Bloemhof Dam is one of the largest dams in South Africa. It sits within the Vaal River water and forms part of the border between the provinces North West and the Freestate, resulting in the nature reserve surrounding it to be split into the North West side namely the Bloemhof Dam Nature Reserve and the Freestate's Sandveld Nature reserve.
It was commissioned in1970 although the original plan was to name the dam Oppermansdrift dam. The dam itself is over 300 km from JHB and around 350 km from Pretoria if you drive towards Hoopstad. The town Bloemhof is about 4km from the dam and was known in the mid 19th century as Klipfontein as the farm was known then, but developed into a town due to diamond mining prospects which today there's almost no sign of anymore.
Bloemhof Dam viewed from south(bottom) to north(top). Photo - Google Earth.
As you will see on the satellite photograph, the dam itself stretches for kilometers and ends with an impressive 4270 meter dam wall. That is 4670 yards or 14 010 ft. Where the surface length might grab the imagination, the overall reservoir capabilities might fail to impress at first, as it is a rather shallow dam throughout. With its wall at a maximum height of 35.2 meter (115.5 ft) it rather stretches out the bulk of the water outwards to accommodate the large body of water as a whole.
The dam capacity however stands at a gob smacking 1,269 000 000 cubic meters ( 44 810 000 000 cubic feet) of water, which means for a dam that is not as deep as the average dam in South Africa, it occupies a rather large space, 223 square kilometers to be exact or 86 square miles for our foreign visitors.
But enough of the specs now, we get it, it's huge! I'm sure we all want to know about the fishing prospects this dam holds for the recreational fisherman. And this is where it gets even more impressive.
I will go as far as saying that everybody in South Africa knows that Bloemhof is on sheer results the best freshwater fishing dam in the country. With fish-able banks as far as the eye can see, plenty fish, and an overall relatively obstruction free bank and waters edge it has just about everything to deliver the ultimate fishing experience.
Well just about everything. Whether you're fishing from Bloemhof side or the Sandveld side, shade might not be available in any form for almost all bank anglers. Yes in true "Freestate fasion" flat seems to be in and trees seem to be on the lacking side around or at least close to the water.
So cover is something you either bring along, or do without although I strongly recommend you somehow make plans to replicate some sort of shade or the sun will get you!
With little hindrance when fishing, apart from the hyacinth that even made its way into Bloemhof Dam, it can be all but the perfect trip if the wind doesn't play along. It's a known fact that the wind can wreak havoc around Bloemhof at times, creating waves the size you might encounter at the sea. Still a sight to see, it will definitely turn all attention away from fishing and rather focus on trying to secure one's belongings like tents, canopies, gazebos and the rest. If your equipment wasn't tested by the SABS, it sure as heck will be in one of the Bloemhof wind spells.
For the boat anglers, the only thing I might mention is to either get someone that knows the dam well to go with you, or at least to take the utmost precaution when the dam is not at peak level as it just takes one unanticipated sandbank to turn your trip into a disaster. As we've mentioned the dam itself might not be as deep overall, thus when the water level drops substantially one might even see some of the protruding sand banks on parts of the dam. One just have to think back a few years when people had to push , tow or row their boats during very low water levels at a certain annual fishing competition held at the dam.
Since Bloemhof accommodates all water sports and would in all probability have a number of boats on the water without any intention of fishing. this again would be up to the decision of the angler whether he would be affected by the incoming ripples or waves from these boats. But it will mostly be due to the wind.
The good news at least, is that the average size fish you might catch in Bloemhof is considerably bigger than anywhere else in the country. Where you might encounter an average size fish amongst all anglers around a dam to be at a size of 1kg to 2kg even, it won't be strange to find the average fish to come out of Bloemhof for the day to be around 3kg or thereabout. This of course will depend on the time of the year you are fishing as we know how dramatically the size can vary just after spawning.
Neither is it strange to see or catch a bag full of fish as it never seems difficult to do at Bloemhof, permitting like we mentioned earlier, the weather allows you to. Again we would like to urge all fellow anglers not to take out fish that you're not going to eat and especially the larger fish.
While Carp reigns supreme in Bloemhof, the next contender must surely be the Barbel, or these days known as the Sharptooth Catfish. Since Barbel might not need deep water like other fish species, it most certainly benefits from the outstanding roaming opportunity this dam provides. With so much water to swim in and so much distance to cover it is easy to understand why so many anglers are always on the lookout for those 20kg+ specimens.
Yellowfish are always welcome in any dam and it's no exception in Bloemhof, although I would really like to find out whether its species list extend further than the Large- and Smallmouth Yellows. The fact that these two species have adapted well into a number of dams just makes us wonder if there might be any chance of Small- or Largescale Yellows making its way all along the Vaal River and into this dam.
Another local that we should mention is the Mudfish. Now if this is your fish of choice, chances are your personal best catch came out of Bloemhof. And since Bloemhof might be shallow for long distances from the bank, one could encounter these fish further into the dam than usual, although it always helps to have a rod cast in the closer shallower water in case the fish are moving into the warmer water.
Even with a dam this big, it is not uncommon to see the water levels raise and drop rather rapidly as evaporation plays a huge roll when a body of water is on the shallow side, especially since it serves not only as a catchment area for excessive water from the Vaal Dam, but provides its majority water towards the Vaalharts Government Water Scheme who requires irrigation for its 37 000 hectares.This is done via the Vaalharts weir which is in turn a tributary of the Vaal River.
Bloemhof fishing area however has no power points thus no electricity available when camping next to the water.
- 2 Nature Reserves
- Self Catering units
- Carp-, Common, Mirror
- Barbel Sharptooth.