INLAND BOAT ANGLING: BLUE KURPER WORLD RECORD STILL STANDS

On a cool, cloudless early autumn day in March 2003 I was with legendary light tackle boat angler Frits Beumer on his boat, “Inkwazi” way up in the headwaters of Mpumalanga’s famous recreational fishery, Loskop Dam.

We had started our day at around 03:30 – having done this for many years it was a pretty uneventful early morning launch with everything in its place, the boat sliding off its trailer and the two of us unhurriedly boarding it without any mishaps – after all, a day out on the water is supposed to be relaxing, not taxing!

Not that we had no plan of action at all for the day – indeed we did and our objective, apart from enjoying a good day’s kurper fishing, was nothing less ambitious than to establish a world record for Blue Kurper, arguably the most well known and loved tilapia of the oreochromis family. Having bid farewell to the competitive boat-angling scene, we had been trying to land the world record for the past three years, but Loskop had steadfastly refused to deliver a fish exceeding the magical three kilogram mark.

Like most species and dams, Loskop and its blue kurper population has its cycles – a few years in which the dam produces abundant food supplies which in turn results in faster growth rates and so increases the average mass of its adult population. The increased fecundity results in far too many fish being produced for the food supply, and as the fish compete for the dwindling food supply, Nature’s rules kick in and the breeding intensity cools down. Fewer fish mean more food per individual and so the average size increases. After a few years of this phenomenon the food to numbers ratio once again increases and the cycle repeats itself.

Frits and I had been fishing Loskop for several years, and as he was by far the most experienced had encountered this cycle several times. He knew how to adapt to the changing circumstances – to target the really big specimens (which are the targets of just about all anglers!) a combined strategy of species knowledge, observation, patience and perseverance is required, and then of course the ability to combine all those elements into a cohesive game plan. Over the years it had not only produced good kurper fishing for him, including several wins in the open kurper money tournaments, but also a consistent track record of winning bags of other species such as rednose-mudfish, carp and barbel, earning him the deserved title of “Loskop Legend” in boat angling circles.

For the past three years we had experienced an upswing in the average mass of the fish, but that magical three-kilogram mark had not yet been breached. But as always we knew what needed to be done and soon after launching the boat, our baits were in the water, at a spot known by most, if not all. Loskop boat anglers as “Frits’ Bay.”

Eugene C. Kruger with the current world record blue kurper of 3,11kg caught in Loskop Dam in March, 2003 – registered with the International Game Fish Association in Florida, U.S.A., the official keeper of the world’s recreational angling records.
IMAGE: Frits Beumer


Preparing the spot entailed putting in an attractor groundfeed consisting of a mixture of ‘maroek’ (sorghum beer residue) and mealie rice, but not too much so as not to attract too many peckers. Kurper rigs are not complicated – a bunch of earthworms loaded on #1 long shank hooks and an adjustable ‘Dutch’ float that is threaded on the line. We had plumbed the bottom depth and used a slipknot on the line to rest the hook just off the bottom. So – when a fish takes the bait, the movement of the hook creates movement on the float, warning us that a kurper is at work down below.

If a sizeable specimen picked it up, the float would rise and lie flat on the surface, or it would be dragged under. When the smaller, nuisance peckers attacked the worms however, it would bob up and down. In all instances the angler had to decide when it was the “right time” to set the hook. This cannot be learned from books but only through experience – which we had a lot of …

While not accorded the international glamour status of bass or carp, the blue kurper has a large following and has the distinction of being a five-star table fish.
IMAGE: Eugene C. Kruger

Worm fishing brings with it the frustration of attracting small fish, the peckers that just nibble at the worms with the float being pulled up and down on the surface. This means the line has to be reeled in and the bait re-set, over and over again until the big fish move in. But if that is what has to be done, then so be it …

A typical kurper fishing scene on Loskop Dam, one that the dam has seen tens of thousands of times – this one is of the late Frits Beumer, the “Loskop Legend” in action with the author an interested spectator. “Is this the record we were looking for?”
IMAGE: Werner Lubbe

At around 09:00, after we had enjoyed a boat pack breakfast, the fun started – with just one handful of groundfeed and only a few peckers around, Frits landed the first decent-sized fish (he always did!), a prime specimen weighing just on 2,6kg. He gave me an enquiring, quizzical glance, and I could see that he was also wondering if today would be the day …!



This is the size that is favoured by “kurper gourmets.” A sound, conservation-conscious practice to maintain as strictly as possible is to harvest only one of every ten fish caught, but in any event do not exceed the day bag limit of twenty fish.
 IMAGE: Eugene C. Kruger

Frits hung a keepnet over the side, and into it went fish that we would keep for the table – one in every ten, with the rest being released. Arguably the best size fish to keep for the braai is around one kilogram, but that day all the fish were way over 1,5kg. We were experiencing a red-letter day, one of those days that anglers the world over dream about, and stopped counting when I boated fish number forty-five. By noon we had had enough, but true to form just had to have “one more cast.”

I sent my rig out about thirty metres, and had just reset the bail arm when I saw the float disappear – and stay submerged! Lifting the rod tip I felt the line pull tight putting a serious bend in the rod. “Hey-hey!” exclaimed Frits, “another big one!” and after just a few minutes I had the fish alongside for him to do the honours, netting a kurper that had us momentarily tongue-tied. “Get the scale, quickly!” Frits sounded quite hoarse with excitement. We let the scale settle – the needle crept just over the 3kg mark, and when we weighed it on shore on an assized scale as per IGFA rules, it was confirmed at 3,11kg – the IGFA All Tackle World Record was ours!    

End of another successful day on Loskop Dam. Frits showing a fish destined for the braai – as per our own bag limit, only one out of every ten fish were harvested.
 IMAGE: Eugene C. Kruger

For the ensuing nine years we continued our annual search in the autumn months at Loskop for big kurper, but pollution and the occurrence of pansteatitus, a crippling disease that solidifies the fish’s body fat to such an extent that its mobility is so severely curtailed that it cannot move or feed and so eventually dies, exacerbated the effect of (illegal) over fishing. We did on occasion however get close to the magical 3kg-plus mark, with Frits landing more than one that did reach 3kg – indeed one fish, landed hardly an hour into our day, nudging the scale to just over 3kg, and fish in the upper 2kg-plus class, although not being plentiful, caught on every outing.

In 2012 our annual Loskop kurper excursions never materialised as each trip was postponed for one reason or another. Eventually it never happened – Frits passed away in March, just one month before his 70th birthday, to this day sorely missed by the Light Tackle Boat Angling fraternity and all who knew him.

*To date the IGFA Blue Kurper world record still stands, and although sporadic reports surface on social media of blue kurper heavier than the record, no formal record applications have been forthcoming. For world record details and application, visit: www.igfa.org



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