African Fish

The Indian, Southern, and Atlantic marine waters of Africa, along with their numerous lakes and rivers, represent various fish species they could be proud of.

The continent has an abundant freshwater and marine life supply, with over 3,000 kilometers of coastlines, multiple dams, lakes, ponds, and streams.

A Must-Read: How Much Are Fishing Boats?

There are 15% of all identified marine coastal animals on the coast of South Africa. The Cape Stumpnose, Plain Squeaker, Freetail Brotula, and Phongolo Suckermouth are among the native fish species they can have in the region.

If you’re a passionate adventurer and looking for some of the freshest and savoriest fish that Africa has on its shores, below are some widely caught species they can offer.

Plain Squeaker

The Synodontis Zambezensis, commonly known as the Plain Squeaker, is an upside-down catfish species endemic to the Zambezi River system distributed across Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and South Africa.

This lives in reservoirs of permanent and intermittent rivers and slow-flowing reaches. In riverine environments, it is more popular than on flood plains, dwelling on ridges or underneath the trees, typically in the upside-down position.

These types of fish may exceed 43cm in length, and their spines are known to be poisonous. They feed on organic matter such as plants and detritus, usually seeds, insects, or snails, as these species are scavengers and very active at night.

The Plain Squeaker is oviparous in the summer and has distinct pairings throughout their breeding season.

Freetail Brotula

The Freetail Brotula is a small South African fish species commonly found in the Bythitidae tribe. These types of fish are one of three related species named in the Bidenichthys genus as they live in the intertidal areas and rocky tide pools, extending around the Cape of Good Hope along the SouthEast Atlantic.

They can grow up to 9cm in length, and they can swim further at depths ranging from 11m to 30.5m and between 19.831°C and 20.525°C temperatures.

Cape Stumpnose

The Cape Stumpnose is a fish species in the family of Sea Bream. They are native species to South African rivers, found living along the country’s eastern coast.

The average length of a Cape Stumpnose ranges up to 15cm, with large ones going up to 40cm. Their skeleton is silvery-white, with a strip of gold extending from head to tail and their dorsal fin has 11 spines. Their head is flat, with 6 to 8 incisors in their jaw.

These types of fish are marine fish, with adults living in the ocean and younger species living in the waterways where it is protected in eelgrass beds.

The younger species of Cape Stumpnose have cusped teeth that help collect parts from aquatic plants. They primarily feed on eelgrass while the adults have a bivalve and crustacean diet. The Cape Stumpnose population is declining, and their habitat is prone to depletion in estuaries.

Phongolo Suckermouth

The Chiloglanis Emarginatus, also known as Phongolo Suckermouth, is an upside-down catfish species that live within a large group. These types of fish are native to Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

They can grow up to 6.5cm in length and live in freshwater, mostly in Pongola, Komati, Pungwe, and the middle and lower rivers of Zambezi.

They don’t call them Suckermouth for anything; Phongolo Suckermouth uses its mouth as a sucking disc to keep its place in fast-flowing waters. Their mandibular teeth are used to scrape stones off invertebrates.

This ranges from 0.2m up to 0.4m in shallow rocky runs and riffles in large rivers at an altitude of 900m to 1,200m above sea level. They also feed on invertebrates such as mayfly nymphs.

These species are oviparous during mating, with a unique pairing method as they breed during the summer season. The Phongolo Suckermouth in South Africa is threatened by habitat modification, which suffers degradation from water extraction, regular flows from dams, and sedimentation resulting from agricultural and forestry practices.

Spotted Grunter

Spotted Grunter is commonly found in Cape Head, along the eastern coast of Africa and Madagascar. These species feed on sand prawns, worms, and crustaceans, which they expose to clear the mud by sprinkling a jet of water from their mouths.

Spotted Grunter can often be seen shaking the water on shallow rivers with their paws as they feed with their head down, and by scraping their strong jaws together, they make a grunting sound in their throats.

Grunters can live for 15 years, and they can grow up to a length of 80cm and weigh around 10kg.

Their white flesh makes it good food, but the common practice was to bleed the fish well after catching to improve its flavor. Their reliance on estuaries makes them vulnerable to overfishing, as, within South Africa, this fish is listed as a no-sale species.

Only recreational fishers with a special permit may catch Spotted Grunters and are only authorized to use a daily bag of 5pp/pd and a minimum size limit of 40 cm. However, these anglers are not permitted to sell their captures.

Cape Gurnard

Cape Gurnards are long-lived and endemic fish species found at depths of 10m to 390m on the sandy or silty rivers of Mozambique and Namibia.

These types of fish are one of the most widely caught unwanted species in both the inshore and offshore trawl sectors. However, Gurnards appear to be tough to fishing pressure, and their population is currently considered to be under-exploited.

They can grow from up to 75cm in length, weigh up to 5k, and live 16 years. As a food product, this type of species is of commercial value.

The Cape Gurnard is native to the coasts of South Africa and is also caught commercially, along with being attacked by line-fishermen. This fish is very popular with fishermen as the flesh makes it an excellent food if you can ignore the fish’s ugly appearance.

Galjoen Fish

Galjoen can be found but rarely occurs along the South African coast from Northern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal and Namibian seas. Galjoen eats ascidians such as redbait squirts, small crustaceans, red seaweed, and barnacles.

Typically, these species occupy rocky coastlines in the surf region, and Galjoen needs to be able to swim in rough seas and manage scrapes to survive among cliffs. Their tiny mouths, sharp incisors, and thick muscular lips help Galjoen lift their predators off the heavy rocks.

Galjoen is a medium-sized fish with oval-shaped and flat bodies with symmetrical dorsal and anal fins. They give them a distinctive “Snapchat logo” appearance, particularly when raising their spines in defense.

They can also change their appearance, usually in a dark grayish color. This changing appearance helps them socialize with the rocky coastlines they prefer, but they can change their color to pale bronze when around the coast. They can also display vertical stripes on their body occasionally.

Galjoen are known to grow around 7 kg and about half a meter in length, but this large size is seldom achieved due to fishing pressures.

Black Musselcracker

Cymatoceps Nasutus, known as the Black Musselcrackers, are endemic slow-growing yet long-lived fish that render them highly vulnerable to pressure from fishing. Black Musselcrackers are found along the coast of the Western Cape to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

These kinds of fish are caught using traditional line fishing methods, usually hand lines or rod and reel. It is a relatively limited form of fishing with few effects on the marine ecosystem and a preventive bycatch fishing.

Musselcracker can reach nearly 5 inches in length, and the largest specimen recorded weighed 77lb. These species are most abundant at up to 260ft in the nearshore and offshore reefs.

Although they can be found throughout the year, the best option is to catch them during the spring season as Musselcracker prefers to live in dry, clean water and avoids sandy places.

If you’re planning to eat the Black Musselcracker, the best tip is that smaller species taste better than the larger species, but it’s nevertheless an excellent fish that you can taste.


Shad, also known as Elf, Tailor, or Bluefish, is one of the most common angling fish in South Africa, caught each year by more than 300,000 anglers. These species are widely distributed in the warm Asian, Atlantic, and Pacific coastal waters.

Shad fishes can be found along South Africa’s entire coastline; in which some of them prefer deep water sandy areas and others in foamy weather, where the shore has more heavy rocks.

They hunt on the ground surface of the water and grow for about 120cm in length and 14kg by weight. The meat offers excellent food but only when it’s freshly caught, so avoid freezing this fish.

Shad breeds in the warmer waters of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa from spring until the mid-summer season. These kinds of fish can reach sexual maturity at one or two when they are about 25 to 30cm long.

In one season, a large female shad can produce up to 2 million eggs, though most females produce about 1 million eggs in each season. After a couple of days, the eggs will hatch, and the pelagic larvae migrate passively inshore from the Agulhas Current back to South-eastern Cape, where they spend their starting year living in large sea bays.

Bronze Bream

The Bronze Bream can be found along South Africa’s West Coast, right up to the rivers of Mozambique. These types of fish can grow up to a length of 74cm and a weight of 6kg.

This fish is in demand in the market because of its meat, but unfortunately, this species is not often caught due to its dropping population as Bronze Bream has a slow growth rate.

The Bronze Bream can regularly be found up to 25m deep in the rocky reefs. They are vulnerable to exploitation because of their slow growth.

Bronze Bream enjoys feeding in freshwater and rough sea weather, mainly when there is a swirling wind from the southwest. The best time to try Bronze Bream will be if the weather is terrible and other fish have gone off the hook.

They like to stick around against ledges in very rocky surroundings and gullies. Sometimes, Bronze Bream eat in the deepest water and occasionally come in and out just a few feet above water across the tides.

Cape Salmon

Geelbek, also known as Cape Salmon, is a popular fish served very regularly in coastal seafood restaurants. The meat of a Cape Salmon is so tasty, which has contributed to their population falling because of the massive demand for fishing. They can grow up to a length of 130cm and a weight of 25kg.

Cape Salmons are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. This fish is very healthy and nutritious for our body, and we should aim to eat at least 1-2 meals of this kind of fish in a week.

Also, there are different fish recipes and ways to cook Cape Salmons, such as boiling, grilling, steaming, baking, and frying the fish. You can also serve them with a touch of garlic butter, seafood paella, or curry, whichever you prefer.


Improvements in biodiversity are needed to help preserve these native South African fish species. Better techniques in agriculture and forestry should be encouraged to avoid habitat degradation, especially for those species living in the water.

This can be done through management arrangements between riparian owners and environmental bodies. Another way to conserve fish species is to impose restrictions on fishing practices and methods.

An authorized and responsible way of fishing can significantly impact the conservation of the fish population and the effects of balanced production of fish in the market.