History

The competition originated in 1997 when founders Mark James and Chris Digges started it as a corporate event to introduce First Paper House (now Antalis SA) and its customers to the excitement and pleasure of tiger fishing. Since then it has grown from 16 to 200 anglers, and participants come from far and wide to take part in what’s become known as a very special event on the fishing calendar.

A few years ago the Editor of African Fisherman, Ant Williams, wrote a comment about another fishing competition which Chris believes captures the heart of the Let it Swim TFT. “In our world today,” it went, “we have forgotten that the most important things in life are honour and trust. This tournament is designed that we fish for the fun and sport of it based on our word. It’s that simple.”

Honour and true gamesmanship remain central to the Let it Swim competition, and these values are linked to a strong conservation awareness. Unlike other competitions which can result in unacceptably high fish mortalities, Let it Swim has always operated on a ‘catch and release’ basis. It has also always based competition points on fish length rather than weight in an attempt to limit injury and mortality caused by scale hooks and time out of the water. Weighing of fish is strongly discouraged as the weight has no bearing whatsoever on the results. All qualifying fish are photographed against an official tournament template and recorded on the scorecard provided. These images are then referenced and e-mailed, via phone, through to the score-master for verification and computer loading.

The few changes that have taken place over the years have been implemented to stimulate the competition and conservation elements. Although originally designed to test the skills of teams, the event now focuses mainly on individual skills. In addition, the original minimum qualifying size of 300mm+ has been pegged at 500mm which is where the benchmark has now been set.

what the angling media had to say

Recently we visited the Pongola Nature Reserve and the dam as guests of Ezernvelo KZN Wildlife during a very special annual tigerfish competition – the Let It Swim competition, organised by Durban’s Chris Digges. Although I didn’t take part, it was a privilege to see anglers enjoying themselves in the true spirit of ethical angling.
What makes Let It Swim so speciaI is that tiger fish aren’t killed and none are weighed after catching. The longest fish wins, not the heaviest. Each boat is given a measuring chart on which the fish is laid and photographed in a matter of seconds, after which it is immediately released. If handled carefully with wet hands, this gives even a tigerfish – notorious for its vulnerability – an almost complete chance of recovery and survival. Only fish above 500mm qualify, to prevent smaller fish from being handled needlessly.
I can’t praise this form of competitive fishing enough. It represents a watershed in the attitude of conservation-minded anglers and shows the way all fishing tournaments, for tiger fish at least, should be conducted in the future. – Abré Steyn, Farmer’s Weekly, 29 April 2011

This is a well run tournament with all accommodation, apparel and catering included in the very reasonable entrance fee. The anglers are very relaxed and the only real effort is in setting up camp and hammering in tent pegs. The goody pack contains some awesome give-aways and also includes the tournament shirts and caps.
The comp works on a score-sheet system with a relevant photograph to cross-reference by the score-master. One needs to take along a digital camera or cell-phone in order to photograph the catch and so qualify. Only fish of 500mm+ qualify so time is not wasted photographing ‘scrappies’. Not only does this further reduce post release mortality but it also makes the score-master’s job a lot easier.
Fishing in the future as a whole is threatened and if we, the anglers, don’t look after our fish there is little to look forward to. By releasing these fish straight back into the dam we ensure the future of the species. [Only] tiger fish of about 30cm+ become mature and ready for breeding. Continually taking tigerfish of this size and over out of the system poses a real problem and will do serious damage.
The respect you get from fellow anglers knowing you did not kill a fish [that] they may still have the opportunity to catch one day, is worth it to you. Tournaments like this are a step in the right direction for the conservation of our fishing resources. Well done to the organizers of the ‘Let it Swim’ tigerfishing tournament. I will certainly be back next year in attempt to catch the ones that I released this year. Maybe in a couple of years’ time my kids will be fishing this same tournament. – Lionel Crow – Angler’s Talk, June 2011

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