One of the great attractions of spearfishing around Inhaca Island is the variety and number of spots to dive. From deep blue water spots and big ledges coming out of deep water, to great spots for reef fish and wrecks scattered around the area… Inhaca has everything. The only problem is when and how to dive the spots properly in order to be effective.
The whole Inhaca area is governed by tidal moments in and out of the Bay of Maputo. This means that you could get to a spot the one day and it’s cooking… only to find it as dead as a desert the next. So every spot needs to be worked according to the tides. Once you have the tides and currents worked out, you will be able to plan what species and reef you are going to hunt at different times of the day and week.
The first major factor to consider is the phase of the moon and whether it is on a neap or spring tide. On a neap tide, the tidal difference is small and the tidal currents are not that strong. This will also mean that the lull at the peak and at dead low will be long as well: excellent reef fish hunting conditions, especially if hunting in caves is your forte. Unfortunately, the slack currents over the neap tide do not make for good gamefish hunting.
If your good days fall on neaps then it is best to make the most of slack currents and explore the reefs. That said, during a neap tide, if the Mozambique current is close in and pumping, then the current will push from the north down to the south making the northern edges of the reefs more active. However, it’s not often that this happens. If you also have a slight incoming tide you can get some good gamefish on B24 and the northern side of the Baixo Donae.
Spring tides are a whole different story. The currents get nice and strong and some of the ledges come alive with fish. Just don’t be shooting fish like Grouper that like to duck into caves, you might find yourself wasting precious time puzzling to get the fish out against a ripping current, especially if it is deep.
The best tide is an incoming tide, as this will cause the current to move from East to West around the island and through Hell’s Gate. When this happens, all the drop offs on the eastern side of the reef will come alive and this is where you should be hunting. On an outgoing tide the situation is reversed and the curents move in the opposite direction going from West to East out to sea. An outgoing tide does not mean you will not get fish, it just means you need to dive the western side of the reefs and locate the bait fish.
(See page 16 for graphics on tides.)
Finding the baitfish on the current side of the reefs is the most important part of spearfishing around Inhaca. If you don’t take the time to locate these hotspots you will lessen your chances on both reef fish and gamefish. Often the reef is so alive with bait fish it is hard to decide where to dive. You will need to look for the other indicator fish such as small Kingfish, Sea Pike, Fulvies and other hunters like Green Jobfish. I know these are basic principals used for any gamefish hunting, but at Inhaca it is too easy just to keep drifting in the wrong places because it seems like there are loads of fish.
Another factor to consider with the tides is the visibility. Many reefs and spots will get murky on an outgoing tide and will only clean up once the tide has pushed in for a few hours. So get a tide chart and plan each day according to the tides, taking into consideration what the winds are doing as sometimes you will need to travel long distances to get to some spots.
BASIC SPOT BREAK DOWN
BAIXO DE SANTA MARIA
Depth: 28m – 24m
Santa Maria is almost directly offshore from Hell’s Gate on the south side between the island and the mainland. The murky water from the bay will in most cases cover the reef at low tide. It is best to only go there when the tide has pushed in and dive the last 2 or 3 hours of the pushing tide. The drop offs on the eastern side are really good for all sorts of big pelagics and it is often easy to locate the bait even from the surface.
Depth 28m – 26m
Jeremiah’s consists of a series of ledges that run down the north eastern side of the island. This is a fairly large area with concentrated hot spots. These ledges work best on an incoming tide and are renowned for Sailfish. Most of the ledges are fairly deep with the occasional bump coming up to the mid twenties. If you are feeling strong, some really good tropicals and other creatures of the deep can be found in front of the ledges that are normally in the 30m+ range.
LIGHT HOUSE WRECK
Depth 8m – 3m
The wreck on the point at the light house on the far northern point of Inhaca Island is a good place to stop off on a full tide when it’s clean. One of the old men in the nearby fishing village says that as a boy he remembers the wreck being deliberately scuttled and that the people had a big party on the beach after; he reckons they were Russian sailors.
The wreck is actually rather big and you can drift a long way through it. Some of the wreck is in deepish water and some of it breaks the surface. The target species here are Kingfish and, if you are fast enough, Snapper. There are some great swim throughs and it is very picturesque.
Depth 30m – 8m
The famous Baixo Donae is by far the most substantial reef in the area. Coming out of deep water all the way to 8m on the top, this has been the final resting place for many ships over the past century. On the top of the reef there are sections with some good caves and structures that make for some great cat and mouse hunting with the exceptionally sharp Snapper that live there. It is very apparent that they know what a speargun is and you have to have your game on to get one of these fish.
The outer edges of the reef vary in depth but are generally in the 20 to 28m range and depending on which way the current is going you can find some really good gamefish patrolling in the deep water near these ledges. Baixo Donae has to be one of the most southern spots to target the mighty Dogtooth Tuna. Local divers have seen some seriously big fish, but true to form, Doggies are not so easy to land and very few have been landed here. When chatting to one of the local spearfisherman in Maputo, he said that he has been trying to figure out when the Doggies are there, but has seen them all year round.
Like most of the reefs at Inhaca an incoming tide works well on the eastern side, but the outgoing tide will also produce fish in the inside ledge which has some great structure and is a haven for Snapper and other reef inhabitants.
Be sure to find some of the wrecks around the reef. If anything, they make for spectacular diving, but most of your gamefish will be on the edges of the reef.
Depth 24m – 28m
B24 is short for Bank de 24, and is an amazing place to dive. It can be frustratingly dead, but when it is on, Wahoo and Couta chaos is the order of the day. This is a small reef and because most of the reef is in 28m the Couta can often be found swimming over the top of the reef. Start your drifts a fair distance out to sea and drift onto the bait fish on the current edge. This is a prime gamefish spot and you could come across anything here.
BANK DE CHINA
Depth 16m -12m
This is a small ridge just a few kilometres from Inhaca. It gets quite heavily fished, but you can still get some good Golden Kingfish and other fish that pass by. This is the place you go to if the east is pumping and you are still keen to dive. It is somewhat protected by Portuguese Island and is better than sitting at camp if you have nothing else to do. Because it is in the bay you will either need it to be on a high tide or for the bay to be very clean.
Depth 25m – 15m
This is a series of reefs running down from the north that get progressively more substantial the further north you go. These are the reefs you go and scout on the neap tides when all the usual gamefish spots are going to be quiet. Load up extra fuel because you will need it and pick a day with good weather. The reefs start about 30km from Inhaca and you can go up about as far as your boat can take you. The reef system is clearly visible on your GPS chart and with a little searching you will find some special spots.
At some of these spots you are going to be targeting Snapper, Job Fish and other reef dwellers, but always carry your flasher as you never know what will come in. This is Couta country and even if the water is a bit off coloured you will probably land up with a few Couta in the hatch. We have even speared Sailfish up there!
WRECKS AND STRUCTURES
There are so many wrecks and structures in and around Inhaca. In fact if I remember correctly there are something like 28 recorded wrecks in the Baixo Donae area alone. The Bay is so full of old marker buoys and other structures that it would be impossible to start describing any of them. Truth be told I cant actually remember all that well which ones are which.
These wrecks and structures are ideal for the neap tides when your gamefishing is quiet. Depending on the wreck’s location you will find anything from Kingfish to Snapper lurking about.
WHERE TO STAY
There are two main options at Inhaca: Either stay on the island itself or stay at Santa Maria. You could use Maputo as your base but it is expensive, and there is little that is attractive about Maputo. There are pro’s and con’s for either the island or Santa Maria. Santa Maria has a large variety of accommodation from luxury private houses to tented camps and camping. Ponta Torres lodge is always a good bet and will have something to suit your budget. On the island there is Manieco Camp which has become a favourite with many spearos. It is clean and simple and is the perfect boys’ get away camp.
The main advantage of staying on the island is being that much closer to the spots to the north, plus you can get most supplies from the village. If luxury and convenience is what you are after then Santa Maria is a good bet. You are able to have your boat relatively close even on a low tide. You can sleep in an en-suite room with aircon. But know that if you want to go to the far north you are 10km further away than the guys staying on the island. That’s if you come in Hell’s Gate. If you go on the inside of the island it is 20km further as you have to wind your way through the channels if the tide is out.
Basically, Inhaca is a trophy fish hunter’s dream. Whether it is big reef species or gamefish you’re after, Inhaca can deliver. Yes there are some logistics to actually getting there, be it the 33km crossing from Maputo or the bush drive from Ponta to Santa Maria, but it is well worth the effort when you haul your PB trophy over the gunwale of the boat.
There is a good reason why some guys just keep going back year after year.