Banded Tilapia. Photo courtesy of Willem Venter.
- Kingdom : Animalia
- Phylum : Chordata
- Class : Actinopgerygii
- Order : Perciiformes
- Family : Cichlidae
- Genus : Tilapia
- Binomial name : Tilapia Sparrmanii
- Common name : Banded Tilapia / Vlei-kurper
- Alternate Name : Banded Bream / Vlei-Tilapia
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Banded Tilapiaor Vleikurper.
Now here's another fish that is generally widespread all over South Africa permitting the water doesn't get too cold over the winter time. Apart from not being a favorite of the open waters of large dams and lakes, they occur in all the other different types from deep and slow to still water and shallows. They do however as with basically all fish, choose to duck for the covers. Any water with suitable structure like plants, in the water or overhanging, thus mostly found around the more shallow water. This is probably the reason why you'll find a lot of them around companies and businesses fish ponds and dams as it create a perfect habitat for these fish.
More about the Banded Tilapia:
While native to all the lower African countries like Angola, Namibia, our other neighbors Botswana as far up as Tanzania, it was introduced to countries as far as Japan. Since it does not reach an immaculate size, I doubt if our more Northern continents will show any interest in these fish.
The average size ranges around 20 centimeters for adults with an average weight of 200-250 grams. While the national record might not even exceed 500 grams, or measured in "boere steak taal" half a kilo, it can still be good fun on a 5 weight or less. Even a small extra light tackle kurper rod will definitely make it worth your while.
And since we're all now going to try and be the first one in South Africa to catch one weighing more than a buddy coke, I'm sure it will get a little more attention in the coming years.
While the small Banded Tilapia might be feeding on everything that moves, dead or alive, the older they get the more finicky they become as the adults predominantly feed on plant matter, plankton and algae. It's almost like converting from a meat eater to a vegetarian, but rather a cheating vegetarian as you still catch them on live bait every now and then.
Their aggressiveness might still be their biggest downfall as we've caught quite a number of these fish with all kinds of flies and lures. But just because you fooled him with your curly tail soft bait or popper today, doesn't necessarily mean you'll get him again tomorrow.
As far as we know the Banded Tilapia is under no immediate threat and although not the biggest fish in the pond, it still managed to survive up to now.
- Due to the monstrous size these beasts get, we advise you to use shark hooks and dog chains for fishing line. The bigger the better. Also make sure one of your legs is tied to the nearest tree. We don't want you to get pulled under and drown. Hmm, we wish. No, use tackle as light as you can get. For the fly fishers, maybe rods less than a 5 weight. And for the conventional anglers, get those extra thin, super flexible rods that look like the old walkie talkie car aerials.
Don't compromise too much on the line other than light thin line as we don't want to break off unnecessarily and put them in any harm.
- Banded Tilapia has small mouths so get those small hooks out. If you use those long shafted hooks, use the ones with a narrow bend. While you might still catch them with your normal sized hooks, there's no harm in trying to increase your chances.
- Hand line, using a float (dobber), tight lines, they all work permitting the fish are on the bite. While we've all might have grown accustomed to the (kurper strop) kurper rig, more and more people are trying their hand at artificial lures and drop shot fishing. Personally, I would prefer them on a fly rod and secondly I'll stick to the kurper rig as I've just mentioned.
- Since they are aggressive fish, I would still try the kariba worms on at least one of my two hooks on the kurper rig.
I would definitely put bread on the other hook even if only to completely confuse his food "beliefs" albeit vegetarian or carnivore that day.
I do however mix plain fish food into the bread. But this is a headache all on its own as we all know that dry fish flakes do not have a nice texture at all and since we're baiting small it requires effort and great patience from angler.
- This is where the fly fisher has a huge advantage over the conventional method, since the younger Banded Tilapia feed on crustaceans and insect larvae, thus making it much easier to imitate their natural food rather than trying to present your bread or dough bait. While the adults feed on terrestrial and aquatic plants and other debris, I don't think there are any leaf or grass patterns available as far as I know, so good luck trying to figure that one out.
- While your first choice might be to look for them in the shallows, they can be found in deeper water. Preferably water with decent vegetation and ample cover.
- They can also be found in rivers as they are migratory fish but the full extent of their range is unknown since our water systems have been blocked and walled off into dams to better suit our human requirements. Although they only migrate before and during spawning time it is hard to believe their travels will take them very far if you take into consideration that they're nesting their eggs and guard it themselves during the spawning time. In retrospect one might come to the conclusion that the migration is only a means to get to the spawning since it leads to huge amounts of fish gathering, and surely everybody know you can't spawn by yourself.
While these fish might have been seen sucking up their own fry in the hundreds, they do not eat their own fry and it is therefore believed that they might be mouth breeders like so many Tilapia species. Yet upon closer monitoring we've found that this was only done when they moved the fry from one place to another. As the space the fish was contained in was not nearly big enough, it was hard to determine if the breeding pair moved the fry to a safer more secure location or just for the sake of having them close by, as we didn't confront the fish with any means of danger in the form of other fish or predators.
Since these fish are under no threat and most fishermen might not even lift a brow upon hearing its name, we know just how much it would mean to the youngsters if they manage to catch any fish for that matter. But what most Bass fishermen already figured out is that Banded Tilapia makes excellent live bait. So in order for you to get your hands on a few, you can always line up a few kids with a couple of hand lines. You might just want to wait until they're out of sight before you string or hook it as bait...