The Ins and Outs of Fishing in Egypt: An Exceedingly Humble Guide
Why flounder for vacation plans when you can trout any of these serene waters?
Fishing is pretty cool; you get to go out in the open air by the sea, pull out your massive rod and cast your bait (along with your hopes and dreams for a perch) into the unruly domain of Poseidon. There’s nothing like wrestling with nature’s slipperiest of beings to provide your family/friends/cat with a smelly, delicious feast of fresh (and healthy) fish.
I’m no Egyptologist, nor am I a fisherman by any means (seafood makes me cry), but even I know that we, as a culture, have basically set the bar for the universal fishing game. Egyptians have been fishing ever since the sun decided to grace our perception of reality, and we’ve had no shortage of locales to try out our jigging techniques to boot. So I’ve done some research, asked around, compiled some info and watched my fair share of SpongeBob to know only some of the ins and outs of Egypt’s bountiful bodies of water.
Disclaimer: It’s already hard enough to write about anything vaguely carnivorous without the vegans of the universe throwing a green tantrum at us. So if you’re an advocate for fish rights, please avert your eyes.
Things you’ll Need to Keep in Mind
Although I’m sure some of you are adept at spear fishing or just charming fish into your grill, there are primarily two types of fishing predominant in Egypt.
The first type is your bog-standard (but fun nonetheless) casting; you throw your line from the shore (or a bridge for some reason) at an angle, perhaps incorporating your full body weight towards the front of your throw, at a far distance into the water. This kind of fishing necessitates a permit from the Egyptian Coast Guard as well as the General Authority for Fish Resources Development (a mouthful to be sure). There’s no special catch to obtaining these permits, save for your routine bout of Egyptian bureaucracy; think mogamma3, but smellier.
The second type, and the much more enjoyable in my humble opinion, is boat fishing. Naturally, getting a spot on a boat of any make or model is going to set you back a pretty penny or two, but think of it this way; you’re far more likely to catch the best of what the sea has to offer, and you’ll be on a BOAT. There’s also no need to get a permit when you opt for a boat; you’ll just need to give your national ID to your captain, and he’ll handle the ins and outs for you.
Another Disclaimer: It goes without saying that, regardless of how much of a badass you think you are, sea sickness is a bitch. Look for over the counter medication like Amocerebral or Emetrex (or really anything with cyclizine) to counteract the horror.
A Few Handy Dandy Tips
Fishing is an increasingly situational hobby; there are certain seasons, conditions and times of the year where it’s most optimal. Other times, it’s a massive waste of time, especially if you’re unaware of what you’re doing. Generally try to aim for anywhere between September and March; they’re more often than not the best times to yank the denizens of the sea out into your oven.
Sites like Windfinder and Tides4Fishing offer a wealth of foresight and information regarding wind and weather conditions, as well as visibility and overall fish love before you set out. Bear in mind that lunar cycles (or moon phases) play a massive role in your fishing efforts (and general safety), so it’s best to read up on the topic while you’re at it.
As with any worthwhile hobby (except ironing), gear can get pretty pricey; with all the rods, lures, lines, weights, hooks, jigs, jogs, blargs and flargs (and bait), you can rack up quite the expense bill at the end of your shopping spree. But with fishing in particular; you get what you pay for.
Some Fine Establishments
There are three pro shops for fishing enthusiasts that stand out among the rest. The first would have to be Hamour over at Sheraton; a diverse assortment of rods, reels, lures, jigs, bait and even kayaks are available at some pretty decent prices, considering what you’re getting, not to mention the guy who runs the place is quite the character.
Kingfish over in Heliopolis is also a venerable establishment for a variety of fishing need; it’s decked out to look and feel like a fisherman’s preferred arsenal, and the bang for buck is quite appealing.
Lastly (of these three anyway) is Pirates Fishing Co. over in Dokki; a premier spot for you folks on the western side of our dear Cairo, and it’s decked out to match any enthusiast’s tastes no matter what your preference (or reasonable budget) may be.
Bait and Switch
Your choice of gear and bait are solely reliant on where and what you’re trying to catch. It’s not just a matter of threading a worm here; each and every body of water has its preferred type of bait.
When it comes to the Red Sea: it’s a good idea to stock mackerel, calamari, sardines, bonito fish and the occasional shrimp (or dozen). Plastic lures help out a shit tonne, especially for trolling (drawing your line with the boat’s movement) and/or casting.
When it comes to the Mediterranean: you’ll need some lively boys for the fish swimming amok in its waters. Live shrimp and worms are a good investment here, and you can pack calamari and sardines for safe measure. Again, plastic lures are highly recommended for trolling and/or casting.
Where Do I Go, Fam?
Although you can gather your friends and go fish right off the bridges overlooking the Nile, or in whatever canal/river you find handy, it’s best to hop over to either the Red Sea or the Mediterranean for the most diverse of catches, and the most enjoyable fishing experiences.
Red Sea Funsies
Among the most popular spots in the Red Sea would have to be El-Konaisa, situated near Sharm El Sheikh; a premier locale for any enthusiast of any league for both casting and boat fishing. You’re going to need a personal fishing permit for casting (as previously mentioned), and there are a number of camps you can easily google near the shore so you can set up camp for days. The types of fish you can expect to catch over yonder are groupers, six-blotch hinds, emperors, seabream, parrotfish, an assortment of reef fish as well as coral trout and Spanish mackerel.
Sokhna isn’t just for jetting off with your sad, sad high school girlfriend for even sadder life decisions. It’s the nearest fishing hotspot to Cairo, so it’s comfy enough to reach, but don’t expect a lot of variety, or big game fish. You can usually find small-size groupers, six-blotch hinds, emperors (sometimes), perch, and occasionally coral trout or seabreams. Go hard or go home.
For those of you who’ve thoroughly been convinced by the idea of boat fishing, Hurghada is the place to be. Plentiful coral reefs and an abundance of seasoned fishermen and sailors make it a haven for all would-be pros, even though the fish you can find there are season-specific. All the fish that you can find in Konaisa can be found at Hurghada, with a few fun extras to boot: Barracudas, Tuna, Giant trevally, sky emperors (Lethrinus mahsena) and last but not least, the fabled mahi-mahi (or dolphin fish).
FUN FACT: The Egyptian name for sky emperors is Mo7sena. Its scientific (Latin) name is Lethrinus mahsena. Connect the dots.
Hamata has had quite the reputation for its abundance of massive fish and superior big game fishing; miles of reefs and seaweed set up the mood juuuust right for our aquatic friends. There are, however, two major setbacks; it’s about 900 or so kilometres away from good old Cairo (that’s a 12-hour ride), and it’s not for beginners (unless you’re going with a tour or people who know what they’re doing). But by God you’ll fish dinosaurs from there.
The least you can expect to catch are massive tuna, blackspot emperors, red porgies, groupers and even small fucking sharks (not that you should harm sharks in any way you monster). But again, it is expensive, and for people who are adamant about giving Poseidon the finger. Bringing ice boxes and provisions is very much recommended.
Finally, Shalateen proves to be a wonderful, if a bit far (1,000 KMs from Cairo) fishing locale for any and all levels of fisherman. No fancy boats like Hamata, no luxuries whatsoever; it’s just small, modest wooden boats, big-ass fish much like Hamata, and a quiet, serene experience in the sea.
Make it in the Mediterranean
Obviously, Alexandria takes the lead under any circumstance for the sheer abundance of spots to choose from. Whether you’re more into the lush boats of the Montazah Water Sports Club, or the humble feluccas and wooden boats of the El Max and Bahary areas, you’re bound to enjoy your trip and catch. Just don’t be too shocked at how “ghetto” El Max might look like on the surface; you can find a wealth of massive and medium sized fish there.
Expect to find a variety of aquatic critters such as seabream, seabass, a wide variety of groupers, mullet (needs a bit of skill), Spanish and King mackerel, striped red mullet, common sole, white seabream (the most common catch in the Mediterranean), and although a bit rare, massive tuna, shrimp scad, barracuda and striped seabream.
The lively crystal clear waters of Marsa Matrouh aren’t just for splish-splashing with your friendos; you can find the same variety of fish as you can in Alexandria floundering around in there. Don’t expect any fancy boats either; only modest wooden boats are what you’ll find, and that’s more than enough for a quality catch.
From what I’ve gathered, the North Coast isn’t the most varied or opportune place to go when it comes to decent catches. It is, however, an excellent locale for folks who want to practice somewhere near Cairo, as well as explore the boundless possibilities and techniques of cast fishing. You don’t even need a permit to go there. Except to catch only seabream , mostly of the white variety.
ILLEGAL TIP: the lakes in Marina are absolutely teaming with all sorts of fish, but it is strictly forbidden to fish there unless you’re a friend of a friend of a friend, or if you prefer being a criminal and doing it later at night.
The Wonders of Lake Nasser
Ah yes, Egypt’s massive-as-all-hell manmade lake in the south is widely considered to be a fisherman’s (wet) dream. Said to contain a colourful variety of 32 fish species, the lake is also home to the legendary Nile perch; a 200-kilogram, 2 metre behemoth that can feed a village for a week, probably, I don’t know, I’m 80 kilograms and can barely feed myself. Bear in mind that you’ll hardly have any access to phone networks or electricity when out and about in the Lake Nasser area, but when you can have your fill of all sorts of massive fish and a prime opportunity to fly fish, you’ll hardly need either.
Among the scaly denizens of the freshwater lake are tiger fish, moonfish, tilapia and massive catfish like the vundu.
There are bound to be many, many more tidbits I’m unaware of when it comes to the world of fishing, especially here in Egypt. But this isn’t meant to be a pro’s guide to where it’s all at, this is more for the beginner in all of us who just wants to go out by the seaside and discover the serene, rewarding hobby of yanking things out of the sea. So, happy angling.
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