With the length and diversity of the Namibian coastline it is an essential to be able to read the water” so to speak. A lot of anglers make the mistake to do long and deep casts, when looking for Steenbra. The where to cast here is more of importance than the how far do you cast. Steenbra is at times caught just behind the first wave- meaning not more that 10m from the beach.
When fishing in gulley’s the best time is 2 hours before and after high tide. The water is then deeper and the wave action more to loosen food from the surrounding areas and wash this into these gullies. As the water will have less action in these gullies it is an ideal place for these fish to search for food.
Wading onto a sandbank at low tide will enable you to fish most of the time during the day, as to such a time you have to move to a gulley. The gulley is then between the beach and the sand bank on which you were standing. Now you are casting towards the sand bank.
Where there is a small drawback formed with a wave, which in turn forms a shallow bank is one of the favourite places for a Steenbra to feed.
When you encounter a sandbank which is in the process of being washed away you must know this an excellent place to fish, because as the water and wave action wash away the sand, it exposes crabs, white mussel, etc. All in all great food for a Steenbra.
Sandbanks, either in front or the back are places where they are to be found. The place I would consider the most frequented by this fish will definitely be in gully’s, regardless of this gully running parallel to the beach or going straight out to sea.
Other ideal will be the drop-off either to the right or left of sand banks. A rocky area where there is black mussel present is also one of their favourite feeding places.
Large schools of these fish congregate at certain times and areas during the year, but most of times you will have to do your bit to get one of these “steam trains” on the hook. There are places when doing your first cast, that the smaller Steenbra will actually be a nuisance. Best advice here is to move either to the left or right of this area and see if you don’t find any larger ones there, or either move away from the place all together.
When fishing for these “steam trains” fish as light as possible, meaning not tackle wise but with a very slack mainline. Just enough to have a bit of pressure on the rod tip. A large Steenbra does not like to feel any resistance on the bait as it usually just picks up the bait and takes off. Other times your line just goes slack all of a sudden DO NOT tighten the line, leave at as it is, the bait was picked up and the resistance of the sinker was felt, it will now leave it for a short time and then come back at it at speed.
Also your drag must be set close to zero, REMEMBER your goal is to first get the fish on the hook before you get it onto the beach. With the speed these old timers pick up the bait, you will either be too late, to loosen the drag, or he will open your hook, or break the line. Your drag must be so loose that you should not be able to lift your rod (pullback) without the line playing out.
Once you feel the fish running you can then set the hook and tighten the drag. Again do not rush the fight by having a too tight drag. Steenbra’s are usually clean fighters, but very, very, potent fighters. It is not uncommon for these fish to fight themselves “belly up”. They will use wave action, sea streams, side washes all to their advantage. They are very strong swimmers and when they put their body’s broadside into a wave, they create massive resistance. A too tight a drag can make you lose a fish in no time. BEWARE- they tend to keep a bit of energy stashed to give it a last go right in front of your feet in the shallow water, be very careful of this, as this is the place where the hook gets pulled often.
Tackle and equipment
Here I don’t want to get into brand names, as each angler has his preference. Any normal medium action rod combined with reel of your choice that you
Line dia .35 to .45mm. A leader line of .6mm will do, as in most cases you will find the fish in sandy stretches of beach. Hooks ranging from a 5/0 to 6/0 short shank. With the hooks I suggest a good quality hook which does not bend or open easily. I would advise to use Fluorocarbon on the hook snood as these are skittish feeders. (.6 to .8mm).
Two types of traces are mostly used
The first being the fixed trace-where the hook snood and the sinker line come tied together on a single swivel. The hook snoot being 350mm/400mm. The sinker line in both cases being 100mm longer. Used more in a rocky bottom where, if the sinker should get stuck, it can get pulled loose by the fish.
The second being the running trace – this where the hook snoot is tied directly on the mainline and the sinker line has its own free running swivel. Hook snood 350mm / 400mm. The sinker line in this case to be 100mm shorter in both cases. Used where the fish are very skittish to pick up the bait, and to minimize the actual drag made by sinker.
The two main types of bait used while fishing for Steenbra are: White mussel and octopus. However catches are also made with pilchard (inside out) and with sand crabs.( Inside out refers to where you will turn the pilchard over so the meat is on the outside. Used in this way to create a longer slender bait.)
Never make your bait more than double the size (dia.) than the bend in your hook. However the length of the bait should be 3 X the length of the hook. (Inside out pilchard.)
Generously use white mussel to make an elongated ball on the hook(s). Don’t be afraid to cover the hook in total, as white mussel is very soft and the hook will easily push through the bait once the fish bites. Use very thin cotton to secure the bait onto the hook.
A fresh octopus leg is deadly when it is applied for bait. Don’t waste time once the octopus has turned pink, rather try different bait. Cut the leg to the length of approx 12cm and 1.0 to 1.5 cm in diameter. Strip the skin and suckers off so that you are left with the white meat. This section will be used to wrap around the base of the bait you will form with a thinner piece of leg.
Pilchard (inside out)
Use sections of a pilchard and tie them onto the hook with the meat to the outside. (Half the pilchard cut open in length and tied inside out all the way up the hook snood.)
Tie on with elastic bands or cotton or just hook on. (Through the main pincher protruding through the side or through the back protruding.
Catching steenbras is as challenging as rewarding. Remember to stick to your bag limits.