Sardine Fever Hits Kwa Zulu Natal

The annual sardine run that takes place along the KwaZulu Natal coastline, is once again in full swing. The sardines (pilchards) migrate up the east coast in there millions, followed by dolphins, whales, gamefish and hundreds of big sharks plus thousands of sea birds that feed on the sardines. The run starts in early June and continues into July.

Exciting time for Spearfishermen

This is an exciting time for spearfishermen. With the sardines concentrated right in along the shore, big sharks are encountered right in the shallows along with big gamefish. To encounter a shoal of sardines that are being harassed by big gamefish is a spearfishermans dream. Large king mackerel, salmon, snoek, cobia, tuna, barracuda, geelbek, can all be encountered in 15 foot of water. It is hard to describe the excitement under these conditions.

Sharks ...

Sharks are always a worry during this period. This season a BBC underwater photographer was bitten on the arm just as he was about to get onto their boat. He was flown to the Margate hospital where surgeons were able to save his arm. A copper shark was the villain. You have to be wide awake, keeping a sharp lookout and staying as relaxed as possible. If you are diving from a boat, the boat is stationed nearby. If you encounter too many sharks and start to feel uncomfortable, you get on the boat. Shore entry diving can get a bit hectic especially when you shoot a big gamefish and are trying to land it with some big sharks around. The sharks are mostly interested in the sardines but it is intimidating having a potentially dangerous predator approaching you under these circumstances. The sharks board spotter plane that monitors the run recently counted over one thousand large sharks on a daily flight.

Fish Fever

Sometimes the sardines are forced onto the shore by the sheer weight of numbers. At these times hundreds of people converge to gather the free harvest. There are also numerous seine netting teams. They launch their boats through the surf and drop a net around the sardine shoal. The net is then pulled in from the shore with many bystanders lending a hand and taking a handful or so of sardines as their due. These sardines are bought on the beach by fish buyers and are then rushed to the big centres to be sold by the dozen. Shore and boat anglers are also out in full force during this period and the south coast takes on a carnival like atmosphere during this period. Many locals take leave during the run and holiday makers plan their holidays to coincide with the run.

The sardines make good eating. The fish is scaled and gutted, rolled in flour that has been spiced to your taste and then deep fried until crisp. The whole fish is eaten with the head being very tasty. There is no other place on earth where a phenomenon such as this takes place and it is worth making the effort to experience it. Safe diving, John.