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Guide to fishing the Zambezi River

This post serves to be a complete guide to the Zambezi River, it will help you understand the water system, the fish species and also the best places to visit for the best fishing experience.

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed visiting and fishing the Zambezi River, there is something truly magical about this stretch of water and it is with the love of this river I am putting together this guide.

A lot of research has gone into this post and I hope that you enjoy reading it, learn something new and in the end, sharing it with your friends so they can have a read.

More than just a river

The Zambezi River is more than just a great river to fish, it is the lifeblood to an abundance of wild animals and humans who live along the river banks.

It is a source of life!

The Zambezi River is the 4th largest river in Africa behind the Nile, Congo, and Niger Rivers. It flows through a total of 6 countries, starting from a small spring in Zambia, it travels 2700 km to the Indian Ocean.

There are less than a handful of rivers in the world that are as clean and pristine as the Zambezi River. The water is pure with some of the best wildlife the world has to offer.

The source of the Zambezi River lies at about 1500 metres above sea level in the Mwinilunga District, close to the border where Zambia, Angola and the Congo meet.

It flows through Zambia, Angola, Namibia and Botswana then back along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe finally entering into the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

The mighty Zambezi River

The mighty Zambezi River has been a draw for tourists from around the world for many years and it will remain so due to the sheer beauty of the river, the wildlife and the activities on offer.

Zambezi Wildlife

While visiting the Zambezi River, some of the wildlife you will see along the banks:

  • Crocodile
  • Hippopotamus
  • Elephant
  • Lions
  • Buffalo
  • and an array of birdlife

The truth is you will have the opportunity to view some of the best wildlife along the best river in the world.

The main sporting activity to do when visiting the Zambezi River is fishing!

Fisherman from all over the world visit due to the quality of the fish species on offer but nothing compares to the Tigerfish of the Zambezi.

Zambezi River Fish Species

Fishing the Zambezi River is an experience of a lifetime. Fishermen come from all over the world to experience the quality of fishing on offer.

There are over 75 different species of fish in the Zambezi, there is a handful of fish that are in demand.

Many anglers come with one thing on their mind, to land a tigerfish.

The Tigerfish is one of the world’s most famous fighting freshwater fish. They are known for their power and fierce razor sharp teeth. A Zambezi anglers dream fish to catch.

Alongside the Tigerfish, you can catch Bream, Barbel, Vundu, Cornish Jack, Bottle Nose and many more.


Tigerfish is one of the main reasons why anglers come to the mighty Zambezi River. This fish has a reputation for being one of the best freshwater fighting fish.

Looking at this fish, one of the first things you will see is their long, sharp teeth. Do NOT let yourself be bitten by those teeth!

Hydrocynus vittatus, the African tigerfishtiervis or ngwesh is a predatory freshwater fish distributed throughout much of Africa. This fish is generally a piscivore but it has been observed leaping out of the water and catching barn swallows in flight. via Wikipedia

The best time to catch Tigerfish

You are able to catch Tigerfish throughout the year but to maintain a high catch ratio, you need to adapt your fishing techniques.

It also depends on what section of the Zambezi River you are fishing:

  • Upper Zambezi River
  • Middle Zambezi River
  • Lower Zambezi River

The best time of the year is between May – December.

Different Techniques to catch Tigerfish

  • Trolling – Artificial Lure
  • Spinning – Artificial Lure
  • Drifting – Live Bait
  • Drifting – Fish Fillet

Some of these methods obviously require the use of a boat, so unless you have your own, it is definitely advisable to take a tour with one of the quality fishing companies around.

Drifting slowly down with the current and casting into the swirling eddies often yields great fish.

The really large tiger fish generally hang out in the deep water so drifting with a chicken or a fish fillet is possibly the best way to catch one of these monsters.

Bream / Tilapia

These are very popular to fish while on the Zambezi River. You will find an array of these fish from the start of the river to the end.

It is very common to find a variety of them in the same location of the river.

All these fish can be caught, cooked and eaten. They are great eating fish.

Zambezi bream (Pharyngochromis acuticeps), also known as dwarf bream, is a species of haplochromine cichlid which is found in river systems in southern Africa. via Wikipedia


  • Rainbow Bream

  • Green Bream

  • Pink Bream


  • Kariba Tilapia

  • Three-spot Tilapia

  • Nile Tilapia

  • Banded Tilapia

Vundu Catfish

The Vundu Fish (Heterobranchus longifilis) is the largest air-breathing freshwater catfish and fish in Southern Africa. Subsequently, it is the largest fish in the Zambezi river system, reaching lengths up to 150 cm and a weight of 60 kgs. via Wikipedia

Another giant of the Zambezi River is the Vundu Catfish.

This fish is known as a bottom-feeding river species and are becoming rare in habitats like Lake Kariba and should always be released back into their freshwater habitat as their numbers are dwindling.

They are only found below the Victoria Falls – there has been no recorded catch above the falls.

Fishing on the Zambezi River

Fishing the Zambezi can be done very easily, with various options depending on with or without a boat, camping vs staying at a fishing camp etc.

To make things easy, here are some great fishing camps along the Zambezi who will organise everything for you so all you need to worry about is fishing.

If you are an avid fisherman or someone who just enjoys being outdoors then it is time you visit the Zambezi River and enjoy one of African wonder.

Barotse Tiger Camp – Angle Zambia

If you are looking for BIG tigerfish then this is one fishing camp you NEED to visit. They are renowned for landing 20lbs tigerfish on a regular basis.

Set in a remote part of Zambia, the most common way to get there is by a private charter plane. You are able to drive but be warned it is long and hard on your bodies and vehicle.


View map: Google Maps

Tiger Fishing Zambezi

One of the Zambezi’s most popular fishing safari operators. They have been around for many years and offer their clients fishing holidays all along the river.

They offer a variety of fishing safaris along the Zambezi River:

  • Shackletons
  • Sekoma
  • Sidinda Island Lodge
  • Ichingo
  • Kiambi
  • Mvuu Lodge
  • Imbabala
  • Barbel Run
  • aZambezi River Lodge
  • Changa
  • Shamwari
  • Tiger Fishing In Livingstone
  • Victoria Falls Fishing


River God Adventures

If you are looking for a unique way to fish down Lower Zambezi then this is for you.

River God Safaris offer floating safaris. You start in Chirundu and float down the river stopping off on the banks as and when you want/require.

Your rafts are fully decked out with double beds, electricity, a private chef and guide.

This is one of the best ways to see the Zambezi River and also catch some amazing fish.


Places to stay on the Zambezi River

There is an abundance of places that you can stay to enjoy the wilds of the mighty Zambezi River. Here are some locations that you should take into account when planning a visit anywhere along the Zambezi River. 

Msuna Fishing Resort

Msuna is a private island based in the heart of the middle of the Zambezi. The island is full of private houses/lodges that can be hired for a period. 

Msuna is a wonderful part of the mighty Zambezi River and if you are looking for a place where you can fish, relax, view an array of bird species while sleeping in an aircon room then Msuna Fishing Resort is the place to visit.

Zambezi River Facts

What fish live in the Zambezi River?

The Zambezi River has over 75 fish species but the most sought-after of these is the Tiger Fish. You can also find African Pike, Barbel, Upper Zambezi Yellow fish, Bream or Tilapia while on your fishing trip.

How do you fish a tiger fish?

As a general rule, small baits will catch alot of small fish, use bigger juicy baits for the bigger tiger fish. Chumming the water for Tiger fish as you drift can also bring fish onto your drifting line, or chum while you are at anchor. Small tiger fish tear bait off the hook quickly. Use cotton to tie your baits on.

What animals live in the Zambezi River?

Birds are abundant, with species including heron, pelican, egret and African fish eagle present in large numbers. Riverine woodland also supports many large animals, such as buffalo, zebras, giraffes, elephants. The Zambezi also supports several hundred species of fish, some of which are endemic to the river.

Where are Tiger fish found?

There are two major species of the African Tigerfish, mostly common in the South African sub-region. The Hydrocynus goliath, commonly referred to as the Goliath Tiger Fish, is the largest in the family. The Goliath Tiger can grow to more than 110 pounds, and is rampant in Lake Tanganyika and the Congo River.

Is the Zambezi river dangerous?

The river is incredibly rushing and hides many dangers, including the huge stones and trenches hidden under the swirling waves. Rafting on the Zambezi River is considered one of the most extreme entertainments in the world. Every year, some 50,000 people travel along the river.

Can you swim in the Zambezi River?

It is dangerous and foolhardy to swim in Lake Kariba or the Zambezi River. … However it does not breed easily in the fast-flowing waters of the Zambezi. Crocodiles, however, are a serious threat. They are everywhere in Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River (even if you can’t see them).