On March 28, 2009, history was made in the Kruger National Park (KNP). The Honorary Rangers (HR) of the Bushveld region hosted a fishing competition at the Reënvoël Dam in the Nxanatseni (South) region of the Park. The idea was developed in co- operation with the regional ranger, Louis Olivier, and fully supported by the regional manager, Ben van Eeden.
After the final go-ahead was given by KNP's acting managing executive, Abe Sibiya, and head of department, nature conservation, Dr Freek Venter, word could go out, eliciting widespread response. Prizes worth around R6 000 were up for grabs, but so was a unique fishing experience, earning it the title of the "Kruger Fishing Experience".
The HRs from Bushveld region in Phalaborwa have long been looking for a viable opportunity to raise funds for the park, and this was the ideal platform. Local businesses from Phalaborwa as well as private sponsors dug deep into their pockets to ensure entrants a day to remember. Proceeds of the day will be ploughed into a fund to renew the structure and roof at the Letaba Rest Camp staff village.
Three species were fished for - tiger fish, bream and barbel. Not a single entrant caught one of each species, but all three were eagerly looked for, and the eventual winners on the day won the prizes for netting two species. The lucky fishermen were Peet Truëger and Ryan Truëger. Second place was Manie Nel and Jimmy de Pradines from Mpumalanga. Jimmy also won the prize for the biggest bream. The heaviest tiger fish was caught by Robbie Scattolin, who was also one of the youngest competitors.
The heaviest barbel was caught by Richard Jenkins (jnr). Field rangers from Phalaborwa and Letaba assisted with the safety and protection of competitors, and no incidents with animals were recorded. Several fish were cut open for scientific research and the rest of the fish were released immediately after being weighed, since the competition was run strictly according the SANParks rules of non-consumptive fishing.
Forty two-person teams entered the competition, and all entrants gathered at the Phalaborwa gate at 04h00 on the Saturday morning, eager to go and fish. Numbers were drawn for the spots, so as not to place any team at a disadvantage, and the convoy was led to the venue by Louis. An unusual mist settled over the dam for the first couple of hours, and the anglers of repute blamed this for the lack of fish. It soon warmed up though, and competitors started pulling fish from the water.
The dam is in a wilderness area, and is not often visited. It forms part of a wilderness route (Nonokani wilderness trail) that runs through the area, and is reserved for vehicles with off-road capabilities. In his thank you address, Louis thanked all the sponsors, competitors and organising committee for a memorable day. At the prize-giving stories were heard about the fish that "got away", several of which were claimed to have been "taken by crocs", obviously the biggest ones.
The organisers wish to thank SANParks, Spar Phalaborwa, Tiger's Eye, Pick n Pay Phalaborwa, Talisman, Coastal Hire, Julian Thom Outfitters, Palasteel, Mica Mining Warehouse, Hook Line and Hobbies, Matt Gili and Tienie Erasmus. Without the selfless contributions of these individuals and businesses, the day would have not turned into the resounding success it was.
The day was planned and organised in a space of three weeks, with the permission given by the KNP management committee only very recently, after careful deliberation and consultation. Plans are already afoot for the organisation of another such competition, and the Bushveld region HRs are looking forward to making it better and bigger than the first one.