FISHING FOR SNOEK in Cape Town
Cape snoek (Thyrsites atun)
Snoek is as much part of Cape as Table Mountain and Robben Island. It's a Barracuda type fish and extremely aggressive. When pulled from the water it comes out snapping and it can deliver a very nasty bite which delivers a Haemo-toxic fluid. The fisherman's' cure is that you cut open the eyeball of the fish and use that fluid to wash the wound.
Snoek is an ocean fish. It can weigh up to 5.5 kg and measure to just above the average person's waist, from the ground up. One of the heaviest snoek landed was in 1959 and it weighed 13kg. It has a silver color and the scales are not easily visible as it seems to shed it's fine scales when it's pulled from the water. Snoek is caught using a hand-line and mainly from April to around August. Lately they are caught all year round, which is an indication, perhaps of global warming.
Snoek and Chips to a Capetonian is like Burger and Hot-dogs to an American. Dried fish is the cheapest form of protein for the fishing communities and fish is one of the cheapest most wholesome meals purchased in the Cape. One of the activities which I do on my tours is to treat people to a Fish and Chips lunch at Kalkies, an take-away on Kalkbay Harbor.
You will be considered a day tripper and will be charged a fee. Your catch will be sold along with that of everyone else. You will then receive your portion of the money.
Let's "tackle" the issue....
Before you set off you need to be very well prepared, both mentally and physically. It can become very dangerous, as you will see later. You will have to be alert all the time because you're often working in the dark, on a wet deck and up to 10 other fisherman sorting out their own problems.
I would recommend that you team up with a local fisherman with whom you can team up. Meet at least 2 days before the time and get to know one another. It helps to calm the nerves.
You will need
This is a pvc over-all protective suite. It normally comes as a two-piece.
Rubber boots that reach up to just below the knee
One has to rely on what's worked for the locals for many years. The finger protection is made from bicycle tubing. You have to cut the tubing to the length of your pointing fingers. This will stop the line from cutting into your finger, when pulling up the fish.
You need a 10ltr water bucket with a 2m rope tied to the handle. This is used to scoop water from the ocean to wash your fishing area in the boat
- A minimum of 15kg breaking strength line
- Large hooks and sinkers
- A decent fishing knife
Here i have to warn you to refrain from the, dangerous, local trend of filing away the barbel on the hook. This done in order to enable a quick and removal of hook from the mouth of the fish. I have seen some gruesome accidents happen as a result of the fish throwing the hook on being plucked from the ocean.
You need to take light sandwiches and coffee along since the local boats leave around 03h00 and return around 12h00
Catching the fish
The action of catching happens very fast. An experienced fisherman will have up to 3 lines in the water at one time with fish on two. Each fisherman works from his own designated spot in the boat. There are nails driven in the wooden edge in front of him. Once he has cast his first line he will wind the lie around the nail to secure it. The same with the others.
When they come across a school of Snoek they don't even use bait. They just shine up the sinkers and hooks with the back of the knife, and the fish go after the glitter. The fish get into such a feeding frenzy that they can be caught using a combination of lead sinker and copper, strips of brightly colored robber, silver paper and even red cloth.
So the action is:
- tie up the line
- cast line number 2
- tie up the line
- pull in fish on line one
- lift it out of the water and under your arm
- break the neck and lay the fish down
- pull out the hook
- throw the line into the water
- tie up the line
- start all over again on line 2
An experienced fisherman can catch up to 100 fish per day. A fleet of boats can catch 15 000 fish per day.
It's hard work but if you enjoy fishing, it's a thrill of a lifetime. My late Father did it 40 years, as a hobby...nearly every weekend.
That's a lot of tackle, but if you're just wanting a once-in-a-lifetime experience then you can take a trip with one of the local tour operators in Hout bay, Simonstown or Kalkbay. The details can be sourced from the local tourism offices. All the equipment and tackle will be supplied and they don't leave that early in the morning.