The thrills and spills of sport fishing is attracting fans ready to while away time on Lake Naivasha.
On a boat, the gamers try to outdo each other as they lure an elusive Black Bass fish to a rod.
The excitement reaches a crescendo as the baited fish dances and wriggles away from its safe haven, enthralling the participants to cheer in unison.
Leisure fishing is now becoming an addiction for both locals and foreigners who travel to take part in the sport.
“We have envoys who have become ardent sport fishers. They rarely miss out and are among our trusted customers,” said David Kilo, a boat owner and contestant.
His aluminium grey customised boat is reserved for customers and is constantly kept clean given the nature of the clientele who are also permitted to wine and dine as they take part in their favoured pastime.
“It is a light boat with a small engine that is not noisy to scare away a potential catch within a certain radius,” says David.
To engage in the sport, customers pay Sh5,000 for a half day excursion and double the amount for a whole day expedition.
“To trap a fish is not easy and only those with patience enjoy the game,” he says.
The sport has diversified income for the boat owners, with majority of them having previously depended on fishing or boat rides.
“The sport is also attracting a category of people who had little interest in the lake activities. Boat owners are now making more money,” he said.
David, who doubles up as the Boat Owners Association chairman, said the sport fishing is a well regulated sector, with only those with valid licenses allowed to take part.
“Most of the fish caught during the sporting activities is returned to the waters, with participants only allowed to take away five pieces per rod,” he said. Fishing in the breeding areas and catching undersized fish is out of bounds for the sporting group.
He is hopeful that many clients will take up the sport, terming it a shot in the arm for those engaged in boat tourism and an extra revenue stream for the county government.
Quality fishing gear
But he admits that the sport is still an expensive venture for most people as a quality fishing rod costs over Sh10,000, complete with artificial baits.
And it is not only boat owners who are enjoying the brisk business. Jobless youth sitting at the edges of the fresh water lake are also assured a steady income; selling worms to the sporting fans.
“Fish species like Nile Tilapia which is preferred during baiting feeds on worms collected by the youth who earn at least Sh200 from a can of worms,” he said.
Another boat operator Kimani Waraga admitted that domestic tourism is becoming unsustainable due to the tough economic times that has seen travellers keep away.
“With the sport gaining credence, faithful clientele are booking slots in advance ready to navigate the waters and the returns are promising,” he said. Just like his counterparts, Kimani has a list of devotees who only come to the lake to do sport fishing, especially on weekends.
“Occasionally, I join them to make the event memorable,” he says.
The extra earnings help him sustain his boat business that was virtually on its knees before sport fishing gained momentum.
Kimani says the number of clients interested in the activity is growing.
“It’s a gaming activity that is fast growing and giving us additional earnings to supplement what we used to get from tourism activities,” he said.
Charges, according to him, vary depending on the number of clientele interested in participating and the hours to be spent in the waters.
“We don’t have a standard rate and the amount differs depending on the clients but the fee is much higher than what we charge for normal boat rides,” explained Kimani.
To be allowed to participate, boat owners must acquire a valid license from the fisheries department which cost Sh 6,000 annually.