Nile Perch – The Poor Man’s Marlin?

Lake Nasser is synonymous with huge Nile perch. For the early pioneers it was a true Mecca. The fish stocks were amazing and the perch were huge. It may be the largest man-made water on the planet, the size of a sea, but commercial netting has reduced it to a shadow of what it once was.

What you’re likely to catch in a fortnight today was once but a morning’s fishing. Nets criss-cross the lake and the fish caught in them might easily end up on the fishmongers slab in your local supermarket. There appears to be no control or management so sadly I doubt things will improve.

I’ve chosen to split this article into two parts not so much because it’s a huge read but I want to use lots of images. If I stick them all into one then they’ll probably take a while to load on slower connections. I do hope you don’t mind. You can find part two, Postcards From The Nile, here.

Away in the distance to my left, maybe a mile away, I can see a rocky shoreline. It marks the edge of the Nubian desert. To my right is the Lybian desert. We’re bobbing up and down on a white boat midst a vast blue ocean of a lake on which the sun is scorching down and there’s no hiding place. The sun’s rays reflect from every wave and the breeze hits you like a hair dryer.

This is no place for the feint hearted. Even drenching my leather hat at intervals does little to cool my head. Sun block is every bit as essential a piece of kit as is the selection of lures at my disposal and woe betide anyone who fails to take in enough liquids. But the prospect of a hit on the gently throbbing lure that’s working 30 metres behind the boat makes every discomfort bearable.

Stu Walker and myself have come to Aswan to sample the delights of catching Nile Perch from Lake Nasser, the world’s largest man-made expanse of water. Visually it is exactly as I imagined. I didn’t expect an armed guard but since the massacre of some tourists a while back that’s a government requirement.

But I’m racing ahead. We commenced our safari at Garf Hussein, a small quay in the middle of absolutely no-where. Yousef, our guide, gave the tackle we had brought a swift nod of approval and away we went. The wind was quite strong and Yousef was quick to tell us that the lake didn’t normally fish too well in such conditions but within ten minutes of starting fishing Stu’s rod kicked over, his clutch screamed and the first fish of our trip was in the bag. After our near futile exploits chasing around the Himalayas this was going to be a doddle.

At least that’s what we thought.

Our early optimism evaporated in the heat. Stu had no further action that day and I blanked.

Wednesday dawned bright and we were chucking lures out from the shore before 5am. All to no avail though. We took an early breakfast and resumed trolling. Again Stu was first in and a fish that our guide estimated at 40lb plus caused the air to turn blue as it threw his lure in an explosion of spray. Nile perch have a neat party trick where they launch themselves clear of the water, heads shaking and if you don’t react quick enough by dipping the rod and giving slack you can kiss the fish goodbye.

Stu duly gave this one a big kiss and was left feeling pretty disconsolate.

Still, it was early yet, and just before 8am my rod lurched into action. I was luckier than Stu and a 25 pounder was soon chin-gaffed and hauled into the boat.

Around lunchtime we met up with the mother ship for a bit of lunch but not before we’d had another go from the shore. I’d taken along a bunch of rubber lures to try as it seems the Nile perch are getting pretty cagey about hard ones. Rigged up with my 5lb test catfish rod, 50lb braid and a huge black rubber phallus with a lively red tail I lumped it out a reasonable distance. Bearing in mind I’d never used one of these bull dawg style Daiwa Sonic Tail lures before I did my best to impart as much life into it as possible which isn’t exactly difficult as the bloomin things come alive in water. I was maybe three turns of the handle short of finishing the retrieve when something hit it. The clutch was screwed down pretty tight yet the reel grudgingly gave several yards of line before the fish was off.

Inspection of the lure revealed that whatever had taken the lure have ripped open the heavy split ring and escaped with a strong treble hook.

And that turned out to be the only perch I hooked from the shore during the whole of our trip despite trying two and three times a day depending upon where we moored.

Back on the trolling I had two more fish over 30lb while Stu blanked.

Next morning I had two more and still Stu blanked.

Then our roles were reversed. It was my turn to watch Stu have all the fun over two days that felt more like two weeks. Only once did we both really catch in the same session, a mad spell in which we landed 5 fish and lost two in the space of an hour or so. It was mental but it wasn’t down to luck.

Yousef had located a submerged ridge. Remember, Nasser is a flooded valley and there are hills beneath the surface. By anchoring an empty pop bottle at each end of the ridge we could troll accurately along each side and this made a huge difference. Bang, crash, wallop! Boy did we have some fun and we actually managed a double hit where both of us had a simultaneously take.

Amazingly I don’t think I had another fish after that throughout the rest of the trip.

So the verdict? Well, it ain’t like you see on the TV. Nasser has been hammered during the past decade and while the guides continue to focus on the same old marks, week-in, week-out, the fish are going to be understandably nervous about boats and lures. Speaking with John Wilson he reckons that there are now double the number of boats on Nasser than there were when he first went there but netting and long lining has reduced the number of fish by half. But you do catch some amazing fish despite this. Maybe we hit it on a bad week, I don’t know. What I can say is that we fished from before dawn right through to sundown every single day and then we stuck out a couple of cat rods overnight. We gave it our best shot, believe me, for a grand total of 15 fish, but I’m not complaining.

Part Two of this article, Postcards From The Nile follows on with a number of stunning images and tales from our trip…

Bob and Stu booked direct with African Angler and organised their own flights on the Internet. If you prefer the security of sticking with a UK based travel agent and wish to benefit from their experience you can contact any of the following companies:

Tailor Made Holidays

Angling Direct Holidays

Anglers World Holidays

Meanwhile, you might enjoy part two of this article by clicking here.

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