ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on February 19, 2011

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

An Oilskin

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

Finger Protection

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.

Water bucket

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:

  • cast
  • 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.

The alternative....

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.


Typical hand-line tackle
Typical hand-line tackle

Kalk Bay Harbour

A fishing boat getting ready to dock
A fishing boat getting ready to dock


Yellowtail being sorted
Yellowtail being sorted


Snoek being off-loaded from the boat. Notice the protective PVC the fishermen are wearing
Snoek being off-loaded from the boat. Notice the protective PVC the fishermen are wearing
Snoek, Sea Breem(bunches) and Red Snapper being sold off the harbour
Snoek, Sea Breem(bunches) and Red Snapper being sold off the harbour
Snoek being loaded onto an Isuzu "Bakkie"(pick-up) to be sold in the residential areas
Snoek being loaded onto an Isuzu "Bakkie"(pick-up) to be sold in the residential areas

Dried Snoek

Wind-dried snoek on the harbour
Wind-dried snoek on the harbour


Snoek sold by the roadside
Snoek sold by the roadside


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Johnathan Muller profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Yes it is dangerous as you have to pull it up and under your one arm, let go of the line and then snap the neck backwards.

      It's all about technique. I think my next article regarding this matter will be about gutting the fish. It's very different due to the anatomy of the fish

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      hi jonathan, would like to know if you found it hard to break the neck of a snoek, as i hear that's the most dangerous part of fishing for snoek.



    • Johnathan Muller profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Just something i forgot to mention....

      When you're "smoking" snoek for commercial puposses and wish to increase the shelf life then you may want to consider using Potassium Sulphite in the Saline solution during the salting process. I think the dossage is 0,01 grams per Kilogram of fish.

      You would also want to include "cook out" when you aplly the Annato dye for the coloration.

      I've always preferd smoking the fish to using the "smoke essence"

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi johnathan,Thanks for this informative site much appreciated.I live in Cape Town and is new to the dry snoek business and i have learned a lot from the information that you have shared.Thanks

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      does anyone know where i can find out in more detail about things like the eating habbits, where when etc..

    • Johnathan Muller profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      @Claire....They are not the same. For starters, we are getting a lot of Barracouta being sold as Snoek in South Africa. There is, for me, a huge difference in taste. The flesh of the Barracouta is darker and firmer. It also lasts longer than Snoek if you smoke it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am writing again about snoek. Now Jonathan what is the difference between snoek and barracutta. I went on the internet and it says that they are both the same. In Australia it is called Barracouta.

      Please explain.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi Johnathan

      Thank you so much. Now I am trying to get the snoek from a place where they sell it frozen. I don't know if it will work but I will try.

      The salted snoek I use to buy was cut in small pieces in plastic bag.

      Thanks again.

    • Johnathan Muller profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      You can just salt it and hang it outside on the washing line or similar.You would need to use coarse salt.

      The other method is to lie it in a very strong salt and fine pepper solution for up to 2 days. Then you can hang it out to dry. The pepper helps to keep any flies away.

    • Johnathan Muller profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi CLaire,

      Yes, i do. I think you've just given me my next HUB Idea.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love eating dried snoek. However I live in Australia and I never get to eating it.

      So is there anyone who knows the salting and drying process of the snoek done in Hout Bay, South Africa.

      I thought may be I can use another fish similar to the snoek.

    • Johnathan Muller profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Well, it doesn't mean that you will get ill. If you know it could be a problem you can get medication or take precautions. Just enquire at any Pharmacy.

    • profile image

      Fred van Niekerk 

      7 years ago

      What about sea sickness when you are a novice

    • Johnathan Muller profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Thanks Jeremy. For me it's the It is annoying when i get to the fisheries and they serve me Baracutta instead of snoek. Few people even notice the difference but it's becoming a common thing in Cape Town.

    • profile image

      Jeremy Howard 

      7 years ago

      This is an extremely interesting read and educational. The fun is actually doing the fishing...


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)