Discover Fishing in Kenya
An Overview of Fishing in Kenya
In the recent decades fishing at Kenya’s lakes, rivers and big game fishing at the Indian Ocean has gained global interest, with an increasing number of visitors already running into thousands each year coming into the country primarily for a fishing holiday; with game drive in the National Parks and Reserves thrown in as incidentals. In the 1940’s, Fishing in Kenya grew exponentially and was such a resounding success that it was immediately followed by blossoming of fishing lodges in both parks in Central Kenya (at Mount Kenya and Aberdare National Parks) as well as at the lakes set on the Rift Valley like Lakes Turkana, Baringo and Naivasha. This continued into the 1960’s when mounting organizational leaps grew the sport along the Coast of Kenya. Then and now, it’s not at all rare to hear tales of Nile perch weighing over 200 pounds and humongous tigerfish caught in Kenya’s utterly delightful freshwater lakes found along the Rift Valley.
Lively brown and rainbow trout thrive in the high altitude streams which bisect the alpine moors and dense primeval forests. It is only until the 1950’s that the world became well aware that Kenya has some of the magnificent beaches and coastline in Africa. Much the same way, there was an increasing global interest in big-game fishing. Watamu is Kenya’s most popular game fishing destination and the waters off Watamu and Malindi beaches are proper “sailfish country” where Ernest Hemingway pursued his choice sport in the 1930’s. Up until the 1980’s, big quantities of barracuda, yellowfin, dolphin, kingfish, sailfish, shark, wahoo and trevally were continuously caught. Along the wall spaces within the lounge at Oceans Sports Watamu are mounted records of some of the biggest fish ever caught along Kenya’s coast to include a Black Marlin that weighed in at 342 kgs. The Indian Ocean is a haunt for angling giant marlin, mako shark, tunny, barracuda, kingfish, karambesi. Fishing in Kenya is a year round delight.
1. Lake Baringo National Reserve
Lake Baringo, 120 kms north of Nakuru, offers pleasing tilapia fishing. Small traditional boats known as the ambach, resembling small dugout canoes, are popularly used by the native Njemp, Tugen and Pokot fishermen throughout the day. At Kampi ya Samaki, on the western shore, are more than one great hotels and camps; to include Soi Safari Lodge and Roberts Camp. Both these establishments have launches for fishing, lake excursion and bird-watching. Lake Baringo, since the early 1950’s, has born a good reputation of being the leading destination for cat-fish and tilapia fishing enthusiasts. The generally small size of fish caught here, in comparison to other fishing haunts, is wholly made up by the beautiful surrounding of the lake and tours around its thirteen islands. The highlight for the avid fisherman exploring Lake Baringo is learning, and indeed, sailing the local ambach boat. A very simple traditional fishing craft for shallow waters fabricated by weaving together strands of twigs. With only just enough space for one, fishermen sit astride these rafts, using their feet and hands to steer and paddle them and as a platform to spear the fish or cast a line.
2. Issak Walton Inn
Certainly, Isaak Walton Inn is Embu’s most famous hotel establishments and, although the limelight on it has faded, but only just, this 71 year old inn still has held its wits about it. A few decades ago, Isaak Walton Inn was one of the most sought after accommodation in Central Kenya by holiday-makers destined for Mount Kenya National Park. Today, the 90-rooms hotel, set-up on 9-acres in close proximity to Embu Town, is still stylish, full of character, with a brimming history. Its conservative and signature old-style Victorian design still delivers an updated take on the classic English architecture, which is complemented by its mature gardens and ancient trees. The rooms are quietly opulent and feature all the creature comforts. One of its high-points, however, is the watering-hole. Hanging along its wall-spaces are preserved big fishes and mounted records, which are a ‘living-history’ of its surpassing history as a fishing destination. Its other amenities include a swimming pool, squash court, gym, and horse-riding.
3. Mzima Fishing Camp
Weekenders who are keen fishermen, but also want to make excursions in the tableland of Embu County, will find fishing in the highland streams at Mzima Fishing Camp located near the Ishiara Centre 46 kms from Embu along Embu-Runyenges Road, a double treat. For day guests a caretaker is at hand to help: select the couthy spots, details the catch; and lure restrictions. The prized catch here is brown trout and the general atmosphere at Mzima Camp, in beautiful surrounding, is laid-back and friendly. They operate a rustic inexpensive camp with a old-times long drop toilet (with a seat) and a safari style shower. Camps, beds, beddings, towels, chairs, tables, cooking-utensils and gas equipment are available for hire. Other activities include river walks, dam tours, cultural trips and farm activities (milking cows, goat herding, macadamia nut gathering and tea farm tours), tropical fruit tasting, forest mapping, drumming sessions and entertainment by the electrifying Mbeere Drummers, photography and picnics.
4. Bisanadi National Reserve
The 601 km2 semi-arid patch covered by the Bisanadi National Reserve, 50 kms south of Garba Tula Town, is generally-speaking a wildlife dispersal area for the contiguous Meru National Park, Mwingi and Kora National Reserves. The veldt unspoiled wilderness of Bisanadi National Reserve, set in a virtually unpeopled, rugged and totally untamed boondocks, offers trippers an interesting excursion into an unusual landscape that is seldom travelled. There is no accommodation at Bisanadi National Reserve and callers to the park must have a strong mind to venture off-the-beaten-circuits. Bisanadi also offers avid anglers some pristine fishing spots along River Tana and River Rojewero. It is more easily accessed through the Meru National Park, using the Kenya Wildlife Service Murera Gate.
5. Dimbolil Dam
The dainty Dimbolil Dam, which is found within the restful gardens and lovely wooded landscape of the Finlays Tea Estate, is a really nice spot to spend a day in nature. Dimbolil Dam is much-liked for the trout fishing, exploration of the nearby forest and educational tours of the “tea making process” at Finlays Tea Factory, and at the close by Unilever’s Tea Factory. Dimbolil Dam is located within the James Finlay’s Tea Estate – just a short distance from Chomogondy.
6. Thiba Fishing Camp
Within spitting distance of Castle Forest Lodge is Thiba Fishing Camp on River Thiba. It flows besides the camp; the Kiringa, 1.5 kms away and the Nyamindi and Rupingazi Rivers. From this camp the fishermen can fish the Thiba which contains Barbus and other species with the options of walking to Nyamindi or Rupingazi. The camp itself is comprised of 6 furnished rondavels with two beds, a table and simple chairs. There is a kitchen for each hut and a washroom with hot water. A caretaker is at hand to give assistance round the clock. The anglers visiting Thiba Camp are advised to be self-reliant although limited supplies like firewood and paraffin can be acquired at the camp. There are a handful of busy shopping centers with ample supplies, all within a 30-minutes drive from camp.
7. Lake Turkana
The C77 Laisamis-Loiyangalani Road through South Horr is also the quickest route to Lake Turkana. Almost 72% of the 7,000 km2 Lake Turkana (300 kms long and 50 kms wide) lies in Marsabit County; the rest lying Turkana County. This oddity, sometimes considered a miraculous anomaly, is widely popular as the world’s largest desert lake and which is also ranked the 4th largest salt-lake following the Caspian Sea, Issyk-Kul and Lake Van. The tempestuous Jade Sea, as popularly portrayed, habours an impressive variety of wildlife that feed on the sub-surface water weeds as well as on the plants whose parts are above the water level. For the avid fisherman, Lake Turkana has been a must-go-to spot, and since the early 1900’s it has etched a reputable name as a leading site for Nile perch fishing. Today, perch of 200 pounds are not as often caught in Lake Turkana as in earlier times, though fish weighing between 100 and 200 pounds are regularly encountered. “On the brighter side, Lake Turkana happens to be an ornithological paradise with over 300 species of birds, notably during the months of European winter. The vast resident bird population is enhanced by thousands upon thousands of migrant waders, water fowl, and raptors. Large flocks of storks soar high overhead while Pelicans form sweeping flight patrols over the surface of the water and flamingos add colorful decor to the lakeshore”.
Its endemic perch, as well as other fauna akin to that of the Nile, clearly point to it having once been connected with the Nile River System. Volcanicity severed this link 6,000 years ago and the absence of a surface outlet distinguishes Lake Turkana from most other great lakes of Africa, although, the River Ono in the north is the lake’s only permanent inlet. In an isolated steppe-desert area, the lake encounters an annual rainfall considerably less than 20 inches. Common daily shade temperatures of 110°F cause extensive evaporation which, year after year, has lowered the lake to its present form and rendered its waters almost undrinkably saline and alkaline. Yet the lake supports, not only a rich life of fish, animals and birds, but also the 10,000 people living around its shores. The amazingly high productivity of Lake Turkana’s fish is indicated by their size and quantity. Close to 40 known species occur here, many of which are endemic to the lake. One that has exceeded trophy sizes well over 200 pounds is the lake’s Nile perch, or idgi, its Turkana name. Another predator that may be hooked while Nile perch fishing is Turkana’s tigerfish, lokel, that attains a weight of up to 35 pounds, although 1 to 10 pounders are common. Tilapia, rogene, have been recorded up to 20 pounds. Tigerfish and Nile perch are the key attraction.
8. Oasis Club
Situated just 1.5 kilometers from Lake Turkana and elevated to provide a vista of the lake and its unique setting, Oasis Club is nestled amongst a very welcome stand of doum palms with a genuine fresh water oasis gushing from the rocks, providing shade and comfort from the barren and parched surrounding. “It is a basic but comfortable retreat for exploration of the lake and is a famed fishing center. The generous 32°C, purgative springs course between the twenty-four cottages and verdant foliage and feed the two refreshing swimming pools set beneath shady palms. The breeze cooled dining room serves modest, but tasty meals based on fresh fish from the lake, and can include ones catch of the day”. The short ride down to the lake runs through Loyangalani and its very colorful people then down the rolling, rocky slopes past small villages and herdsmen with their sheep and goats. The lakeshore near the Oasis Club offers a variety of good fishing locations, rocky points and shallow bays that are normally leeward of the prevailing east winds. “Trolling 4 rods 25 to 300 yard off shore, 5 minutes from the boat landing for two days between 3:30 PM and 6:45 PM produced a total of 23 fish, totaling over 480 pounds with the average fish weighing almost 20 pounds. Including Larry Shames’ 125.5 pounder, these catches made several heaping wheelbarrow loads when weighed at the Club scales” – John McMillan.
9. Lake Rutundu
In the 1940’s Fishing in Kenya grew exponentially and was such a resounding success that it was immediately followed by development of fishing lodges in both parks in Central Kenya (Mount Kenya and Aberdare National Parks) as well as at the vast lakes lying in the Rift Valley like Lakes Turkana, Baringo and Naivasha. This continued into the 1960’s when mounting organizational leaps grew the sport along the Coast of Kenya. Originally known as Rutundu Fishing Lodges a hop north of Lake Rutundu, these two log cabins enjoy superb vistas that can only be Africa, the high moorlands of Mount Kenya and the crispiness and coolness of bright days, the rolling mists and drizzle on others. These are perfect for the fisherman, romantics at heart and an off-the-grid family hidey-hole. “Rustic but comfortable with open log fires which keep them snug and warm during the cold mountain nights, the main cabin has a sitting and dining room, verandah, kitchen and a large bedroom with a double bed, bunk bed and en-suite bathroom. The smaller cabin is detached from the main building and has a large bedroom with a double bed and two single beds, and an en-suite bathroom”. Rutundu sleeps four people comfortably but larger groups can be accommodated if guests are willing to share rooms. The cabins have been built along the lines of an Alaskan log cabin, using large cedar logs collected in the forests around the mountain. Moss fills the cracks between the logs. Guests to Rutundu Log Cabins must be self-reliant and self-catering. There is a gas oven and hob and an outdoor fridge, but no freezer. The tap water at Rutundu comes from a spring and is safe for drinking. Beddings, towels, crockery, cutlery and utensils are all provided. There’s no electricity – all lighting is from solar lamps.
10. Lake Ellis
The 28-acres Lake Ellis (and Höhnel) differs from many other lakes and tarns found in Mount Kenya National Park is that it has a brown shade hue due to the abundance of lacustrine vegetation and the resulting humus-stained water. It sits almost equidistant between Lake Michaelson (6 kms north) and Lake Alice (5 kms south) in close proximity to Urumandi Hut on the northern ridge of the Gorges Valley. Some of the natural formation near Lake Ellis include the small ponds connected to the main lake, Mugi Hill – situated 2 kms east of the lake and rising 180 ms above the surrounding country, and the Giants’ Billiard Table in the distant south. Of a more recent development is the upgraded paved road to Lake Ellis along Theemwe Route en route Point Lenana. Many of the lakes and tarns in Mount Kenya National Park are situated around the slopes of the main peak and mostly on the floors of the large cirques. Among the rock-basin lakes are: Oblong, Hausburg, Emerald and Nanyuki Tarns situated in the head of Hausburg Valley; and Gallery Lake and the larger of the Thompson Tarns in the Hobley Valley. Other small lakes include the Tyndall Tarn, Harris Tarn and Kami Tam. Both the Curling Pond and the Lewis Tarn are tiny pro-glacial pools.
11. Suli Suli Fishing
Maestros in deep sea fishing and avid anglers can enjoy exciting adventures of big-fish angling here, that ranges from four to eight hour excursions, for a go at some treasured species such as black marlin, striped marlin and sailfish. Suli Suli Fishing provides equipment, assistance, and glass-bottomed boats. Callers to this fishing mecca also enjoy native and international cuisines at their well liked restaurant, and Beach Bar. Suli Suli is situated off Jomo Kenyatta Anenue. The waters off Mombasa are more popular for bottom and inshore fishing for Rockcod, Snapper and Jack than Sailfish, Marlin, and the lesser game fish that are sometimes encountered. The Suli Suli Restaurant is situated at Nyali Beach.
12. Bahari Club
Also known as Bahari Beach Resort, Bahari Club is a modern Marina, located conveniently on the Nyali Beach of Kisuani Creek just up from the Old Dhow Harbour. The Club was founded by three avid local fishermen, James Adcock, Peter Hutchence, and Elijo Bhattia, before delving in separate charter boat operations. Bahari Club records show that ample trophy fish are caught in the area around Mombasa; Black Marlin at 151.5, 470, and 502 pounds, and a record Cobia weighing 110 pounds, 5 ounces. A very large Rockcod (grouper) weighing 220 pounds, was caught on 50 pound test line in the creek in front of the clubhouse in 1976. Large quantities of Yellowfin Tuna, Dolphin, Kingfish, Wahoo, and Barracuda appear on Club catch stats in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. Bahari Club has a few fully equipped, cabined boats and experienced crews for hire: with 6 rods and capacity for 5 – 7 anglers. Clients can be accompanied by a professional anglers, when available, at an extra cost. The minimum hire period for game fishing is 4 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon, while the inshore fishing, goggling, and harbor trip minimum period is 2 hours. It is a short drive from town center. After crossing Nyali Bridge, turn right on the first main road, less than 1 kilometer will bring you to the Club grounds on the right.
Kenya Association of Sea Anglers
KASA is the governing body for saltwater sports fishing in Kenya and a member of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), the world’s governing body for sport fishing. KASA is the angler’s voice with the Kenya Government on all issues affecting the sport including legislation, fisheries and the environment. All fishing clubs and charter operators recommended are members of KASA: And charter boats are fully geared with safety equipment and ship-to-shore radios tuned into the same network. Fishing techniques are constantly being improved in the waters off Kenya as new ideas are implemented and proven successful. Some twenty-two fishing competitions are held annually at various fishing clubs along the coast from October through March of which information can be obtained from Kenya Association of Sea Angling Clubs. Kenya’s coastal fishing grounds are very accessible through the services of capable and well-seasoned anglers, boatmen or guides who cater to beginners and professionals.
13. Kenya Fly Fishers (Southern Camp)
“The phenomenal big game sea fishing off the Kenyan coast is only one of four things which tempt fishermen from all over the world. The second is that Kenya offers as much, if not more, variety in a relatively compact area than nearly all places on earth. The third is that fishing, of one kind or another, is an all-year-round sport. And the fourth is that it is surprisingly economical, nearly all the fishing waters being accessible through the normal touring facilities” – H.J. Reuter. For the trout fisherman, the Aberdare Reserve with its scores of good streams, running down through Muranga, is a favourite haunt for fly fishing. Most of Kenya’s trout fishing (for brown or rainbow) is to be found in the highland of Aberdare above the 6,000 ft. level, in beautiful surroundings of forested glade and sparkling streams. At higher altitudes the trout are usually small, averaging about three quarters of a lb. but as you descend they gain in weight. One of the great launches in Muranga is Kenya Fly Fishers’ Southern Camp, just south of Tuthu Catholic Church, run by the Kenya Fly Fishers’ Club.
They maintain two traditional hutted camps, each set in three acres of peaceful gardens with a river frontage. Each is built around a central clubhouse with a comfortable dining room and lounge, log fire, deep arm chairs and sofas and an abundance of piscatorial literature. A cook and houseboy manage the kitchen and stores. Cooking is by gas and lighting by electricity. Sleeping arrangement is in four traditional log bandas. Each has two comfortable beds, and a small washroom. There is also a central washing block with hot running water for showers and bathing. The camps are extremely comfortable, but offer a feel of the ‘early years’. Visitors must carry their food and bed linen, in addition to fishing tackle and binoculars. The Club’s beats begin on the edge of Aberdare Forest and run down through the upper reaches of Kikuyu tea-country for some twelve kilometres. Fishing is from both banks on the Northern Mathioya and Gichugi Rivers, where the water is sparkly-clean, and the birdlife incomparable.
14. Aberdare Cottages and Fishing Lodge
Situated at the doorstep of the wildly-spectacular Aberdare Range close to Ruru Centre, the snugly Aberdare Cottages and Fishing Lodge complete with health-giving alpine views was inspired by a dream to create a symbiosis between man and nature, set up on a 10-acres property with its 5 cabin-style cottages built on a beautifully-appointed side of a hill overlooking the river, sprawling tea farms and hills. Private verandas overlook this reposeful view. For the fisherman and bird lover, this hidden escape offers both, and by evening a peaceful nest. Here, the halcyon rural bliss, crisp air, and country views make headlines. Moreover, and most magical of all its splendors, is the soothing sound of River Mathioya as it drifts along, catching the light with a graceful radiant glint, and which, in pleasant weather, is a enjoyable launch to walk, fish and swim. A walk along the river through the forest offers an intimate encounter with nature. It is located in Ruru at Gacharageini Village near Gitereki Tea Center, via Njumbi-Mioro Road.
15. Kimakia Tea Cottages
Formerly known as Kimakia Fishing Camp, this is located on the ridge between Chania and Kimakia Rivers at the edge of Aberdare Forest. From here anglers can reach Chania, Kimakia and Thiba Rivers. The cottage itself is a furnished three-rooms house with hot and cold water exceptionally-set deep in a valley overlooking the Aberdare Forest Reserve, tea farms and Chania River. Although Kimakia Tea Cottage is self-catering, it is manned by a cater-taker and a cleaner who can assist with site orientation and supply firewood, washing, cleaning and other basic tasks. It’s located along Thika-Gatura Road within Kiarutara Village.
Kenya Fly Fishers’ Club
Kenya Fly Fishers’ Club (KFFC) began life as the Kenya Angling Association in 1919. It became KFFC in 1937. As such it is the oldest fishing club in East Africa. It is a private members’ club for the amateur and expert fisherman. An elected committee directs the affairs of Club from Nairobi; dealing with river and camp management, river stocking and membership matters. The Club has over one hundred full members’ and also welcomes guests. It offers year-round fishing on some of East Africa’s best rivers. The fishing camps (northern and southern) provide a wonderfully relaxing getaway at a very affordable price. These are perfect weekend destinations for keen fly fishermen, ornithologists and their families. Anyone, in fact, who appreciates the slower pace of traditional life in Kenya. For further information get in touch at email@example.com
16. Thego Fishing Camp
Shortly before arriving at Kiganjo Town the Kenya Police College (renamed to National Police College, Kiganjo Campus) and the turnoff to B5 Nyeri Road is passed. From its humble beginnings between 1887-1902, tracing its foundation on the Imperial British East Africa Company, and the businessman Sir William McKinnon, who in the interest of his businesses found it necessary to provide some form of protection for his stores in the Coast Region of Kenya, this is now Kenya’s central college for police training. At Chaka, the next-door centre, one may, however, be interested in visiting the calming waters of the Thego River, a long-standing fishing camp. From this camp the avid angler can fish the Thego itself; the Sagana, Nairobi, Chania and Gura Rivers, and Naro Moru, Burguret, Liki and Nanyuki Rivers are within an hour’s drive. At the camp, there are two basic self-catering rondavels, both fitted with wood burning stoves. Aside from being a great fishing spot, its scenic trail which follows a ridge looking over the river makes for a pleasant walking adventure. Thego Fishing Camp is located off the Chaka-Sagana State Lodge Road – approximately 6 kms from Chaka Centre.
17. KWS Fishing Lodge
Tucked away in the tranquil Aberdare Park, about 5 kms from turnoff to Karuru Falls Viewpoint, via Nyeri Gate, is the self-catering KWS Fishing Lodge which sleeps up to 7. There are several camp sites found in the general area, as well as, several trout fishing streams on the moorlands. Trout fishing is permitted and fishing licences are available at the park’s entrance. If fishing were not sufficient enough, the Lodge is a perfect jump-off base to explore many areas of the park. Found within easy reach are the Reedbuck Camp, Queen’s Picnic Site, Queen’s Falls, Mau Mau Cave, Chania Falls and Campsite, Karuru Falls and Sapper Hut.
18. Naro Moru River Lodge
Established in 1949 at the foothills of Mount Kenya and along the Naro Moru Route, the 46-rooms Naro Moru River Lodge set on 70 acres of delightful alpine bliss with wondrous smoky mountain views is the perfect base camp for hikers. Founded by Sir Rufus Klarwill, who also mapped out Naro Moru Route – the most popular route up the mountain because it is the quickest trail to Top Hut and Point Lenana – the lodge sits along the banks of the Naro Moru River that rises from the Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya and drains into the Ewaso Nyiro River. This River, which also passes right at the centre of the Lodge, is a useful natural yardstick along the hiking trail. For those looking for a quiet weekend away from the expeditious city life, the rustic cabin-styled hidey-hole offers an intoxicating vacay whose appeal is capped by the amazingly beautiful Mt Kenya.