by Tim Baily
I nearly had second thoughts about publishing this chart showing fish caught per angler over the different months of the year. I thought it might create the wrong impression: that fishing on Lake Nasser is only good during the winter season, from October through to January.
The thing to keep very much in mind, however, is that the chart only shows Nile perch over 75lb. Lake Nasser has an exceptionally large head of smaller fish, which provide very good sport throughout the year, with very frequent captures of fish in the 20-40lb bracket.
(Most newcomers laugh in surprise at my referring to a 20- or 40-pounder as a smaller fish, because the vast majority of freshwater anglers are normally delighted if they catch a fish of even ten pounds. But, as old hands know well, Nasser is hardly your average lake.)
What all this means is that you have to get Lake Nasser into perspective and decide what it is you really want out of your safari. If your are preoccupied with size of fish then, yes, winter is probably the time to come but keep in mind that this season has its negatives.
First, there is a much bigger chance that you might be holed up for two or three days losing valuable fishing time, with a strong wind making it impossible to reach the areas where the perch can be caught. Also, the shore fishing is well below average. During winter, generally speaking, the Nile perch are lying much deeper in the water than they do in summer, which makes it more difficult to reach them from the shore. And, finally, there are fewer of those smaller fish in evidence.
From what we can gather, the reason for the predominance of bigger fish during the winter months is the fact that the large females are on a big feed, building up their energy and eggs prior to spawning in late January and February, much the same as the European perch do.
So what about summer? Well, if you are looking for exceptional all-round sport, with plenty of fish from 20lb up, then the time to come is between March and
July. Thats not to say that are no big fish moving at this time, though Darren Lord caught his 210lb 50lb-line-class world record in June.
In summer, also, the shore fishing is exceptional. If you are lucky you will find hotspots where you will capture smaller Nile perch one after another from the same area anything from ten to 15 fish in one session. This is because, as already mentioned, the Nile perch are in much shallower water at this time. There seem to be two reasons for this. Over this period the Tilapia niloticus, one of the perchs principal prey species, are getting ready to spawn, then spawning, then in late May and into June, protecting their young. (Tilapia build nests close to shore and are mouth brooders.) The other reason is that the young Nile perch fingerlings have put on some weight by this time. Because perch are cannibals, this is an additional food source close to the shoreline.
At this time trolling can be very rewarding working the shallower water and then from time to time looking for bigger fish in deeper water. (In summer the big fish tend to be more spread out, feeding over a larger area, which makes them a bit more difficult to locate. Hence covering ground can pay off.)
So where does this leave us? Speaking personally, if I only had one choice, my preference would be the summer months, from March to July. While it is very
exciting catching huge fish, I expect I have caught enough of them and maybe I am now a bit jaded. My new interest is fly-fishing and catching a 20- or 30-
pounder on a fly rod in summer beats hauling in a monster with heavy tackle from a pitching boat in what I consider cold weather. I was born and raised in Africa and love the feel of the hot sun on my back. Also I am much more interested in hunting fig fish from the shore than in trolling. With shore fishing its a contest between you and the fish not the boat, the guide and you hauling away with a heavy rod. Its summer that provides by far the best opportunities for shore fishing.
Although we have had an exceptionally good year during 1999 we do not intend to become complacent. We have to keep ahead of a changing situation.
Nile perch, especially the big ones, are much more clever than one might think they get big by being smart. We are starting to notice that, in several areas where we used to catch a lot of fish, they are starting to wise up. We know that they are still there because we can see them from shore, but as soon as they see a lure they fade into the depths whereas, before, they used to trip over themselves to reach the lure.
The same is true of trolling. The big ones still show on the fish-finder but in some places are hesitant to take a lure. There is, however, plenty we can do to solve these problems.
For a start, we are putting a lot of emphasis on increasing the training level of our guides and developing new techniques.
The Nubian guides who work for the African Angler have been carefully selected for what I call their hunting instinct. They also have to have a real interest in the sport. Each guide goes through a training period of approximately one year before he is allowed to take a boat out on his own. Even if I say so myself we have a first-class team. However, all of us have a lot to learn about new techniques. For example, where the Nile perch are getting used to lures we have to learn
effective live- and dead bait methods.
Another important task is to explore the lake in more detail. We have 2,000 square miles and a potentially huge number of undiscovered hotspots.
To help me with the improved training program Dave Huckle is joining the African Angler for a few months during summer 2000. Dave is a passionate Nile perch angler who has traveled extensively through Africa, fishing a host of different areas for Nile perch. He is also researching a book about Nile perch. With Daves help I feel we will make some good progress with the training program.