The Sardine Run - What to Expect

The pilchard or should that be sardine

Bit of confusion here but generally sardines are young pilchards. This resource is over fished horribly as is every commercial fishing species in the world today. Catches peaked in mid to late eighties at 14 million tonnes per annum globally and are now down to less than a quarter of that. Today’s fishing methods are far more sophisticated which also says a lot.

The Sardine run

The sardines migrate up the east coast each year with temperatures playing a huge role in the success of the run. The critical temperature is around 19 centigrade and this only normally becomes a problem off the KZN coast. The sardines normally stage at Waterfall Bluff on the Transkei coast and if conditions are suitable migrate onto the KZN coast from there. If temperatures remain too high the sardines disappear into the deep and only the odd pocket ventures onto our coast. This has been the scenario for the last ten years or so. June July have traditionally been prime months for the run but some runs have gone into august. With water temperatures on the rise globally it is always going to be a hit or miss affair whether we have a run or not. For the tourism industry on the south coast this must be a big concern.

What Changes the Sea temperature

The north easterly winds will invariably drop the sea temperatures along the KZN coast and the south westerly winds will warm the sea up. During the sardine runs the winds are more prevalent from the south so this does not help matters. Would be interesting to see whether the late runs that have gone into August have any correlation with the NE winds that start to blow during this period.

Hit or Miss

This is what you are looking at when you are diving during the sardine run with miss being the operative word. Everything goes quiet. Reef fish are scarce and gamefish are hard to find. But then you are just in the right place at the right time and it is unforgettable. Cuda snoek daga grunter geelbek cobia kingfish iggies garrick. A memory you will take with you to the grave. That is why it is always worth getting in during the run even if you keep hitting a miss. Spots that l have come right at are: Rocky bay, Hibberdene Childrens Home, Brighton Beach, Umdloti, Ski-boat Bay Ramsgate, Treasure, Cutting.


Good chance of seeing more sharks during this period especially if you are diving with a big shoal of sardines. Bit unsettling as you are seeing big sharks in very shallow water which is not the norm. Luckily the sharks are more focused on the sardines than you but not clever to dive in bum viz.

Eating your catch

Sardines are great to eat but being very oily fish you have soon had enough. I like them deep fried in bread crumbs once you have gutted and scaled and then eat the whole thing head and all. Curry powder is an optional extra!

Sardines Ready to Eat

Safe Diving

John Little