The Greatest Shoal On Earth

2018 Sardine Run breaks all the records.

The annual Sardine Run occurs each year between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) from around the end of May until August. Although one can view the action along the entire east coast, the core action happens along the KZN South Coast from Port Edward to Scottburgh. This is the area where the little silver bullets tend to come close to shore and where they are eagerly awaited by the licensed sardine netters, who risk life and limb to net crates of ‘sards’ for sale on the open market. This alone is a spectacle, watching seasoned skippers punch the shore break, set the net and then like a well-oiled machine the crew pulls the net to reveal the shimmering bounty caught in the bottom of the net. As anglers, it is the game fish, sharks and rays that follow these shoals that we wait for all year.

For the past few years, the Sardine Run had been very limited – many theories as to why abound, but 2018 has blown all of these out the water – literally! It seems that if conditions are favourable, that is cold water close to the shore, then they will come. And this year they came in their thousands with pockets coming close to shore over an unprecedented two-month period. Hundreds of full nets were pulled providing the holidaying public with the best seat in the house as they were treated to sightings of dolphins, whale sharks and birds all sharing the bounty of the run.

Those anglers fortunate enough to be on the KZN South Coast this winter were treated to some of the best shark angling in the world – a bold statement, but I am confident it’s 100% true. At many of the beaches where netting had occurred, it was no strange sight to see up to 50 anglers being towed around by one of the many sharks that were present in this year’s run. Blacktips, spinners, bronze whales, huge grey sharks and even the odd tiger shark all followed the shoals into the shore break giving anglers screaming drags and bent rods. Many anglers were stripped of all their line on more than one occasion with a big number of trophy fish, well over 200kg, being landed. Most anglers usually strive to get a fish of over 100kg; after this run, the bar has been raised to double that – 200kg is now the new bucket list! I would safely say that at least 40 fish over 200kg were landed by shore and drone anglers during this run together with multiple 100kg plus fish. Many anglers broke their personal bests and those who had the privilege of experiencing this year’s run will already be tackling up for next year.

Most of these hot spots seem to have action in every run, so they are worth keeping in mind – book your accommodation early as the run happens during school holidays. Make sure you tackle up accordingly as these fish are super strong.

To experience the ‘greatest shoal on earth’ should be on every angler’s bucket list. With perfect winter days and loads of other activities to keep the family entertained when the fish are not around, come and enjoy the many wonders the KZN South Coast has to offer – odds are you will break that personal best.

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