The origin of all perches

Nileperch

December 2012 .  Uganda  .  Nile

Martin Sack

The path was blocked by broken branches again and again. Unbelievable, but an elephant must have scrambled into this cliffy hill. By leaving the wood we recognized the heat of the day. We looked forward to the first clouds which mounted up mostly at afternoon and obscured the sun more and more. Our walk led downhill again and through high grass. The eyes were looking for snakes, spiders and thorn tendrils. The feet touched for a safe hold between the dense green and our hands clenched the fishing equipment. After a while we stopped and looked to the wild water below us. It was not possible to drive with the boat on this stretch of the river. So we walked the last part, like many other times, by foot. I looked magnetised to the pool between the treetops down there. The nileperches there had probably never seen a rubber lure in their life. We fished with rods of 300g casting weights, 10.000 Stellas and 0.50mm braided line. Without the boat we accepted that we had to fight every fish very hard in this foaming water full of rocks, muzzles and bad opportunities for landings to have a chance at all.

In front of us the Nile rushed down through narrow canyons in two thunderous waterfalls. The twisting water behind was called the „Devil´s Cauldron“. Almost it seemed that the bowels of the earth had spit out the mother of all perches at this place long time ago. We were in the natural habitat of the nileperches in an intact ecosystem, in which the biggest crocodiles of the Nile ensured a healthy age pyramid and stand density. Once the Murchison Falls were not passable for the predatory fishes. As recently as the human introduced them upstream because of commercial interests the ecological disaster of the Lake Victoria began. Today most of the once native cichlids are brought to extinction and also the big nileperches are low in number again because of overfishing.

Never I had invested at one of my fishing trips more time in researches and preparations, never a planning was so much extensive. With my longtime fishing friend Frank I found in short time the right partner by my side. We both dreamed of a nileperch more than 50kg, caught on a casted artificial lure! We heard about a decrease of the catch results in Ägypt and Uganda seemed to be the last hope. There the Nile is flowing in the tropics, the water levels are depending of the dry and wet seasons. Because we could not be sure what would expect us locally we prepared us among the spin fishing tackle also for fishing with live baits. At the end we travelled with 120kg equipment into the hart of Africa.

The morning sun raised above the woods covered in fog. Here the Nile was wide with a slower current. We looked for a shallow pool with hippos inside. The massive animals were bad swimmers and spent the day standing in the water – not deeper to stick the head out of the water. Their excrements attracted first the awakas, these the nileperches and at the end also often crocodiles. We drove with the boat slowly and carefully in the deeper water in front of the hippos. We dropped the three rigs with a lead and ca. 30cm long awakas one after another to the ground and tied the boat in the reed. A few minutes later the line ran from the US Baitrunner. Frank took the rod, activated the drag brake and let grip the circlehook. The fish made a direct escape into the shallow water and let jump up the hippos. Sadly the fight was over as fast as it began, the perch got lost between the legs of the animals. We brought out the baits a second time and had no time to fix the boat at the bank again. Now we could follow the perch with the boat into deeper water. The fish came several times to the surface with shaking its big mouth and dived back into the deep. Then Frank had the animal of more than 50kg alongside the boat. Our Guide Itchi tried to grap it with the gloves in the mouth, but now the jawes stayed closed. A soft beat with the head, the hook pulled out and the nileperch disappeared in the murky water just before our eyes. We were totally stunned, but that was a part of fishing. Some minutes later we got another bite and landed a perch of 20kg.

By fishing with natural baits we had not every time on our tour so many bites. However, this is the mostly operated fishing method and lead to all caught nileperch more than 50kg in the Murchison Falls National Park. So we tried it the first days parallel also with live baits to get an imagination where and when the perches were hunting. And caught already at the second day up to 54kg! But we were here to try something new. On wide stretches nearly nobody fished with lures and Itchi was at the beginning a little bit sceptic. And we had the intention to catch the really big ones with our method. After the first days we grew together to a perfect working fishing team with finding new places, casting, driving to many spots and searching, searching, searching.

Sometimes the impressions around were in such a way exhilarating that we nearly forgot the fishing. In most of the pools were plashing hippos, the crocodiles lay on the bank in the sun or lurked in the shallow water. We saw daily elephants, buffalos, warthogs, baboons, a manifold world of birds and many more. We came not only as visitors, but also lived with and next to these animals. We had to look at every fishing spots for dangers and it was not in every case possible to steel the crocodiles their hunting grounds.

The average sized nileperches from 5-20kg were taking the lures very brutal. Bigger fishes mostly started their fight more sedately. I advised Frank so lift the anchor and suggested Itchi to fold up the motor. The fish at the other end of my line swam heavy at the bottom alongside the nose of the boat with direction to the next rapids. We followed him into the white water. Anywhere the river was interrupted with rocks and we tried to stay above the perch staying stiff-necked in the deep. I fought a while against the force by drifting downstream the river. Suddenly the line flagged and I tried to reel in faster.  Just in front of me the water gave way to a big opened mouth. Afterward the massive head dashed against the ship´s side and slipped back into the water. Itchi acted rapidly and grasped the dazed fish at the mouth. I dropped my rod and helped him. Together we hauled the biggest nileperch ever caught on lure in the Murchison Falls National Park in the boat. It was 1,66m long and Itchi calculated 60kg. We all had worked very hard and that was with no doubt the best start into the new fishing season of 2013!

But we didn’t catch only nileperches with lures. Frank fought with two crocodiles of 2-3m until the line was cut by the teeth. In one situation I had already the leader in my hand and was ready to land! The Semutundu-Catfish, which can grow up to 50kg, took regularly the bait fishes and one a rubber lure. The most bizarre caught was a long fish with a round mouth – an elephant fish!

We caught in total 61 nilperches, 58 of them with lures. We started to fish with 0.40mm braided line- a mistake which led to some lost fish at the beginning. Here is heavy gear an absolute must and has to be added by a strong leader of 1,2mm. However, at the end we reached much more than we had dreamed of. Thereby the fishing pressure with live baits and lures is very low and you still can try a lot of new things. And the conditions in the National Park are perfect to let the perches grow bigger and bigger, secured by strict catch and release and no commercial fisheries. The most time we were the only fishing boat on a stretch of 30km. Own ideas and initiatives were demanded, were rewarded in our case and converted the adventure therefore into a very unique experience for us all.

We express our gratitude to the local people and all involved persons of our tour. Very seldom I felt so homelike in short time in an outland. In Europe people said to me it will be dangerous to travel into the African wilderness. They were right, because after that it was hard for me to travel back home!

 

Statistic

Angler: Frank , Martin

Nilperches more than 0,5m: 61

Nilperches more than 1m: 12

Semutundo-Catfish: 6

(kg): The weight is calculated by lenght and with of belly.

* Caught on live bait

1.Day:11                                                                                      1.12 – 0.90 – 0.88 – 0.86 – 0.82 – 0.80 – 0.75 – 0.74 – 0.70 – 0.62 – 0.60

2.Day:8                                                                  1.57 (54kg)* - 0.98 – 0.83 – 0.79 – 0.79 – 0.78 – 0.77 – 0.60                                                                  

3.Day:1                                                                                 1.14 (20kg)*

4.Day:9                                                                                1.00 - 0.98 – 0.93 – 0.75 – 0.70 – 0.65 – 0.63 – 0.62 – 0.57

5.Day:No nileperch

6.Day:2                                                                                1.31 (33kg) – 0.93*

7.Day:9                                                                                1.16 (21kg)1.02 (19kg) – 0.96 – 0.83 – 0.83 – 0.80 – 0.68 – 0.65 – 0.63

8.Day:10                                                                                1.47 (46kg) - 1.17 (24kg) - 1.00 - 0.85 – 0.70 – 0.68 – 0.68 – 0.67 – 0.63 – 0.55

9.Day:7                                                                               1.66 (60kg)1.00 – 0.95 – 0.87 – 0.75 – 0.75 – 0.70

10.Day:4                                                                        0.87 – 0.83 – 0.71 – 0.65

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