African Tiger Fishing In Zimbabwe

The African tiger fish (hydrocynus vittatus) will give any fisherman an exhilarating challenge. Tiger fishing in Zimbabwe will get you the second largest known variety. Its name is a combination of the English phrases “water dog” and “striped”.

The tiger fish have a reputation within the sport fishing enthusiasts community as being fierce, wily creatures. They are considered to be among the most exciting freshwater game fish in Africa and one of the most popular Kariba activities.

African Tiger Fish Scientific Classification

Common Name:African Tiger Fish

Facts About Tiger Fish

To have a successful Kariba fishing trip, certain factors such as the weather and behaviors of the fish at different times of the year should all be taken into account when thinking of catching tiger fish.

There are several sports fishing methods employed by anglers including fly-fishing, trolling, drift fishing, and spinning. When angling for this impressive fish make sure the equipment you use is strong and sturdy so that you don’t lose your catch in the fight!

Tiger fish generally belong to the family Characidae which is a large and very diverse family of fish. Over 1000 species are occurring in Africa, South and Central America, and into Northern America.

The Characins are identified by their toothed jaws – which definitely applies to this species.

The African Tiger Fish is known as the fastest fresh-water fish in Africa. It is a fierce predator that can hunt birds and small animals.

The largest species is the Goliath Tiger found in the Congo, it can reach a maximum of 70kgs. In Zimbabwe, we have the hydrocynus vittatus species, which is not so large but just as vicious.

Tiger Fish on the Abangane Houseboat

Where Are Tiger Fish Found

Tiger fish are generally found in the surface layers of warm, well-oxygenated waters which encompass major rivers and lakes in various parts of Africa.

In southern Africa, it is commonly found in the mighty Zambezi River.  Countries include Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, and Malawi.

The African tiger fish also inhabits the waterways in Eastern Africa. The countries they inhabit are Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Northern Sudan.

In West Africa, this species occurs in the basins of the Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Niger, Nigeria, Guinea, Mali, Benin, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Senegal waterways.

The Zimbabwe tiger fish are found in Lake Kariba and Mana Pools National Park. They are most active in the early summer from September to December.


Usually they form large roving schools of similar-sized fish drifting in the water hunting various species of fish that pass by.

They are an aggressive and capable predator.

The African Tiger Fish is the first freshwater fish recognized and established to attack and clasp birds in flight.

They are considered potamodromous because they migrate between freshwater habitats to breed. Migration is generally related to flooding events that submerge nutrient-rich floodplains.

What Does A Tiger Fish Look Like?

It is a fierce predator with a long slender shape and a forked caudal fin. Their scales are described as large, iridescent, and silvery with their appearance changing from light to dark shades of color.

The most striking features about this species are the large, protruding, sharply pointed teeth. The head has strong bony cheeks and muscular jaws, each carrying a series of 8 large replacement teeth, meant to take the place of any teeth that might be lost or broken.

As you can imagine, a tiger bite will be extremely painful and debilitating.

Although they grow to quite large sizes, this fish is seen as the equivalent to the South American Piranha, even though it belongs to a completely different zoological family. Like the piranha, they have interlocking, razor-sharp teeth, muscular bodies, and are extremely aggressive and efficient predators who often hunt in groups.

Tiger Fish Life Span

The female Tiger fish lives longer than the male. The females live for around 7-8 years with a maximum of ten years. However, studies have shown that the female grows to a much larger size.

In Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, the average maximum female size is about 71cm and weighs around 7kg.

The male grows to about 55cm in length and weighs in at about 2,5kg.

The Tiger are considered to be a fast-growing species. They can reach sizes of about 140-180 mm in their first year and 200 mm in their second year within riverine environments.

What Do Tiger Fish Eat?

They are known as fierce predators. The African Tiger is the first freshwater fish to have been recorded and confirmed in attacking and catching birds in flight showing both their agility and ferociousness.

When hunting they form large traveling groups of similar sized fish. They wander in the waters, hunting various species of fish that pass by.

Large adults are found in groups of four or five. They usually feed on whatever prey is most abundant. A particular favorite is the squeaker catfish.

The young feed on zooplankton. Their diet changes to small aquatic insects, moving on to larger insects as they grow.

As the fish matures it supplements its diet. They start eating invertebrates, molluscs, and occasionally crustaceans.

The Tiger fish will change its diet according to the available species in its niche.

This fish will attack a prey as large as itself, including small animals that may be browsing along river banks. They will also turn to cannibalism when food is scarce.

Tiger Fish Breeding

Breeding takes place on very few days each year, usually in December and January.

The tiger fish along the Zambezi River system breeds during summer. The adult fish migrate either upstream or downstream in order to find breeding areas (these are usually shores and riverbanks that are flooded).

A female can lay up to 780,000 ova at a time. The females brood the eggs in very shallow water, among the stems of grasses and other submerged vegetation.

They take advantage of deep backwater side channels for yearly breeding. This is a protective tactic to safeguard their survival.

The young live here until the arrival of the flood water which forces them out of this refuge.

Conservation Status of Hydrocynus Vittatus

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature 2017, the tiger fish is recorded as of the least concern on the Red List of Threatened Species.

This is because the species has a wide distribution and is usually considered common and abundant. They are also listed as the least worry in North Eastern, Eastern, Southern, Western, and Central Africa.

However, the population has depleted in the Zambezi river in Namibia. The populations have been affected by several factors which include, water quantity, quality, fishing pressure and the loss of habitat.

The construction of weirs has a negative effect on the reproduction process of this fish species. The blockages mean they cannot migrate freely, therefore, limiting the space needed for reproducing.

Gillnet fishing has the most harmful effect on the species. The usage of smaller gillnets and prohibited netting in the river systems, particularly the smaller sizes, affect the population of the adults and the eggs.

As a result, there have been a decreased number of trophy tiger being caught in the Zambezi River.

Tiger Fishing In Zimbabwe

A Tiger fish can be caught on bait throughout the year.

The finest time with favorable weather for fishing is during September to February, with the ultimate time of year being around October and November.

The culmination of the rainy season is the best period for fishing a tiger. This is when tributary rivers and floodplains discharge small and young fish back into the Zambezi River.

But they can also be caught during winter, within June and July.

May is also a good time to fish for Tiger. This is because young fish are forced back into the Zambezi owing to the declining water intensities on the floodplains.

If you would like to experience tiger fishing on Lake Kariba, the Abangane Houseboat is a great affordable option.

How To Catch Tiger Fish

The best rod for a tiger fishing is a light fishing line that is between 1 and 4kgs. Other essential tools needed include a steel trace and a landing net.

The core technique is to spin or troll behind a boat with bait. Kapenta, robbers, dwarf bream, imberi, parrotfish, fillets from breamnkupe fish, chessa, and fish gills all function as bait.

Another technique consists of drifting with a fillet, and fish bait.

An additional technique known as ‘dobha-dobha’ can be employed. To do this you lower and lift the lure slowly.

In lower waters, where great quantities of small tiger fish are located, one can even use fly fishing.

Once you have hooked a tiger fish, their first course is tough and fast. This is regularly followed by a remarkable jump of about two meters into the air.

At this point, they will make several attempts to shake the hook. It is essential to keep the line skin-tight at this stage.

Once you have passed the above stage you can convey the fish up to the adjacent side of the boat. Be warned, it will still attempt to make 1 or 2 ultimate halts for liberty.

In Conclusion

The African tiger fish is celebrated as the fastest fresh-water fish in Africa.

They remain one the fiercest predators. Its hunting skills will always be venerated.

Their capability to hunt any form of prey from live birds to sea creatures, from the big to the small is unequaled.

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