Yellowtail Run off Cape Point for the record books, could it be linked to El Nino?

Ryan Nienaber

Yellowtail Run off Cape Point for the record books, could it be linked to El Nino?

April started off as a good month for yellowtail catches down in Struisbaai with good daily catches.  What we though to be a little late for the traditional Struisbaai season we were happy to take the catches that Neptune released to us. 

But what was to happen next is unprecedented in recent times and I have not seen since I was a young boy.  An explosion of yellowtail from Gaansbaai, over the hub of the mass at Cape Point and wrapping all the way up the West Coast as far as Lamberts Bay.

I was sitting at the office on Monday 24 April 2023, when I got the call at around 2pm to get a truck to Cape Point as the yellowtail was biting and we need to load.  Paperwork was painful and my brother and I looked at each other and we just nodded knowing what was about to happen.  We hooked up the boat, grabbed one of the fish filleters from downstairs as we had no time to wait for crew, grabbed what gear we had on hand and started towing.

Launching at 3pm and hitting the grounds at around 3.30pm, I saw no boats in the area they said the fish was, no sign of birds, or boiling fish I thought I had the area wrong.  We where at Cape Point and there was only 2 hours of sunlight left, thinking the party was over I thought we may as well give it a try.   As we put the lines in to this clear blue water a mass of yellowtail came straight up to the lures and we went on.

The next 2 hours was no stop action as the yellowtail did not stop.  As the sun hit the horizon fish boiling everywhere we left the grounds with a bountiful catch. 

With most of the commercial fleet with snoek fever far up the west coast, and the unlikeliness of a big catch happening the next day we woke up early and tried again the following day. 

Practically boat alone besides the few of the local yellowtail kings everyone had plenty space to fish and the fishing was on.  Although I thought it not possible, but it was even “dikker” than the day before.  The fish size averaged from 1.5-2.5kg. 

The next 3 weeks the fishing remained strong and attracted more and more boats to the area.  We always hope for a good catch but to see so much fish coming out of one area day after day does make one think about the future.  Currently yellowtail have no size limitations set by the department, and maybe this is something that should be re looked at?

El Nino is an oceanographic phenomenon that shows an increase in water temperatures.  We have been experiencing these cycles and it was evident this season for both the tuna and yellowtail catches.  I’m no weatherman but I am sure the strong Cape winter we are experiencing this year must be linked to this weather system as well as the drought we had a few years back could have been linked to the La Nina which is almost the opposite conditions.  Maybe its all linked to our climate changing, I am not sure.  Whatever the reason I am most grateful for the good fishing we have seen this year.

What I have observed over the years is cycles in the ocean.  We get good times and weaker times, and most of these catches have to do with the weather pattern we experience at that time.


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