One of the welterweight champs of our estuaries and coastline, the river snapper (aka rock salmon, aka nkulunkulu) may not get as big as its African cousins like the cubera snapper, but it’s cut from similar genetic cloth. Lead aquarist at uShaka Marine World and Protea angler Rob Kyle gives us the skinny on these fatties.


Lutjanus Argentimaculatus. This is one of South Africa’s largest snapper species reaching a maximum total length of 120cm and a maximum recorded weight just shy of 17kg. They can read the ripe old age of 31 years. River snappers mature at between 47 and 53cm, and when they are about three to five years old. Spawning is thought to occur in offshore aggregations in northern KwaZulu-Natal during the summer months. They are widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific and their range in South Africa extends from Kosi Bay in the north down to Gqeberha in the south. As juveniles, they are estuarine-dependent. They grow up here before ultimately, in most cases, moving out to the ocean. There are, however, some individuals that choose not to move out to sea and these grow to impressive sizes within the confines of the estuary. They have been recorded at depths of 120m.

River snapper / rock salmon caught on fly.
A chunk of a river snapper.


As far as fly fishing options go in South Africa, the only real places we have to target them are in the estuaries, as surf and offshore are not practical. Kosi is at the top of my list of venues to target rock salmon as it still has good numbers as well as some really big fish. Pretty much all the estuaries on the KZN and Eastern Cape coast, including the harbours of Richards Bay and Durban, will have rock salmon in them. The numbers and size of these fish will be determined by the state and size of the system. Some of the estuaries on the lower-KZN South Coast do still produce some quality fish and the same can be said for the Transkei estuaries.

River snapper caught on fly


In most cases, fishing for river snapper is all about working structure of some sort, like rocky ledges, trees, weed beds, and even sometimes just a drop-off to deeper water. While younger fish are more than happy to spend their time in relatively shallow water, larger individuals will almost always be found in or close to the safety of deeper water. River snapper are generally more active when the light is low, making first and last light the times to fish for them. For those brave souls up to the task, they are, however, definitely not opposed to eating a fly in the dead of night either.


DIY or die, boetie!

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