Estuarine Fish Facts

Estuarine Fish Facts

Some popular Estuarine Fish Facts

1.Knysna Mud Crab (Scylla serrata).

Our crabs typically live in very muddy areas mostly up river and above the road bridge. Male crabs stay in the Estuary whilst fertilized female crabs swim out to sea where they spawn. Their carapace grows 5cm in the first year,10 in the second, and 15cm in the third. Overfishing and degradation of Estuaries, on which they depend, have drastically reduced numbers. The ‘no-closed’ season and bag limit of 6 clearly needs rethinking.

2.Shad or Elf as we say in the Cape. (Pomalomus Saltatix)

These fish migrate from the Cape to Natal and spawn at sea. Favourite food are the sardines. Reach 25cm in the first year and grow up to 35cm in the second. Can attain 14kg or 120 cm long at about 10 years old. Voracious feeder with blades for teeth and an uncanny knack of biting a live bait off, just behind the gills and your hook. Closed season Oct 1st to Nov 30th.Bag limit 4 for this endangered species.

3.Kob/Salmon (Argyrosomus Japonicus) On Sassi Red list*

A most sought-after fish! They grace us with their presence from ‘Cobtober’ to March. Juveniles prefer to shelter in Estuaries and of course stocks have dwindled in line with estuary degradation, overfishing, lack of enforcement, and non-compliance. Best known spot for the huge Daggas was the Breede river. It was so over-exploited they had to put a total ban on all night fishing, so as to protect this breeding stock. They grow up to 1,2 meters and can weigh 60kgs but that takes 15 years or more. Average size of Kob in the Knysna Estuary is in the 5-8kg range.

They grow at the rate of about 13cm per year, so it has taken 5 years to reach our min size of 60cm.Species severely threatened.  Estuarine limit is ONE per day, whilst deep sea fishermen are allowed 5. Note limits always refer to POSSESSION. That includes what is in your fridge! Makes sense—–if you caught 3 at night in the estuary and Sanparks stop you, you cannot say, “oh! I dropped two of my mates off at Thesens,I only caught one.”

4.Garrick/Leervis(Lichia amia) On Sassi Red List. On Sassi Red List*

A Knysna icon. They stay with us all year, but the bigger ones are generally caught from Jan-May. Although they spawn off KZN, juveniles are often caught here in cast nets. Strangely enough juveniles under 10cm are yellow/black in colour. They grow fast at about 15cm per year, so are about 4 years old, at our minimum keep size of 70mm. Bag limit 2. Try and use single hooks with a flattened barb, as you will have more success in releasing the many juveniles caught. 

For more info on these and other fish, go to  for more info and our thanks to Bruce Mann for info already supplied.

5.White Steenbras (Lithognatus Lithognatus) On Sassi Red List*

Superb eating fish that can get up to 1xMeter in length and 30kg. In our Estuary average size is generally in the region of 4-7kg. Eat just about any bait and their first run is electrifyingly fast. As above they have been overfished and the species is listed as Collapsed EN . Endangered mainly due to seine netters in False Bay, with authorities doing little to prevent it. Only recreational fishermen may catch this fish, catching 1 per day only, at a minimum size of 60cm.

6. Even our Spotted Grunter need special protection, as interestingly, they are highly territorial, and seldom found far(3km) from where they are caught. So, in a way we are their custodians! Min size 40cm max no. 5, which seems too many, given this info.


As we can see, all of our popular fish species above, are in serious decline off our coast, and most are on the Sassi Red List *More info of this topic can be found at 

Learnt from some studies by Sanparks, that it is estimated that in our Estuary, about 600,000 mud prawns are taken each year, along with 50,000 fish!!!  Perhaps it is true that the  Knysna estuary is overfished and under-protected?

Wonder if what we are all doing is really sustainable, and if not, what should we be doing?  For more info on these and other fish, go to and thanks to Bruce Mann for info already supplied.

All images c/o