Finding the Leisure in Leisure Isle

The fisherman’s wife survival guide to Knysna

Welcome back to your Knysna survival guide. Since we have covered the essential info in our first article it is time for us to explore this beautiful town a little better. When my family moved here in December 2016, the first place we went to explore was Leisure Isle. 

One of the attractions of this Knysna location is that it has something for both the angler and non-angles alike, with its sandy beaches perfect for catching some vitamin D or a sand prawn or two. Leisure Isle might seem like a relatively small island, but you would be surprised but how much is fit into it. One things for sure, you may find yourself enjoying this isle for an extended period of time once your significant angler gets his fishing gear out, but do not fret as this guide will help you find the best places on Leisure Isle for complete vacation satisfaction. 

Green Hole (east shore) c/o Woodbourne Drive & George Avenue

As part of the nature reserve, Green Hole is a great place to set up a braai spot for the day. It is the only public park on Leisure Isle that has proper facilities and public toilets in place. This includes 10 built in braai areas with shelters and 2 outside showers to rinse yourself after taking a refreshing dip. Bring your chops, wors, salads and enjoy the park from 08H00 – 21H00. While Fishing and bait collecting are not allowed in this section of Leisure Isle, a short walk towards Bollards beach will have your anglers smiling from ear to ear. 

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day… let a man fish? And you go and enjoy a café! 

Anique van de Caab

Bollard Bay, Baywater Drive

There is a reason why Bollard bay is one of the more popular spots in Leisure Isle and that reason can be captured in one word. Compromise. Though I would love nothing better than to lounge on a beach chair holding the hand of the love of my life as he lounges right next to me. The truth is that he would much rather be holding a blood worm! Bollard Bay is where the marine protected area ends and that means that you can relish the beach and wet your feet while your favourite fishman wets his line. The best time to get to Bollard bay is as the water recedes from high to low tide ensuring that you both have enough leisure time. Beyond being a great place a swim in the lagoon Leisure Isle is a treasure trove filled with a variety of bait. Bloodworm, Sandworms, Sand prawn and Pencil bait to mention a few. A bait pump, moonshine wire and pencil bait wire are essential tools for any angler eager to collect bait at leisure. The area between Bollard Bay all the way to Thornley Park is great for collecting bait and fishing. 

Thornley Park, Watersedge Road

This particular spot on Leisure Isle is more about fishing and bait collecting. Known to locals as a great place to collect moonshine worms. At low tide you can walk all the way to the sand bank that opens up which is perfect for fishing the deeper channels in the lagoon. Garrick (Leervis), Grunter, Stumpnose and White Steenbras/ Pignose Grunter are some of the fish you can expect to catch at Leisure Isle. Personally, I have caught a few sting rays and Blacktail /Dassies not to mention a few relentless puffer fish. At High tide you can pull out your camp chairs and fish straight off the grassy parking area. Leisure Isle is one place that will not disappoint the enthusiastic angler. 

Now that you know a bit more about the area lets talk about how to get your hands on three of the baits available at Leisure Isle. 

Pencil Bait/ Razor Clams —Bag limit 20

These can be collected between Bollard Bay and Thornley Park. The methods allowed to collect pencil bait is by hand, suction pump or wire. Unlike the moonshine wire, your pencil bait wire needs to be a more rigid length of steel with a hook at the end. The pencil bait hole looks like a keyhole and the secret to unlocking a successful harvest is: 1 – when you insert you wire into the hole you want to have no resistance. Essentially your wire should ease down into the keyhole at least up to halfway up the wire length. 2 – once this happens you want to give the wire a ¼ or a ½ twist, then gently pull the wire back out and you should have a pencil bait hooked on the end. 

Sand Prawns —Bag limit 50

This bait is one of the more abundant species at Leisure Isle and also one of the easier ones to collect. Harvesting sand prawn is allowed to be done by hand or suction pump. Their holes are small and circular, collecting sand prawn is as easy as finding a hole, placing your pump over it and in two to three extractions, you’ll find one or two of these little guys wriggling around in the extracted sand. Just remember to return any prawn that is in berry. 

Moonshine worm — Bag Limit 10

Moonshine worms are probably one of the most popular baits in Knysna and while your able to find them all around Leisure Isle, a high density of moonshine worms can be found in the Thornley Park area. Moonshine can be collected by hand, suction pump or wire. The moonshine worm has been a fascination of the Knysna Basin Project for quite a while, with their seemingly sudden appearance in the estuary a few decades ago sparking much debate about their origin. Like pencil bait wires, moonshine wire can be bought at any of the local tackle shops. The wires are copper like and flexible with a hook on the end. Speed is your friend when collecting moonshine, you want to swiftly guide the wire as you insert it as far as you possibly can. Rotate it in a full circle and steadily pull it out. You will know you have a worm on the other end when you feel some resistance as you pull the wire out. Pulling out the worm’s whole tunnel is common but before you discard it, pull it apart as many times you will find a worm hiding in it. Though you can use the moonshine worms immediately they are best when cured in salt for a few days which helps to toughen them up. 

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, … let a man fish? And you go and enjoy a café! 

In the end the truth is that once your angler gets settled in at Leisure Isle you might be left to your own devices. There really is no better place than Leisure Isle for anyone who loves nature and the beauty of quaint little suburbs with tree lined roads. Leisure Isle is the perfect place to hop onto a bike and cruise around. The Steenbok nature reserve is a great place to simply sit and unwind, that is exactly why you’ll find many benches scatted along this reserve.

If you get a little peckish or find yourself parched, pop into Nadine’s Corner (044 384 1746) for a quick snack or drink. Alternatively, you might want to try and convince your fishing focused loved one to take a little break and enjoy the cosy ambiance while savouring one of Nadine’s famous burgers.

A stones throw away you’ll find Bodega café (076 496 1600). Sleek, chic and a perfect place to refuel your body and mind. Grab a table on the veranda and enjoy a coffee and a pastry or two. Their “what what” breakfast will hit all the right spots or maybe a delicious “traveller” is what you’re looking for. One thing is for sure, it’s not only the menu items that funky in this café.

There is definitely more to Leisure Isle than I have covered in this article. Part of the fun is in exploring places and discovering things you did not know were there. No matter when you come to visit , may your lines be tight and your catch be a personal best! 

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