Sardines netted just south of Blue Lagoon in Durban, as the public rush to grab those that escaped the net. Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency (ANA)
Sardines netted just south of Blue Lagoon in Durban, as the public rush to grab those that escaped the net. Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency (ANA)

Sardine frenzy hits Durban beaches

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Jun 26, 2021

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Durban’s beaches were a hive of activity yesterday as the first sardines of the season were netted at Country Club Beach.

Netter Goolam Essack was excited about this year’s run. “It’s the biggest in years,” he said. “It’s the biggest since 1974.”

The veteren netter has been following the fish for 60 years. “I’m 70, and when I was 10 I used to row out in a boat and throw my net around the fish.”

Yesterday they netted at their third attempt.

“We took the boat out at Suncoast, but hit a blank. We went north and hit a blank and then spotted a shoal here.”

Sardines were netted just south of Blue Lagoon in Durban yesterday. Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency(ANA)

As his team was packing nearly 700 crates of the silver fish, Durbanites were hovering to pick up anything that fell out of the nets. Periodically one of Essack’s team would deposit a crate over the sand to keep the crowd amused. They stashed them in everything from hand bags and shopping bags to maize meal packets and paint tins. “There’s plenty for everyone,” Essack said.

An excited Essack said it had been a great run, with more expected into August and September.

“The South Coast is full, Hibberdene is full, Toti is full,” he said. More than 350 crates were hauled in at Hibberdene on Thursday.

Vegetable vendors Hemant and Relenta Ganas were loading up a bakkie with 300 crates of sardines to sell in their community.

“We follow them every day,” said Hemant. “They’re good to eat, and we use them for bait.”

Sardines netted just south of Blue Lagoon in Durban. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
A crate of sardines is deposited on Country Club Beach for the public to collect for dinner. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

KZN Sharks Board acting head of operations Greg Thompson said this had been the forth bumper year for the silver fish in KZN.

What he described as the start of the “fourth wave” hit Durban yesterday with four major nettings across its beaches.

“From June 16 to 24 was basically the ‘third wave’. We had a wave of sardines come through at Port Edward and since then non-stop netting right up to Winklespruit with at least 70 nettings recorded.”

The majority had been in the Pumula area and Scottburgh.

Sardines netted just south of Blue Lagoon in Durban. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

“This wave of fish came through yesterday at the Glenmore area and they netted six times in Pumula and before hitting Durban.”

He said often when the sardines hit the Bluff they tended to move out to sea. While they had been seen in uMhlanga and Westbrook, it was usually on a “deeper line”.

“But (yesterday) was the first day they’ve cut inshore to Durban beaches.”

He cautioned that the fish were unpredictable. “They can net today and we’re all excited for tomorrow and then they disappear. They surprise you time and time again.”

Sardines on Country Club Beach. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

He noted that in 2010 the sardines were only netted in Durban and missed the South Coast entirely.

As for further activity, the Sharks board team flew over the Eastern Cape waters this week.

“There’s quite a bit of activity in the Grosvenor area, and between Brazen Head and Rame Head, so hopefully there’s quite a bit to come. But they can go south, as they were doing off the Bluff on Thursday, or at night they can turn around and go the other way.”

Daniel Govender, holding the tail, and his fishermen friends, measure the 3.12m grey shark he caught at Blue Lagoon yesterday with his fishing rod. Frank Chemaly.
Angler Daniel Govender runs across the beach as he fights to land a grey shark.

Further north at Blue Lagoon there was a frenzy on the beach as angler Daniel Govender landed a 3.12m grey shark feeding on the sardines.

“It was a stubborn fish,” he said of his battle with the shark estimated to weigh more than 400kg. As he fought it up and down the beach, his fishermen friends helped support the rod and took turns reeling it slowly in, with shouts of “watch the line”. Beachgoers hit the deck as the rod was run from side to side across the beach, each time the giant fish coming closer and closer into the shallow surf.

After measuring the shark with his fishing rod and taking a few quick pictures, the shark was unhooked and released, with much effort, back into the ocean.

The Independent on Saturday

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