My name is Wikus van der Merwe and I am the author and publisher of the book The Galjoen, Legend of the Ocean. This book can be found in various tackle shops and if you can’t find it feel free to contact me and I will courier it to you. This book also consists of 19 step by step bait presentations which will help you immensely to target Galjoen successfully. Galjoen is one of my favourite fish to target! I’m also a rock and surf fishing guide (MMM Cape Town Fishing Adventures) mostly in the False Bay area and also in the West Coast. I take clients out on a 5-hour fishing session which includes all bait, tackle, and rods.
Where can Galjoen be found?
Galjoen are found from Northern Namibia to Southern KwaZulu- Natal, where they frequent the turbulent surf-zone, particularly at the interfaces of rock and sand. Due to its highly energetic lifestyle, the flesh of Galjoen is packed with blood vessels. These fish often use the waves to gain access to food on exposed rocks. They will swim in shallow water on their side to get to the food and disappear in a flash. The adults and juveniles occupy the same habitat, exposed surf-zone and shallow sub-tidal reefs, rocky shores and gullies, including kelp beds. They are most abundant at the interface of sand and reefs.
Breeding habits of Galjoen
Galjoen are serial spawners which means that they spawn several times in a season. Their breeding season extends from October to March, peaking in December. Female Galjoen grow faster than the male fish, reaching a maximum length of approximately 670 mm and males attain 470 mm. Fish of both sexes rarely exceed 13 years of age and sexual maturity is attained in their fifth year, at which stage females measure approximately 34 cm and males 31 cm. Females release thousands of eggs, a rough guide is 370 eggs per gram of body mass. A large female Galjoen may release 1,3 million eggs at each spawning and fertilized eggs hatch into larvae, but these have never been located in the ocean, despite extensive sampling. Laboratory experiments have shown that the eggs float and one can surmise that waves keep them in the surf zone where the young develop and mortality is likely to be very high during this stage. Galjoen once occurred in great numbers throughout its range but over the last three decades the population has been dramatically reduced. Fisheries biologists have found a marked decline in the abundance of fish commonly caught by South African shore anglers over the course of this century and the Galjoen is no exception.
This is exactly why each one of us must look after our fish stocks in years to come, otherwise there will be nothing left for future generations to enjoy as we did. Together we can make a difference in doing our part to ensure sufficient fish stocks in years to come.
Feeding patterns of Galjoen
Galjoen are known to feed on a wide variety of small invertebrates and seaweed that live on rocks. Small black mussels and crustaceans are among their most common prey. They feed by removing organisms from rocky surfaces and their powerful incisors are admirably suited to this purpose. The teeth in the gullet are well adapted for crushing shellfish. Galjoen usually remain in a small home range for long periods, possibly for several years. Some, however, move out of their home range, as tagged fish have been found to have travelled thousands of kilometers. It is not known what prompts Galjoen to travel such distances, though food availability and water conditions are likely factors.
This is one of the main reasons why Galjoen are abundant between rocks and reefs as this is where they get their food source, and they will not leave the area unless the rocks get covered with sand for extended periods of time. When washed opened again they will return to feed and stay in that area until the food source is depleted or covered with sand again. An interesting fact is that Galjoen never enter estuaries.
This is why Galjoen are caught mostly during winter times and especially after big storms when the wave action washes gullies open and expose food to feed on.
Galjoen are ravenous feeders and several fish can be caught in a relatively short time. It’s however important not to become tempted to capitalise on these opportunities and keep more than allowed. We need to keep to the size and bag limits, otherwise the Galjoen stocks will just go down and at the end of the day it could go on the Black list as a Protected species, not to be caught or targeted at all.
Sea conditions for Galjoen fishing
Conditions for Galjoen are ideal when the following factors come into play: colour of the water, foamy water, constant even breaking waves, water temperature, washed-open holes, proximity of rocks and the wind direction. An angler targeting Galjoen might have the best bait and tackle available, but if the conditions are not favourable his chances are dramatically reduced. The sea must have a lot of wave action, that in turn ensures adequate oxygen in the water, causing the ever evasive Galjoen to become very active. A calm sea with little or no foamy water will cause the water to have less oxygen, thus sending the Galjoen off to find a more suitable spot to feed. The waves need to roll in evenly, with constant white foam to be classified as ideal Galjoen water.
Galjoen prefer the water to be slightly discoloured with some wave action. Should the water be too clear and transparent you can be sure no Galjoen will be around. A dirty green milky colour seems to be the colour preferred by the Galjoen. The ideal water temperature for Galjoen fishing is between 15º and 19º Celsius. Should the water be too cold the fish will go off the bite. Too warm water on the other hand, will not have enough oxygen and also cause them to go off the bite. Most experienced fishermen will avoid going fishing when the sea is too rough. Huge swells running in, smashing against the rocks, followed by the water pulling back leaving the area you wanted to fish all but dry, is not the way to spend your leisure time. With this type of sea condition there is usually free-floating kelp that are bound to find your line and cause many break-offs and possibly even a broken rod for good measure. Your sinker and bait will not be in the same place long enough for you to stand a chance of hooking a fish. Move away from this area and try and find deeper water with some protection in small bays that will not be hammered by the surf. You will probably find that the Galjoen has done the same and luck could be on your side with a fish or two. Most fishermen prefer calmer seas with waves running in evenly in threes and fours. This causes only slight waves to hit the rocks with just enough strength to wash around rocky outcrops, causing small worms and bits of food to be washed free to attract feeding Galjoen. The water should, however not be too calm. There should be some foam breaking to ensure sufficient oxygen in the area being fished.
There are areas along our coast where stronger water is preferred, usually shallow rocky areas like Pearly Beach and Rietfontein that only allow Galjoen to come into the shallow areas when there is a strong sea breaking over these areas.
A Galjoen fisherman should always be on the lookout for holes that have opened up. These are caused by rough seas opening up areas that have been covered by sand for some time, exposing small black mussels, worms, etc. Keep a look out for rocky areas exposed after storms. Shells and bits of rock washed up on a beach, beach areas with higher embankments and steep drop offs are all good indications of areas to fish for Galjoen and other fish like Steenbras. If a spot looks productive, try it out for an hour or so. If it doesn’t produce, move on to a next spot. Galjoen anglers who move around and search where the Galjoen are feeding can expect to be more successful in their quest. Always try different types of bait if a spot doesn’t produce on a specific type of bait. Galjoen might feed on worm the one day and prefer redbait the next day.
Should you however only get to the water on a higher tide, be on the lookout for areas where the waves tend to sit while rolling in on either side, leaving a darker area that is deeper than the surrounding area. These areas will have a darker blue colour to them. By casting your sinker into these holes, you should feel a rocky bottom when slowly retrieving your line. The moment you feel your sinker touch an object under the water, let it rest there for a couple of minutes. Any fish in the area is bound to pick up your bait. Try casting your bait into this area for another 30 minutes or so. If you don’t get any bites, move to another spot. It could be that the hole has been open for too long or the fish are not feeding in the area at the moment. One can, however try that spot again later in the day on a different tide.
Most anglers will probably know that wind plays a large role in catching fish. This is also true for Galjoen fishing. Most anglers will also agree that fishing when the wind is howling is no fun at all. Your line gets blown into a bow that makes it just about impossible to feel a bite unless the fish takes the bait all the way down, hooking itself. Wind is, however extremely important to bring about the necessary change in weather that is needed to bring favourable fishing weather. Depending on the area your fishing, it is important to know which wind works best for that specific area.