your sport fishing guide to the Victoria Nile, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Tackle and Tactics

Fishing for Nile Perch in Murchison is done primarily from the banks and rocky outcrops directly below the falls and from boats moored close to favourable pools and eddies further downstream. Live baits tend to provide the best results. Baits are most often free-lined but are also suspended by floats or fished on the bottom with weight. Fresh dead baits are also known to catch perch but also attract the many catfish in the river along with the infamous soft-shelled Nile Turtle, which is never a pleasant experience to hook.

Spinning for Tiger Fish at dawn
Spinning for Tiger Fish at dawn

Rods and reels:

A matter of personal preference, but at least 30lb class gear is recommended. Rods up to 9-10ft in length (known commonly as ‘uptide’ rods in the UK) are useful when casting lures from the bank. Smaller 6-7ft ‘boat’ rods are otherwise adequate. Multiplier reels or large bait-runner fixed spool reels need to hold several hundred metres of 35-40lb breaking strain monofilament line (mono is preferred over braid due frequent cut-offs on rocks). A heavy main line is advisable due to the numerous rocks and snags, occasional dense floating vegetation, fast currents and… the potential for monster fish!

End tackle:

A wire or heavy monofilament trace/leader is essential to avoid cut-offs by the perch’s sharp gill plates and by rocks. Personal preference dictates hook choice, with many argue the merits of one or a combination of single, double and treble hooks. Hook size is mostly 6/0 or 8/0. Swivels and snap-links should all be heavy duty. As the old adage goes “your rig is only as strong as the weakest link” – so also ensure you tie your knots well!
Artificial baits are also an effective and rewarding way to meet with Perch. Most often lures are cast into fast water or through the creases where pools and eddies and the fast stream meet. Success tends to be found when lures are retrieved very quickly. Floating lures are preferred when bank fishing in order to try to avoid loses in rocks and other underwater snags. Super Shad Raps work well, with any colour being taken on its day. Rubber fish, spoons and spinners are also useful.


Works well, especially in pools and eddies below rapids and water falls. The largest fish to fall to a fly in recent times weighed 25 kilos and was caught by fishing guide Alistair Brew. Alistair was fishing right below Murchison Falls in the spectacular pool known as the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’.

Perch caught by Alistair Brew on a fly

Nile Perch appear to be at their prime ‘fighting weight’ between 20-35 kgs. They can make several sustained runs and take considerable amounts of line if large enough. When sufficient pressure is applied, it is common for fish to make repeated and spectacular head-shaking leaps from the water. When this happens it is important to keep the line tight to the fish in order to limit the chances of the hooks being thrown out.


Overcoming and landing a decent sized perch from the riverbank will test even the most experienced angler. Without the luxury of a boat to avoid the rocks in the shallows and to follow a fish if necessary, the head shaking runs, the swift current and deep eddies place the odds firmly in the fish’s favour.

Once beaten, Perch have traditionally been gaffed in order to haul them on to the boat or bank. If done carefully this should not overly harm the fish, but in the heat of events it is easy to make a mistake with a gaff. Far more preferable these days is to ‘glove’ the fish out of the water. This is done wearing a suitable heavy-duty glove (they can be bought even incorporating Kevlar) and to grip the fish by its lower jaw. If large, the fish should also be supported under the belly to lift it from the water. Fish should never be suspended vertically when weighing, as small vertebrae in the spine can be broken. This can prove fatal even after the fish is supposedly released ‘alive and well’. Weighing should be done with the fish contained in a weigh sack.

When to fish:

Nile Perch and large catfish can be caught throughout the year and throughout the day. Many anglers believe that results are best early and late in the day. This does tend to hold true for most predatory fish but, in the experience of Arthur de Mello, a long time and knowledgeable fisherman in Uganda, fish can be caught at any time of the day or night as long as the weather and water are warm and the skies clear. In Murchison the best results appear to occur when water levels are low and the water is clear. In contradiction to this however, fish also seem to feed actively when weather patterns change dramatically, i.e. at the starting of a rainstorm. The river is usually at its lowest and clearest between Mid-January to Early April.

Live bait:

Fishing for live bait is best with a 6-7 ft spinning rod and a corresponding fixed spool reel. Main line should be strong enough to be pulled across rocks and through weeds and to fight fish against strong currents. 10-15 lbs test is ideal. A small light wire trace is also advisable as many baitfish have small sharp teeth.

The best baitfish include Awaka (similar to a UK Chub), Ngara (a large type of Dace) and small Tiger fish. Tilapias are a proven favourite but are less readily available in this stretch of the river. Alestes and Ngara are most common and can be caught by float fishing with sweet corn, millet dough or termites. They can also be caught on spinners, as can tiger fish. Tilapia can be caught in the slower waters on or near the bottom, mostly with worms. All of these fish are great sport in their own right, when matched with the right tackle.

The most commonly caught and used live bait - Awaka

Important: Conservation and the Environment.

Most fishermen/women are conservation and environment minded, but sport fishing at Murchison takes place within a national park which makes it all the more important that best practices are employed. This of course includes not littering, a firm policy of catch and release and endeavouring at all costs to avoid cut-offs and to retrieve any lines and tackle which are lost. Some believe that fishing should not occur inside a protected area - litter on the bank and mammals or birds caught up in fishing line would only strengthen their argument. Please fish carefully!!!

This site supports the objectives of the International Game Fish Association:
The International Game Fish Association is a not-for-profit organisation committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical, angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping.

IGFA's objectives are founded on the beliefs that game fish species, related food fish, and their habitat are economic, social, recreational, and aesthetic assets which must be maintained, wisely used, and perpetuated; and that the sport of game fish angling is an important recreational, economic, and social activity which the public must be educated to pursue in a manner consistent with sound sporting and conservation practices.

The International Game Fishing Association