Fish found in the Eastern Cape Highlands

Moggel (Labeo umbratus)

Head rounded and relatively large, scales small with between 53-68 in the lateral line. The colour is silver-grey and may have pink-orange spots on the body. The mouth is inferior and small with two pairs of small barbels present. Attains 50cm total length and about 2.8kg, SA angling record is 2.85 kg.

Orange River mudfish (Labeo capensis)

The common mudfish of the Barkly East area. Colour dark silver-grey with breeding adults blue-black. The head is relatively small and pointed, 42-50 scales in the lateral line. The mouth is inferior and small and two pairs of small barbels present. Attains 50cm total length, SA angling record is 3.83 kg.

Largemouth yellowfish (Labeobarbus kimberleyensis)

Generally a large river species, not common in the lower Kraai and absent from upper tributaries of the Orange-Vaal system. The mouth is terminal and head more elongated than the small mouth yellowfish. Colour is typically silver. Can be caught on fly and a variety of natural and artificial baits. Attains 82.5 cm fork length, the SA angling record is 22kg.

Smallmouth yellowfish (Labeobarbus aeneus)

The most commonly caught indigenous fish in the Barkly East region. This species is endemic to the Orange-Vaal River system but it has been translocated to several coastal systems such as the Gouritz, Great Fish and Kei. Characterised by an inferior mouth, two pairs of barbels, lips are variable with some fish with rubbery or fleshy lips and others with thin firm lips. Juveniles are silvery with dark vertical bars and blotches and adults becoming golden olive. In spring adults migrate up rivers to breed on gravel beds. This species is an excellent angling species which can be caught with a fly or a variety of baits. Attains about 50cm fork length and the SA angling record is 7.8kg although it is usually much smaller.

Chubbyhead barb (Barbus anoplus)

One of the most widely distributed species in South Africa. It is common in most of the rivers in the region even up into some streams with high populations of trout. It is mphasizeson by small size, a soft rayed dorsal fin, a broad lateral pigment band along the body and in males during the breeding season golden. Very unlikely to be caught angling! Maximum size is100mm so it is the smallest indigenous fish.

Rockcatfish or klipbaber (Austroglanis sclateri)

This species is endemic to the Orange-Vaal River system and is widely distributed. In most areas it is uncommon but it appears to be relatively abundant in the Kraai from Moshesh’s Ford down to Aliwal.  It is mphasizeson by four short barbels (all shorter than the head), a strong bony spine in the dorsal fin and a short dorsal fin (less than 10 rays). Can be caught on worms and is eaten by local people. Attains about 35cm total length. Assessments of abundance have been hampered because the species is difficult to collect using normal scientific methods (netting and electrofishing). This species is being investigated as part of a conservation programme so please report any catches (place and date) to Roger Bills (e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., tel: 046 603 5833) and throw the fish back alive.

Sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus)

This is a large species which occurs throughout Africa and is at it southern geographical limit in the Orange-Vaal River system. Within the Orange it seems to be at the edge of its ecological range in the Barkly East region and is perhaps restricted by cooler waters. It is not very common in the Barkly area and typically specimens are small. Characterised by four pairs of long barbels with one pair longer than the head, a large bony skull, and eel-like with a long soft-rayed dorsal fin. This species has air-breathing organs in the head and so can stay alive for long periods of time out of the water. It is often seen rising to the surface to take gulps of air. Rarely caught on a fly, it is more likely caught using bait such as fish and worms at night. It attains nearly 60kg and 1.4m standard length although the SA angling record is 33 kg.

Longfin eel (Anguilla mossambica)

The longfin eel is one of four species of eel occurring in South African rivers on the south and east coasts. Colour is a uniform olive-brown, body is elongated, no pelvic fins and dorsal, caudal and anal are joined. Dorsal fin extends forward to roughly half way between the gill slit and the front of the anal fin. Attains about 1.2m and SA angling record is 5.7kg.

African mottled eel (Anguilla bengalensis mphasi)

One of two mottled eels, the colour is yellow-brown mottled with dark green, brown or black. This species is most common north of the Save River in Mozambique but is occasionally captured in South Africa. It can be distinguished from the giant mottled eel by having a slightly shorter dorsal fin (dorsal fin origin nearer to the anus than the gill slit). Attains a large size, up to 1.45m total length and the SA angling record is over 20kg.

Giant mottled eel (Anguilla marmorata)

The giant mottled eel is the more common of two species of mottled eels in southern Africa. It is characterised by its mottled green-brown colour pattern and its long dorsal fin, which reaches close to the gill slit. Mottled eels attain a large size (up to 1.85m and 18kg) although the SA angling record is only 16.3kg. Typically inhabits rocky crevices and is more active at night. It is a predator and will take bait such as worms and fish but put on strong tackle!


Brown trout (Salmo trutta)

Characterised by a streamlined body, a small adipose fin present, large brown and red spots on the upper body and head, caudal fin with few or no spots. The brown trout typically requires cooler waters than the rainbow trout and is not as widespread in South Africa. It breeds in gravel beds usually earlier than the rainbow trout. In South Africa attains about 75cm standard length and the SA angling record is 3.48 kg.

Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Streamlined body and a small adipose fin present. Colour variable from silver-golden, small black spots over the body and fins (dorsal, adipose and caudal) and a lilac-mauve horizontal band on the head and body. It is the most widespread trout in South Africa tolerating a wide range of temperatures and water quality. It breeds from June to September, moving upstream and spawning on gravel beds. In Africa rainbow trout attain about 66cm total length and the SA angling record is 5.43kg.

Smallmouth black bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

The body is compressed and both dorsal and anal fins have numerous sharp spines. The dorsal fin is indented with the anterior part comprising sharp spines and the posterior section soft rays. The mouth is moderately large but does not extend past the eye.  There are 11 scales between the lateral line and dorsal fin origin. The colour pattern comprises a series of vertical bars on the body and no spotting on the lower flanks. Juveniles of all the bass have a patterned tail, which has given rise to the name “banner- or flag-tails”. It is a predatory species, which eats fish and macro-invertebrates. The species is native to North America but has been introduced all over southern Africa. In this region it is found in the Wildebeesspruit in the Ugie district. Can attain 55cm standard length but usually much less in small streams where they can become very numerous. The SA angling record is 2.8 kg.

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