Tiger Fishing

Shayamoya’s Specialty!

Tiger fishing is a truly exhilarating activity that we offer. This species of ferocious fighting game fish is rare in South African waters. Lake Jozini, also known as Pongolapoort, spans 17,000 hectares and is the only lake in South Africa home to tiger fish, scientifically known as Hydrocynus vittatus, commonly referred to as the “striped water dog.”

Impressive sizes have been caught in Lake Jozini, with the official record being 8.3 kg.

The tiger fishing season runs from August to early November and March to May, although we fish year-round. The lodge has a selection of fishing rods and tackle available for hire.

The rates include boat hire, guide and one tank of fuel

Summertime is regarded as September to April.
Winter time is regarded as May to August.

The Parksboard officials have instituted the policy that all fishing above the Railway Bridge is prohibited to protect the breeding sanctuary and all tiger fish
caught are “Catch and Release” to protect the species.

Tiger Fishing Terms & Conditions

Constructed under the deck of the central lodge, is the earthy wine cellar offering an interesting selection of wines. It is a wonderful setting for romantic dinners so if you are planning something special, let us prepare our special Chef’s menu and reserve this space for you. Prior notice is essential. R500 per person

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The Pongolapoort Lake

Also known as Jozini, is situated in the Northeastern KwaZulu Natal, bordering Southern Swaziland. It is the southernmost extremity of the infamous Tiger Fish population (Hyrocynus Vittatus) due to our hot Summer temperatures and moderate Winter climate, and it is the only waters in South Africa home to the tiger fish. The lake covers +/- 16000 hectares, with a river stretch of approximately 5km. It is set against the backdrop of the Lebombo Mountain range, giving the eastern shores deep basaltic drop offs ideal for tiger fish. The ’Poort’ or Gorge, is a 7km stretch leading to the dam wall, with crystal clear waters of 60 meters deep and overhanging cycads. The western shores are mainly mud flats with the odd underwater islands ideal for breeding baitfish including two species of Tilapia, catfish, carp, mudfish and a large variety of smaller fish. The Phongolo River feeds the lake and this stretch is made up of both of the above conditions, with old submerged trees making up most of the tiger fish hideouts. The Northern tip stretches into Swaziland itself however we are not permitted to fish here. The other area fishing is prohibited, is from the railway bridge upstream which is a breeding sanctuary area. Fishing takes place from boats as the shoreline is crowded with semi-submerged trees and not to mention the large population of hippos and crocodiles on the water.

The tiger or striped water dog occurs in all rivers flowing eastwards in most of Africa, so they have occurred here naturally for centuries. Their cousin is the Goliath tiger, which grow up to 50kg’s in the Congo. Our record specimen was caught in 1998 weighing 8,3kg and some in the 5-7kg ranges are still being caught. Average size is around a kilo and specimens up to 4kg are quite possible in a 3 day fishing tour.

One never tires trying to tackle the tiger, be it the hard bony jaws, big teeth, sheer cunningness, or remote areas. Their fantastic skill to bite through a lure/bait is what makes them such an exciting fish to catch. An average of 4:1 is expected when fishing for tigers. They attack from the side, then turn their bait around and swallow it headfirst. Tigers have been recorded to hit their prey at 50km/hr! They have 20 conical teeth that are extremely sharp and covered with an antico-agulant. Whole sets of teeth are continually replaced during their lifetime. On average, they gain one kg a year and the life span is about 8 years. Tigerfish occur in schools and are cannibalistic. The juveniles stay close to any structures in their first year where they can take cover. They are pelagic which means feeding and living in the top reaches of the water and going down to deeper water when light intensity increases and in the evening. This allows them to take cover from any predators during the warmer parts of the day and then again feeding in the late afternoon.

They are ferocious feeders, competing for food continually. Their diet is made up many species of fish, sardines, chicken livers, squid they eat just about anything. They are fast learners and vary their diet considerably. Tigers inhabit waters close to the side of the lake or around suitable structures. They are not generally open water feeders and we target them in depths from 4m to 10 meters. Depending on the season, water temperatures and available food, depths vary, but it is not uncommon to find them in 30 meters of water.

Conventional Tackle






3 Tips

Live Bait

Other Bait

Two important tips when tiger fishing: When to strike – free spooling is the most common tactic, but there are takes when you have to strike right away, set the hook once and allow the fish to have some drag. Keep the rod tips down – The whole fight, the rod tip should be down. The tiger gives you about 3 seconds before his first jump when he will take advantage of the slack in your line, so automatically drop the tip. 

Therefore once the bait has been picked up by a fish you should allow it sufficient time to eat the bait properly while the reel is giving line freely. Once you decide that the bait has been swallowed, then tighten up and only give a couple of firm nods to the rod once the line is properly tight and the fish is pulling hard on the other end. Simple! 

By using circle hooks you will seldom gut hook, or throat hook fish, and the chances of your fish surviving the experience is so much better than using any other method of bait fishing. Also, because the hook will not set in the guts, you can allow it to feed a bit longer before deciding to set the hook without concern that it is going to be hooked to deep. This cuts out some of the anxiety of striking too soon which can happen when fishing with conventional J-hooks and not wanting to kill the fish.

Other Equipment

Polaroid sunglasses, light weight shirts and long trousers, a wide brim hat and sun block Factor 30+ Tigers are predatory fish preferring warm clear waters, aiding their hunting and feeding instincts.

When to Catch Tiger Fish

Firstly September through to November is their spawning months, and like many other fish species, they tend to spawn in fast flowing waters up stream. They are stimulated to breed when temperatures go over 20 degrees and this coincides with our rains. This is an ideal time to try and tackle the bigger spawning females on their way up to their breeding sanctuaries. 

December to February is when the weather is at its hottest in the area, and although fishing is still excellent, fishing days consists of short sessions being early morning and late afternoon. 

From March to May tigers are generally fattening up for the winter months and also a good time of the year to seek them out. 

June to August also produces fish although it all depends on the climate, as a drop in temperature can put them off the bite for a couple of days.

Other Species

Certainly the Pongolapoort Lake has a greater variety of species than any other body of fresh water in the country. It is not only because floods released exotic species such as black bass and carp into the lake but also because the lake sub- tropical positioning thus home to species normally found only in Central Africa. Aswell as tiger, there are blue kurper (Oreochromis mossambicus), red-breasted kurper (Tilapia rendalli), huge catfish, yellowfish, red-nosed mudfish, silver and butter barbell, a dozen species of barbs and minnows including the silver robber or dwarf tigerfish (Micralested acutidens). Even tiny freshwater gobies are present which have adapted from marine lifestyle.


There is 1 national tiger fishing competition annually. The major Sodwana Bay Angling Club’s competition takes place the long weekend in September, attracts up to 300 boats with the prizes getting bigger and bigger each year.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can catch tigerfish throughout the year, however as the seasons transition to March through May, the tigerfish are busy bulking up for the upcoming winter months. It’s a prime time of the year to track them down and test your angling skills. Additionally, from June to August, there are still opportunities but they do slow down in cooler temperatures. Then from September/October it becomes busy again as temperatures rise and spawning begins.

It’s actually pretty simple: They’re underwater bullets with armored scales and a mouth full of razor-sharp daggers. Oh, and they’re also really fun to catch. Tigerfish can dent lures, bite through leaders, and empty spools at an incredible pace. On top of all that, they’re unpredictable – spooky one minute, headstrong and aggressive the next. Throw in some aerial acrobatics and seriously good looks, and you’ve got a fish you could spend your whole life catching.

Yes, at the Phongolo Nature Reserve 10km away.

In South Africa, Tigerfish are considered rare and are a protected species, so we only practice catch and release. You can’t catch Tigerfish anywhere in South Africa. The only place you’ll find them is in the east of the country, near the border with Mozambique and Eswatini. They inhabit two rivers, the Pongola and the Komati, with the Pongola offering by far the best action.

Hold the fish horizontally, take the pic quickly and release the fish. Do not use a Boga Grip to hold the fish while taking the pic. This is ugly and harms the fish. Use the Bog Grip to stabilize the fish while you take out the hook only.

For more reading info: visit: https://fishingbooker.com/


Experience how the breeze cools you as it blows gently off the great lake up the ridge or join us for one of our speciality Tiger Fishing excursions where the thrill of fighting one of these rare ferocious game fish is simply invigorating. A truly unique bush lodge in Northern KwaZulu Natal where the view from the spectacular setting is particularly breath-taking as you gaze out onto Lake Jozini, the Lebombo Mountains and the Pongola Game Reserves.