Kenya Big Game Fishing Species  &  Fishing  Seasons

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Kenya Big Game Fishing Seasons

Kenya's deep sea fishing season starts from the beginning of July through to April. The southeast monsoon (Kusi) blows from mid March to mid November and is cooler than the northeast (Kaskazi) which blows the rest of the time. The seas are warmer and calmer during the Kaskazi months. Most fish are not resident but migrate through Kenyan waters. We have a good idea of when the best time is to fish for individual species but the exact time depends on water temperature, availability of food, current, water clarity, etc.

The main billfish season (sailfish and marlin) runs from October to mid to late March, however sailfish and black marlin often come inshore in numbers in July and August (these months have been fantastic for black marlin on many occasions). If you want to target blue marlin or striped marlin you are better off coming between January and the middle of March (book early if you want a decent boat between Feb 15 to March 15, many are booked a year in advance).

With each individual fish species we cover on this page there is a section on target dates & fishing areas. The large majority of fish can be caught through out the season and along the entire Kenyan coast, target dates and areas are when I believe you'd have the best chance to catch the most fish. All the boats we recommend support wholeheartedly the practice of ‘Tag and Release’ of billfish, shark and many types of game fish.

Below graph is all fish tagged over the last two decades by the month they were tagged, giving a good indication of the different species migration through Kenyan waters. One thing to remember when looking at this graph is that around 60-70% of days fished in Kenya take place between mid December & mid March. With this taken into consideration the July/August black marlin run is all the more impressive knowing that only about 5-10% of Kenyan charter boats are even in the water at that time.

Marlin, sailfish & broadbill swordfish by month


sailfishsailfish (known locally as ‘suli suli’) are by far the most numerous of the Billfish we have here and are the fish that brought Kenyan fishing to world prominence. Finicky and sometimes skittish or playful, they can make a fool of the best of anglers at times, and are very dramatic when not over powered by excessively heavy tackle. Experienced anglers will know this spectacular acrobat is more fun on light tackle or on fly (Our numerous sailfish make fly fishing a very viable option). Sailfish will jump and slither across the surface of the water in a never to be forgotten display and large "pack attacks" are reasonably common. Relatively easy to bring in when hooked (that’s the tricky part) the Sailfish is a milestone in any anglers early fishing experience.

You can catch sailfish all along the Kenyan coast throughout the year but to catch large numbers you need to come in the main season. The main run of sailfish in Kenya starts in the north of Kenya from mid September and moves to feeding grounds off Malindi and Watamu in mid October through to March. Our Sail fishing is as good as almost anywhere in the world; four to six to the boat quite normal, with the best at thirty-five.

Recommended Target dates: October to December.

Target fishing area: Lamu & Malindi 

  striped marlin Back To Top   

tagged striped marlinstriped marlin again can be caught through out the year smaller and slimmer than the other two, this fish will still give a good account of itself when not over powered by heavy tackle. Mainly found offshore in cleaner water they can travel in large packs, up to forty individuals in a group have been reported off Shimoni in southern Kenya. To experience a large pack of aggressive stripey's all lit up is one of the greatest spectacles in big game fishing.

The best run of stripey's is off Shimoni in the Pemba Channel from December to March but big runs have been experienced on a regular basis off Lamu and the Rips off Watamu/Malindi. Stripey's have been caught on fly, with Kenya records in 12lb and 20lb tippet.

Recommended Target dates: Mid January to mid March

Target fishing area: Shimoni 

  blue marlin Back To Top   

blue marlinblue marlin are probably the king of the billfish, only being found in deep clean water these nomadic hunters roam the oceans in search of shoals of tuna. Preferred fishing technique is trolling of large artificial lures. Blues are normally found alone or in pairs but we have had runs of small blues that have travelled in small packs. A jumping blue marlin is the ultimate thrill as the power and fury of these fish under full throttle is simply awesome. Complete changes of direction by these fish will convince fishermen that there are two on at once and frantic re-routing of the boat is the order of the day as line is usually getting desperately low within seconds of the opening of hostilities.

The Blue Marlin is by far the rarest billfish off Kenya and a big blue marlin is a privilege to see. The blue is still the biggest Marlin to have been caught off Kenya on rod and line, a blue of 1250lbs caught in March 1995 on the rips off Malindi/Watamu after a 7 hour fight. Blue marlin can be encountered through most of the season but reasonable numbers are around from mid January to mid March most of the very big blue marlin have been encountered in late February to mid March.

Recommended Target dates: February to mid March

Target fishing area: Lamu to Malindi/Watamu (North Kenya Bank) & Shimoni 

  black marlin Back To Top   

black marlinblack marlin are probably the most consistent of the marlin that visit Kenyan waters, numbers caught annually have stayed steady over the last 20 years. Black marlin come closer to shore and are often encountered in very shallow water. The preferred fishing technique is live baiting of tuna or bonito. The buffalo of the species be prepared for the fight of your life. If you haven’t done your homework he’ll find you out and be gone. Often fighting deep while using their pectoral fins to hold themselves down in the water or greyhounding away in brutal surges from the boat. What ever the size these fish are truly worthy adversaries.

Black marlin peak traditionally twice in the Kenyan season, medium size Blacks (up to about 500lbs) can arrive in decent numbers off the Watamu Banks at the start of the season  and again in high season when the bigger fish are more common. Blacks have been caught up to 860lbs on rod and line with many granders being fought and lost in these warm, oxygenated, food rich waters.

Recommended Target dates: July to August or February to mid March

Target fishing area: Watamu early season then all along North Coast in high season.

  broadbill swordfish Back To Top   

broadbill swordfishbroadbill swordfish the "Gladiator" of the sea is arguably the strongest of all fish. Kenya has become one of the top spots for broadbill which have been mainly small (20kgs to 80kgs), the best caught to date on rod and line was 362lbs. There are two preferred fishing techniques for this overnight specialty, the first was developed in Kenya a night trolling technique which has become very productive and resulted in the best night catch of 12 broadbill on one boat. The second is the traditional drifting at night, with squid weighted to different depths, and light sticks on the leader. This method has also recorded big nights.

No particular time of the year has shown itself as better over the relatively short period of time we have been seriously fishing for broadbill although being an overnight trip the boats will only go if weather conditions are favorable. Fishing on a new moon rather than a full moon has shown far greater results especially with the new Kenyan techniques that require the fish to be right on the surface. Multiple broadbill nights are common with up to 25 strikes being reported in one night. The Kenyan fly fishermen found that by using this new trolling technique they could also fish for this notoriously difficult fish and in 1997 the worlds first ever broadbill to be caught on fly was landed. Since then a select few have caught one on fly including a few of the worlds best who had to see it to believe it and went on to fill a few of the vacant world records.

Recommended Target dates: February to mid March

Target fishing area: North Kenya Bank

  shark Back To Top   

tiger shark largest fish on rod and linesharks are reasonably common when conditions are right and Kenya holds many world records for shark. Fishermen have differing attitudes to sharks, a marlin fisherman will cringe at the thought of a big shark turning up mid fight and tend to shun sharks, others will jump at the chance to fight these notorious fish. We have many of the large species of shark including hammerheads, tigers (the monster on the right died on the way in but weighed in well over 1600lbs, still the largest fish ever caught on rod and line in Kenya), bull, thresher, silvertip, oceanic white tip, black tip and the high jumping mako and spinner sharks.

Boats rarely go out specifically to fish for shark as drifting with chum or ‘rubby-dubby’ here doesn’t work due to the very strong currents. Shark fishing is only engaged in favourable conditions such as large amounts of bait fish holding in a particular area for long enough to attract the big predators. Sharks are often caught while fishing for other fish or while fighting fish particularly tuna or bottom fishing, they also take live and dead baits when fishing for Marlin.

Recommended Target dates: August or November

Target fishing area: Watamu Banks & Canyon

  tuna Back To Top   

yellowfin tunayellowfin tuna are present throughout the season as "schoolie'" or small yellowfin. The large yellowfin, the best, a brute of 208lbs, traditionally migrate past here between August and November (other runs of decent yellowfin can run intermittently through the season) bringing with them the large predators.

These incredibly strong fish have made hard men crumble as not for the first time that day 40/60kg tuna scream off into the depths. The huge explosions as they take lures or plugs are their trade mark with multiple hook-ups common place.

Other of the tuna family encountered off Kenya are dog tooth and big eye, they are rarely caught off Kenya, only on trips out to the deep continental shelves or sea mounts. Closer to shore you can encounter longtail & skipjack.

Recommended Target dates: August to Sept.

Target fishing area: North Kenya Banks

  trevally Back To Top   

giant trevallygiant trevally (locally known as Karambesi) are also one of the hardest fighting fish. There are World record size Gt's here but have yet to be boated under the very strict IGFA regulation. Usually caught on live bait using down riggers. In the last couple of seasons Jigging with heavy jigs in deep water has become very popular with many anglers (best to book jigging trips in advance as not many boats carry the necessary Tackle) . Many others of the Trevally family such as Bluefin, Golden and Big eye can be caught along the Kenya coast.

Caught up to 130lbs.

Recommended Target dates: Throughout season

Target fishing area: Watamu Banks & Canyon

  game fish Back To Top   

kingfishkingfish or king mackerel are found on banks and reefs through out Kenya. Best method is live baiting with double hook rigs, though they will take lures. They can be a serious problem when baiting for marlin by taking the baits behind the hook, although they make up for it by being excellent table fare.
Caught up to 90lbs.

Recommended Target dates: Throughout season

Target fishing area: Along entire Coast

wahoo are renowned for their searing first run (being one of the fastest fish in the sea), the biggest caught off Kenya in 1999 was a monster of 119lbs. When there are a lot of them around, chaos reigns as lines are cut by fish striking at the terminal tackle moving through the water. Again one of the best eating fish available.

Caught up to 120lbs

Recommended Target dates: Throughout season

Target fishing area: Watamu Banks

amber jack or yellow tail
amber jack (yellow tail) are becoming far more common with the increase in deep water jigging in Kenya, skippers are now targeting these incredibly strong fish. Also caught while bottom fishing for snapper.

Caught up to 130lbs. 

Recommended Target dates: Throughout season

Target fishing area: Rips & Mountains

doradodorado (known here as Falusi) come streaking across to your lures, iridescent with all the colours of the rainbow as they take to the air when feeling the hook. A big bull (male) as seen on the left will use his huge head to fight strongly away from the boat. These voracious hunters are encountered in both deep and shallow water. Fabulous light tackle fish and great eating when prepared on the day of catch.

Caught up to 60lbs.

Recommended Target dates: Mid March to April

Target fishing area: Along entire Coast

cobia although uncommon they frequent the reefs and drop offs in shallow water, in deeper water they are often found with manta rays or whale sharks. Another very strong fighting fish that can be mistaken for a shark when close to the boat. Another great fish for the table.

Caught up to 110lbs.

Recommended Target dates: Throughout season

Target fishing area: Along entire Coast

barracudabarracuda are also common throughout Kenya, a number of different species are caught along our coastline the biggest the greater barracuda as seen to the right.

Caught up to 75lbs.

Recommended Target dates: Throughout season

Target fishing area: Along entire Coast