South Africa's National Fish: The Galjoen Dichistius capensis (Damba, Black Fish, Black Bream)

What You Need To Know About The Galjoen Dichistius capensis

South Africa's National Fish: Galjoen (Damba)The Galjoen is found only along the Southern African coast, it is endemic to our coastal waters. It is confined mostly to shallow water and is often found in rough surf amongst rocks and also occurs close into shore. The colours of the Galjoen vary depending on where they live, for example the Galjoen that inhabit rocky areas are almost completely black, while in sandy areas the colour of the Galjoen is a silver-bronze. It is also known in KwaZulu-Natal as a blackfish or black bream. In other parts of the country the Galjoen is also referred to as the Damba. The closed season for the Galjoen in South Africa is (When you are not allowed to fish for or target the Galjoen) 15 October to 28/29 February and the minimum size is 35 centimeters, and there is a bag limit of 2 Galjoen per angler per day.

A good area to target GaljoenThe record size is close to 80 cm and well over 7 kg, however the average size of this fish is between 40 and 60 cm. When measuring the Galjoen a Total Length measurement should be taken. The Galjoen is a strong fighter and is a popular target saltwater fish species for the rock and surf angler. The diet of the Galjoen consists mainly of red bait (ascidians), small mussels and barnacles. Red bait forms 75% of the Galjoen's diet and it also feeds on red and green seaweed. The scales are very firmly attached and the fins are well developed with prominent spines. Seven-nine vertical bars occur on each flank. The Galjoen belongs to the marine bream family of fish (Coracinus capensis). The suggestion to make the Galjoen South Africa's national fish came from the late Margaret Smith, sometime Director of the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology in Grahamstown. As early as the 1950 version of her husbands book The Sea Fishes of Southern Africa (by JLB Smith), the following is said of the Galjoen: Probably the first typical fish to be noticed by the earlier settlers. It might well be selected as a marine emblem to rank with the Springbok and the Protea. Whereas the Galjoen's national status has for some years been given in inverted commas in South Africa, in 1992 it was at long last listed as the national marine emblem, without inverted commas. The Galjoen was arguably the first endemic fish to be recognised in South African waters.

How To Catch South Africa's Galjoen?

A Galjoen FishermanWhen looking for an angling spot to fish for Galjoen, it is important you find an area with lots of white water, rocks, seaweed and a strong current. Galjoen often occur in very inaccessible spots and dangerous areas so be careful when you target this fish. You can also find Galjoen in small gullies with turbulent water.

The tackle you should use when targeting Galjoen really depends on the area you are fishing, how many rocks are in the water and how far you have to cast. The ideal set up would be a 13-14 foot rod with a medium tip, size 20 or 30 multiplier reel or size 5000-6000 coffee grinder, with 18-30 pound monofilament line. One can go lighter than this, such as my favourite setup: An 8 foot rod, a 4000 size coffee grinder reel and 15-19 pound line. Such a setup should be used If you do not need to cast far and you know the structure underneath the water very well. The sinker line to be used when fishing for Galjoen should be considerable weaker than your leader and a knot tied in the middle of the sinker line will also help as many large fish have been lost due to sinkers getting stuck in the rocks and the fish getting off the hook! Smaller Galjoen can often be more difficult to catch than larger specimens as they bite very shyly and will often tug off your bait before you can set the hook whereas the larger Galjoen will often "Flatten" you when they pick up your bait. The best hook sizes are between a size (Number) 6 and a 1/0 hook. Make sure you have very strong hooks as Galjoen have been known to straighten cheap hooks and there are normally Musselcracker in the same areas as Galjoen and they can straighten hooks in a number of seconds. When fishing for Galjoen I recommend using Diachii 1/0 hooks.

Galjoen can be caught on red bait (Fresh or old) or white & black mussel. Other baits such as pink prawn, lobster, wonder worm, bloodworm and occasionally chokka (Squid) also produce results! Remember to follow the rules and limits when fishing for Galjoen and help preserve our national fish by releasing as many as you can!