A large number of swimming prawns (almost certainly Penaeus monodon, aka Tiger Prawn) have invaded Southern Cape Estuaries at least as far south as Breede. This sparked some conversation here at Feathers and Fluoro, with resident science type JD wondering out loud whether or not they’d be followed by springer (Elops machnata, aka skipjack, ladyfish, tenpounder, giant herring, take your pick – around here we call them skippies). This is because they ostensibly have closely correlated distributions, for a start, but also because we all know (and it was later strongly confirmed by Ed Truter) that swimming prawns are “fish cocaine”, especially to predators with a well-developed taste for crustaceans.
In other words we know that skippies love swimming prawns.
According to Ed (aka “The walking, talking Fishing Encyclopedia to whom all others rightfully doff their hats and curtsy”), the prawns spawn on the Tugela Bank, and the vast majority of the larvae are carried down the Mozambique current, never to return home or ever to breed. Only a few get picked up in an eddy that flushes them to the north of the bank, and it’s only these that ever get to spawn. Those that are washed south have a far bleaker destiny. I don’t need to overstate it – if they’re not eaten they find another way to die, unable to make the journey back to the spawning grounds. Recruitment varies dramatically from year to year, but it’s safe to say that this season they did pretty good.
So now I have JD and a giant cloud of swimming prawns to thank for the fact that once again I have found something new for my entire life to be about.
We very rarely see skippies in the Southern Cape these days. I haven’t caught one since 2009. Hell, I’ve only ever caught relatively young ones. Back then though, my innocence and ignorance were perfectly balanced – memory compels the fact that skippies will always be one of my absolute favourite fly rod targets, big or not. Half an excuse to go look for one is good enough, half a sniff of their presence can send me spiralling.
So here we are. Please send help. Because I dig a good old rabbithole. And I’m about to rabbithole this thing with all my OCD ADHD Bipolar might. Unless something auspicious happens, I may end up spending the rest of the season hunting a fish that I know isn’t even here. Dammit, JD.
Meantime, grunters, leather breams and kobs are pigging out, fly fishos. You know what to do.