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Zambezi yields giant Vundu.

Through the 1980s and early 1990s, vundu (Heterobranchus longifilis) were not really given any special consideration as a sensitive river species. Anglers of old frequently kept and killed vundu, even though there was little or no intention to eat or otherwise utilise the fish. Anglers began noticing a decline in vundu catches along the Zambezi River, and through the 1990s, their possible plight was highlighted through the pages of this magazine, and by concerned anglers and even by competition organisers. As a result, anglers began releasing vundu as a matter of course, and even in places like Kariba where their populations were relatively stable, a new awareness dawned. Today, this ethos persists and a vundu is seldom harvested from either river or lake.

As such, vundu numbers and sizes have steadily increased over the years and the local extinction along stretches of the Zambezi has been averted. Today, anglers consider a vundu to be both worthy as an adversary, as well as a prized species to add to one's tally. Indeed, as a sport fish, there is little to match its brute strength and incredible stamina; both equipment and angler will be tested to the limit.

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On May 23, while fishing with some clients just above B camp in the Rifa Safari Area along the Zambezi, Spike Claassen, a professional hunter/guide and avid fisherman, put his clients onto a vundu hotspot. By mid-morning, both of Spike's clients were into fish. The first to fall was around 30lb, followed shortly by a 50 pound monster. Happy with their catches, Spike's clients wanted to see him catch a fish, and not to be one for not shouldering his share of the work, Spike agreed. He says, "They wanted to see me catch a fish, and I was fortunate enough to catch the big 'fella'".

Spike was using a 7ft 4 Crucial with an Ambassadeur reel spooled with 20lb Trilene Big Game line, tackled with a one ounce weight, a bobber stopper and a relatively small Circle hook. The hook was baited with a piece of buffalo spleen and Spike had tied a piece of intestines to the back of the boat as a chum bait.

Spike recalls, "I put my boat on a sand bank to be able to get off quickly to chase the fish. I found that on all the fish, the original run was pretty hectic and I would have been spooled if I could not chase them. Especially so with the big one. It was a very close call to being spooled, but once the first major run was over, we didn't need the boat anymore, and just drifted with the fish". After a relatively short fight--by vundu standards--Spike had the fish alongside. Back on shore, he weighed it with close friend, Bruce Watson, verifying the weight at 43.5kg, a veritable monster at 95 pounds! After the obligatory photographs, the fish was returned to the river, hopefully to test another angler one day.

Zimbabwe's vundu record stands at 50kg, which was also caught in the middle Zambezi around Chirundu in January of 1981 by K.T. Clark. Fish of this size are unique, and although no one is really sure how long they live, or what the possible age of Spike's fish may have been, it can be considered significant for a fish. Vundu are an interesting species, and more information can be gleaned from our adapted Fact File article taken from Professor Brian Marshall's book, The Fishes of Zimbabwe and their Biology (see page 39).

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Title Annotation:This 'n That
Publication:African Fisherman
Date:Aug 1, 2016
Words:598
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