Getting in on the Sardine Run action

Posted by Carolien Henn on May 20, 2022 10:31:26 AM
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The Sardine run is a proudly South African phenomenon that is sparked by the entry of large shoals of sardines into the waters of southern KwaZulu-Natal during the winter months. This is the largest bio mass migration on the planet that provokes the wild diving of birds, fish off all sorts lusciously feeding on pockets of shards, and sightings of sea life that can only be found during this period. 


The great majority of South Africa’s sardine stock can be found in the cooler Cape waters, however during winter a relative portion of sardine stock moves east taking advantage of the cool water on the continental shelf that occurs seasonally and forms a narrow band between the warmer current and the coast. The Migration starts from Cape Agulhas. 


Sardines grow rapidly and have a very short lifespan reaching sexual maturity at two years, with each female laying thousands upon thousands of eggs in her short life span. This resulting in a healthy sardine stock.


During the Sardine Run which can take place anytime from May until July, netters carefully track the pilot shoals to be able to throw the first net for the season. The pilot shoals act like navigators determining the route for the shoals to follow. Therefore, shoals often come close to where the pilot shoals pass through. It is often that the pilot shoals are mapped by netters and anglers to indicate further expected sardine action.




Sardines are one of the most popular baits amongst anglers and as all anglers know: the fresher the bait, the bigger the success of your catches. Not surprisingly, anglers are normally eager to get the netters to buy crates of fresh sardines that can be packed and frozen for the rest of the fishing season. 


This phenomenon creates the ideal feeding environment for predatory fish which includes a diversity of shark and gamefish species, that tend to go into frantic feeding frenzies when colliding with a pocket. Common gamefish species found on the sardines is shad (elf), king mackerel, various kingfish species, bonito, garrick, geelbek, eastern little tuna and yellow fin tuna. This is an ideal time for deep sea anglers hungry for some fishing action to get a diversity of gamefish species.


Surrounding the sardine action, dolphins, the humpback whale and the brydes whale, whose diet consists of small fish like sardines, can be seen. Over the past couple of years there has also been sightings of the orca (killer whale).


Whether it is for fishing or experiencing the magnitude of this phenomenon, make sure you get in on the action during this year’s Sardine Run.



To keep informed about the Sardine Run and where the sardines are being netted you can subscribe to the ASFN Fishing Youtube channel that provides live updates on the Sardine Run action. 





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