Fish Species and Seasons

Information on the variety of species that can be fished for on the Kenya Coast and  a breakdown of the Watamu fishing season

Big Game Fish Species in Kenya

Kenya's best asset as a big game fishing destination is the variety of fish available to fish for. From the incredible variety of billfish, including black marlin, blue marlin, striped marlin, sailfish, broadbill swordfish and occasionally a short billed spearfish. Kenya is one of the only places that has had a number of fantasy slams (five species of billfish in one trip, black, blue and striped marlin, broadbill swordfish & sailfish) over the last few seasons.

There are two methods used to catch marlin, early season the vast majority of marlin caught are black marlin and the best way to catch them is to live bait, frigate mackerel, bonito or tuna. Pete has caught some of the biggest black marlin on record, the best at 860lbs, 840lbs and 810lbs.

Later in the season when the blue and striped marlin arrive in decent numbers artificial lures can become very productive. The best of his blue marlin weighed in at 800lbs, 550lbs and 521lbs and his best striped marlin weighed in at 213lbs. Small lures with a strip of bait fish are used to catch sailfish, likewise broadbill swordfish but in the night.

Tiger Shark caught on AlleycatThere are numerous shark species available off Watamu, including tiger sharks (like this 1,600lbs monster to the left) , bull shark, hammerheads, mako's, silver/black/white tip sharks and spinner sharks to name but a few that are prevalent in Kenyan waters.

Sharks can be targeted at different times of the season specifically but many are encountered as you live bait for other fish such as marlin. It depends on your point of view whether this is a good thing or not. Whatever your point of view to see a big mako literally cart wheeling through the air has got to be one of the greatest sites in big game fishing, others such as spinner shark can also jump outrageously when hooked. 

Fishing Seasons

Below is Pete's basic breakdown of the Watamu fishing season:

  • July, August and September is one of the most fun parts of the season with good mixed bags of black marlin, sailfish, wahoo, kingfish, giant trevally and yellowfin tuna being readily available within 5 miles of base.
  • October, November and December is mainly sailfish season, when we run fast up to Malindi, approximately 12 miles before we start fishing.
  • January, February and March are main marlin months with black, blue and striped marlin on the Rips also good numbers of Sailfish at this time.
  • February and March is also a good time for broadbill swordfish making the chance of a fantasy slam a real possibility.
  • April, May and June is our 'long-rains' season, when we take Alleycat out of the water for maintenance. We don't head out offshore over this period, but creek fishing is an option all year round in the dinghy.
Broadbill Swordfish

Yellow-fin Tuna

94.4kg Yellowfin Tuna recordThe game fish fishing off Kenya can be worth the trip alone, the largest on offer are the yellowfin tuna (right, John Andrews caught this Kenya record yellowfin tuna on Alleycat back in 2001).

This horribly strong fish can be caught up to 100kgs, normally found further out in the deep water off the rips or the north Kenya bank. However the Watamu banks and canyon has produced some of the best periods of big yellowfin tuna fishing on record off Kenya.

The 'Razor Gang'

There is then the second bane of the purist marlin fishermen "the razor gang" these can turn up on mass or alone and cause havoc with a spread of live baits. The wahoo the largest of these (up to 60kgs) is also reputed to be one fastest fish in the sea and a fabulous fish to catch in its own right, then there is the king mackerel (kingfish) and barracuda. One redeeming feature of "the razor gang" is they all make great eating. Dorado (bottom left) are a wonderful sight flashing iridescent yellows, greens and blues and again great to eat, if your lucky around a large piece of driftwood or a whale shark you may encounter groups of cobia another hard fighting legend.

Dorado known locally in Swahili as 'Falusi'

Large game fish

There are other large game fish available such as giant trevally as seen below (up to 60kgs) often caught by jigging while drifting over ledges and marks, this style of fishing has become very popular over the last few years. Other fish encountered while using this technique are amber jack (up to 60kgs) the giant grouper and all sorts of snapper and bottom fish.

Giant Trevally caught deep-sea fishing on Alleycat off the Kenya Coast
Giant Trevally caught on Alleycat