoilt for choice. Options include rock & surf fishing, lagoon fishing, river fishing, bass fishing and saltwater fly fishing.

Knysna Lagoon Fishing

The Knysna lagoon, or estuary, is connected to the Indian Ocean via the Knysna Heads. Catches include White Steenbas, White Mussel Cracker, Garrick or Leervis, Cob or Kabeljou, Grunter, Elf or Shad, and a variety of different skates. Recommended bait includes bloodworms, moonshine, prawns (Knysna has both pink/sand and mud prawns), cuttlefish, mullet, and pencil bait. Many of these can be found fresh, in the lagoon.

Popular areas in the lagoon are the train bridge running across the lagoon, the edges of the sand banks and small islands, “Kabeljougat” close to the old oyster beds (accessible by boat only), the old harbour on Thesen Islands, and Leisure Island. Bigger fish can be caught by boat with live bait in the deeper channels.

And the best time to fish? Local fishermen will tell you at night, at the end of high tide, just before the low tide is starting. Old fishing lore says that one should never fish in months that don’t have an ‘r’ in – there may be some truth in it as fishermen have more success in summer, but fish can be caught all year round.

Top Tip:
• The estuary is a nursery for many fish species and the shallow areas around the island are especially vulnerable. Please adhere to notice boards in the various areas. A maximum of 2 lines may be used, with 2 hooks on each line, and the lines should always be attended.
• Bait collecting –
o No bait collecting is permitted between sunset and sunrise.
o No bait collecting is allowed in a bait reserve.
o It is illegal to buy bait from informal sellers.
o Size limits are in cm and taken from the tip of the nose to the fork of the tail. Bag limits are the amount of fish/bait per person per day.
• A fishing permit can be bought from the local Post Office on Main Road, Knysna with a choice of a one-month, or one-year permit.
• A tip for success from an avid local fisherman on catching Grunters: ”Lighter is always better – light rod, line, and sinker will definitely increase your chances!”

Sedgefield Groenvlei / Platbank

Groenvlei, also called Lake Pleasant, is situated on your left between Knysna and Sedgefield, on the N2, coming from Knysna. It is one of a few natural lakes in South Africa with bass. It is not clear how the Largemouth bass ended up in the lake, but it is a favored fishing spot with bass fishing lovers.

The lake, managed by Cape Nature, is only about 4km wide and 1km long, the average depth is between 3.4 to 5.2 meters deep, with exceptional holes as deep as 7 meters. It is surrounded by grass and reeds, with random grass patches and shallow islands inside the lake. It is in these grass beds that Largemouth Bass, Tilapia, Blue Gill, and Carp can be found.

Top Tip:
Local anglers gave us these tips for success:
Tilapia or the Blue Curper:
Use shiny spinner bait or very small (2 cm) crankbait. Usually, the Rapala Countdowns with a retrieving depth of three feet work well. These crankbait colours have been very successful: silver and black, black and gold.

Bluegill: Small, shiny spinnerbaits.

Largemouth bass: The general rule for catching Groenvlei bass? Summer topwater lures and faster retrieval with jerking action, and winter, bottom lures and slower, gentle retrieving action. The Rapala Countdown type of crankbaits also works very well. Use the colours as recommended for Tilapia above, plus the fire tiger color (light and bright 5 – 7 cm). The lure length for the Largemouth bass will range from small 2 cm to 7 cm. In summer the Bass also like a pearl white-colored soft bait. This can be anything from a fluke to a plastic worm, twin-tail minnow, or June bug.

Bass is not so active during the winter months and the angler will have to work hard to catch them. Anglers had success with the watermelon-colored lizards (plastic lure 7 cm).

Carp: There is plenty of carp in the vlei ranging from small to as large as 18 – 20 kg. The most abundant species are the common carp, the King carp, and the mirror carp. Feeding places and casting positions are not allowed, but you can use the mielie bomb method. Baits for Carp includes brown bread, mielie pips, floaties, dough, garden snails, and earthworms.

Cape Nature encourages carp anglers not to “catch and release” the carp as they are damaging the Groenvlei ecosystem, causing the bass and tilapia to decrease in activity.

Shore angling is very limited due to the reeds that surround the vlei, but good catches have been made from the jetties and boats. Only electric motors are allowed on the lake, outboard motors must always be lifted clear of the water.

Top Tip:
• There is a slipway just off the N2 where boats can be launched from.
• Keep an eye on the weather forecast, especially for a Westerly wind that will blow your boat away from the launch site. Make sure your motor has enough battery power to get back. If wind is predicted and you decide to fish the vlei anyway, always fish into the wind or into the predicted wind direction. This will allow you to get back to the jetty (launching site) easily should the wind speed picks up, having the wind on your back.

Sedgefield train bridge

The Sedgefield train bridge is just north of the N2 at Swartvlei estuary. A well-liked spot by local fishermen, catches reported here include Cob, Grunter, Garrick, Stompneus, Mallet & Tilapia. The best bait for this area is sardines, prawns, cuttlefish & mullet (as live bait).

Gericke’s Point

This rocky area is a 20-minute walk from Swartvlei beach and best accessible at low tide. The walk takes you past beautiful rock pools and some of the highest fossilized dunes in the area. The rock pools are popular with snorkelers and even if the fish do not bite, the views will make the outing worth your while. Fish caught in the area include Black Musselcracker, White Musselcracker, Kabeljou, Garrick and Galjoen. Pack a picnic and enjoy the surroundings – there are some great rock pools for the kids to enjoy! Just remember to watch the tide to ensure you get back to Swartvlei beach in time.

In the winter months, the front of Gericke`s point is a very good fishing spot on warmer, days with no wind. It is a deep-water spot with a fishing depth of 14 – 20 meters, depending on where you cast from. Species caught here include Blacktail, Wildeperd (Zeebra), Poensie (Black Musselcracker), and Red Roman. Recommended bait is red bait, cuttlefish, octopus’ leg, prawn tail, and sardines. This is a very dangerous fishing spot and only experienced anglers should fish here, and never alone.

Saltwater fly fishing

With the success of local fishermen in bagging some of the most prized species in the estuaries and offshore, the area is fast becoming a popular fly-fishing destination. Listed species caught include the Spotted Grunter, Garrick (Leervis), Giant Kob, Bonito and Shad.

Popular spots are the Knysna lagoon (around Leisure Island), and Sedgefield and Goukamma lagoons when the mouths are open. When the mouths are closed (even at high tide) there is no tidal movement and the feeding banks and drop-offs are too deep to fish.

Rock and Surf Fishing

The Southern Cape coast offers some of the best rock and surf fishing in the country. In the Knysna area popular beaches are Noetzie, Coney Glen, the Heads, Brenton-on-Sea, Buffalo Bay, Goukamma and Sedgefield, Swartvlei & Myoli beaches.

Swartvlei and Myoli are excellent beach fishing spots and Cape stumpnose, Blacktail (yes from the sand on Myoli), Shad and late afternoons, towards nighttime, Cob. Best bait to use especially for Cob is fresh cuttlefish. This bait is also highly preferred by non-edible species like the smooth-hound shark, the spotted gulley shark, blue rays, duckbill rays and ragged-tooth sharks. If caught, please remove the hook gently and place them back into the water. The area is popular for Kob, Garrick, Elf, Belman, Grunter, Bronze Bream, White Steenbras, White Musselcracker and Galjoen. Smaller species like Blacktail, Karanteen (Strepie) and Cape Stumpnose can also be found.

Top Tip:
Watch-out for the ray`s tails and the ragged tooth sharks’ teeth.

Deep sea fishing

A wide variety of fish has been caught off the coast of Knysna including Bonito, Mackerel, Red Roman, Red Santer, Red Dageraad, Miss Lucy (Red Stumpnose), Kabeljou, and Yellow Tail. Miss Lucy is now critically endangered – please catch and release if you do hook one!

Most boats are launched in Knysna and access the sea via the Knysna Heads. This “passage” is influenced by the tide and swell and if you have not skippered a boat through the Heads it is important to speak to an experienced local skipper, or the NSRI, before you attempt it. Or you can take the easy option out and book one of the many fishing charter companies operating in the area.

As an unknown fisherman once said: “Tight lines, warm breezes, good friends, plenty of bait – it doesn’t get any better.” Happy fishing!

Top Tip: Top tip
Keep it sustainable!
• Always buy your fishing and bait collection permit. Permits can be bought at the Cape Nature offices in Goukamma, or at the Post office on Flamingo Street, Sedgefield, or Main Street in Knysna.
• Catch and release, especially species on the red and yellow SASSI list, and undersized fish.
• When bait collecting, only take out what you need, and only collect bait where allowed. Remember, it is illegal to buy bait from someone else.
• Do not collect prohibited bait.
• Keep to the demarcated areas for fishing, and within catching quotas for the various fish species.
• Always clean up the area where you’ve fished and keep in mind that “ghost fishing” – lost fishing equipment staying behind – can still catch and kill marine animals after you’ve left.
• Release fish caught out of season:
Galjoen – season closed from 15 October to 28 / 29 February.
Shad (Elf) – season closed from 30 September to 01 December.