Sport fishing has always been a popular pastime in Namibia. Surf fishing on the coast or hooking a tiger fish from one of the rivers in the north makes any angler’s heart beat faster. Enter a new trend: pond fishing, on “the moon” no less.
What used to be an old men’s sport, typically associated with an image of folding chairs, is a thing of the past. Goanikontes Oasis, actually a restaurant and café in the Moon Valley some 50 kilometres east of Swakopmund, is indeed an oasis. Freshwater fishing competitions are currently held there as an outdoor experience for the whole family to enjoy. Owner Dirkie Baard has created a tilapia pond for this very purpose.
Previously the pond area was like a marsh, overgrown by a species of reed and only secured with a fence. But when Charl and René Baard (of Baard Transport in Walvis Bay) took over Goanikontes Oasis in August 2018, son Dirkie rolled up his sleeves. He cleared away the reed-like growth and excavated the ground. In the middle of the envisaged pond he left a small island and planted a palm tree there. After building a wall around the inner edge of the pond it was ready for the brackish underground water from the seasonal Swakop River to be pumped into it with a solar pump.
Soon enough the open water attracted animals and birds. “Out of nowhere, Black-necked Grebe paddled about on my pond one day, and 20 Egyptian Geese have made their home here,” Dirkie says.
Four months after completing the pond, the young entrepreneur decided to add more life to the water. He bought 400 young tilapia.
This species of fish is a member of the cichlid family. Tilapia prefer water temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees for their habitat. Since the pond is not particularly deep, it quickly heats up in the sun – creating ideal aquaculture conditions for this type of fish, which is an omnivore. It can weigh up to six kilograms, depending on its habitat, and grow to a length of up to half a meter.
In order to maintain the biological balance, Dirkie drains the water to knee-deep every two months, catches the fish, counts them and puts the smallest into his breeding tanks before he fills up the pond again. “I came up with the idea to hold fishing competitions until tilapia breeding is well on its way and the fish is big enough for our Goanikontes kitchen”, he says.
Depending on the number of participants, the bank of the pond is divided into plots for the duration of the competition. A maximum of eleven teams are admitted. Three anglers per team cast their fishing rods for 40 minutes each in the section assigned to them, after which they switch places. Twelve large fish are marked for each competition. The anglers who catch them score extra points.
The coastal anglers set off for their recreational sport at the desert oasis immediately after work on Friday afternoon. They leave the fog behind at the coast and enjoy the warmth and a campfire. The night is spent in a roof tent, caravan or somewhat more luxuriously in a Goanikontes bungalow or igloo accommodation. The next morning, bread is stuck on the fish hooks for bait, lines are cast, reeled in and cast again. Sit back in the folding chair and relax… until a fish bites and excitement takes over. Jubilant shouting from the angler who can show a fish, even just a small one, on the hook or in the fishing net. Each catch is measured and weighed and then carefully released back into the pond. Meditative silence? Out of place. Delighted cheers of good fishing! Which, of course, attract curious visitors from the restaurant and café.
“Well, do they bite?” A question that is meant nicely, but makes most freshwater anglers feel a little exasperated. Don’t you know that you can see whether something is happening at the small buoy? Well-meaning advice is also offered. “You are casting your line too close” or “you are casting too far!” Non-anglers know their stuff, for sure. The recreational angler just leans back in his folding chair. Whether fishing casually or competing, a fisherman keeps his cool – until something is thrashing on his line.
Author: Kirsten Kraft
Interview with Dirkie Baard (Goanikontes Oasis)