Murchison Falls Invitational Fishing Tournament 2023

Murchison Falls Invitational Fishing Tournament 2023

(L) Charlie Morley (M) Gee Cannon (caught the fish) (R) Gustav Brew – Photo by Andrew Nightingale

“Murchison Falls Invitational Fishing Tournament 2023” by Charlie Morley & Andrew Nightingale  / Photography Courtesy of: Andrew Nightingale, Luke Nightingale, Georgina Harries, Geoff Morley, Charlie Morley, Aaran Coyne, Peter Bowser, Nigel Andrade, Chris Higginson, Deon Haigh

murchison falls sponsors

People have been fishing for sport as well as food for almost as long as fishing has existed. With booming human populations and their demand for food security, many waters across the continent are under immense pressure and sadly lack any sustainable conservation practice. Murchison Falls National Park stands proud in Africa for its soundly sustainable protection of this section of the River Nile.

About the Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls – Photo by Andrew Nightingale
Murchison Falls – Photo by Andrew Nightingale

Murchison Falls National Park surrounds the final section of the Victoria Nile before it enters Lake Albert. A marvellous destination, an impossibility of angry water, a profusion of channels through papyrus islands, multitudes of wildlife. In the middle of the Park are the Murchison Falls where almost the entire River Nile pushes through a nine meter wide gorge in the most elemental example of raw power. Three hundred and fifty tons of water a second roar down this narrow cleft, a jet of white water that would spell certain death for anything that was unfortunate enough to get caught in it. The falls form a physical barrier past which no fish can migrate, so vast numbers of migratory species travelling upstream congregate below the white water, making a perfect feeding ground for bigger predators.

About the tournament

Murchison Falls National Park Elephants Photo by Chris Higginson
Murchison Falls National Park Elephants Photo by Chris Higginson

In 2001, a group of friends downing a few Nile Specials in Kampala’s Just Kicking Sports Bar planned to escape the city to enjoy a fishing weekend away on the Murchison Nile. They decided to have a friendly sport fishing competition among themselves, which was such a fun challenge that it became an annual safari. This group of fellow anglers and their event slowly grew, and evolved into the highly competitive fishing tournament it is today.

Over the next decade, the Murchison Falls Invitational Fishing Tournament came into being with huge support from generous volunteers, conservationists, corporate sponsors, Uganda Wildlife Authority and the local community. The MFIFT is a leading ambassador for how to run and manage a sustainable conservation friendly ethical sport fishing tournament.

A significant event like this creates income for the UWA directly in form of park entry fees, fishing permits and vehicle fees. As a not-for profit event, and knowing the participants are there for the privilege of sport fishing, and not the prizes, the organizing committee have been able to channel excess funds into conservation and the local community.

Community education and conservation

Community education is a paramount part of any effort in conservation – an investment in and an understanding that the future is important. Paraa Primary School is situated on the park boundary and consists of students that are either children of the park rangers or from the nearby communities. MFIFT funds have been able to provide the school with much needed teaching scholastic and physical education equipment, ensuring pupils have the correct equipment to study at school and to catch up after the absence caused by Covid-19. Additionally, school uniforms have been provided for all students irrespective of their background. Several gifted students have also been helped with scholarships to secondary education funded by the event.

Charlie Marriam pupils of Paraa Primary School Photo by Peter Bowser
Charlie, Marriam, pupils of Paraa Primary School Photo by Peter Bowser

Through the years the MFIFT has been able to donate vital equipment to help the UWA in protecting Uganda’s and Murchison Falls National Park’s precious wildlife and wilderness. This has been through the purchase of patrol boats, motorbikes, night vision optics veterinary equipment and much more. The competition organizers intend to continue with these donations and support and have greater plans to achieve next year in 2024.

The 2023 MFIFT Report

Shane Andrade Photo by Nigel Andrade
Shane Andrade Photo by Nigel Andrade

The Murchison Falls Invitational Tournament is now a highly competitive fishing tournament, that has drawn participants from all over the globe to join and have a chance at catching the amazing Nile Perch in one of the greatest parks in Africa. This year sixty-five participants from across Africa, Middle East and Europe fished twenty-one boats over a three-day event. The Murchison stretch of the Nile is divided into three competitive sectors, and equal numbers of boats fish a different sector each day. In this way, all teams get a fair chance to fish each sector.

Day One of the MFIFT kicked off with a great day on the water and over 546 kgs of fish were caught and safely released back into the Nile River. The largest Nile Perch of the day was caught by Joss Craig onboard team Sobek with a beautiful 44.1 Kg. A fluctuation of scores all over the board in all different sectors, it was anybody’s game.

Archie Voorspuy L Angus Roberts R Photo by Geoff Morley
Archie Voorspuy L Angus Roberts R Photo by Geoff Morley

It was a slow start on Day 2 for a few competitors, who had indulged in the frothy waters of Nile Special the night before, claiming that in fact it was the true reward from the source. The lady anglers were on form. Georgie Moore caught a beautiful specimen of a Nile Perch only ten minutes into the day. Just before dusk as exhausted anglers returned to check in, they were treated to the sight of UK’s Gee Cannon, battling a monster fish, her rod bent to the depths as she slowly tamed a 71.5 Kg Perch to submission. One of the largest Nile Perch of the tournament. The day’s scores were tallied and found the Kenyan team Tango Samani fishing in Sector A had managed to bag a massive total catch of 179.4 Kg which putting them firmly in the lead.

Luke Nightingale Winning Team Tango Samani Photo by Georgina Harries
Luke Nightingale -Winning Team - Tango Samani, Photo by Georgina Harries

The third and final day, team tactics were fiercely deployed with some of the regular fisherman pulling out their best fishing spots at an effort to take home the trophy. UWA’s team was on flying form with a total catch of 82.5 kgs. Flavio Wicki from Switzerland who has been living in Uganda for 3 years managed to catch, measure, and release a 71.5Kg Nile Perch – the exact same weight as Gee’s fish the day before. Having fished their best, teams handed in their score sheets for verification. While the organizers tallied final results, anglers and friends enjoyed the sunset over the Nile while sipping on a cool Nile Special. They regaled the adventures of the last three days and spun fables of ones that got away…

Luke Nightingale Aaran Coyne Boyce Harries Georgina Harries Winning Team Tango Samani Photo by Deon Haigh 600
Luke Nightingale, Aaran, Coyne Boyce Harries, Georgina Harries, Winning Team: Tango Samani Photo by Deon Haigh
Aaran Coyne Photo by Georgina Harries 80
Aaran Coyne - Photo by Georgina Harries

In all, a whopping 1,847 kgs of fish were caught and released during the MFIFT 2023 Tournament. This was the highest total in the history of the event and shows a positive growth trend in numbers and sizes of fish at Murchison. A testament to excellent protection efforts by UWA and the commitment of the Tournament to sport fish sustainably and ethically.

Keeping It Sustainable

The tournament is focussed on a commitment to conservation and ethical angling, and continually revise improved ways in which to handle, measure and safely release fish. Participants in the tournament go way beyond the recommended practices of the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) guidelines on sustainable angling. A policy of 100% catch and release of all target species; the rules to use circle hooks which result in little to no deep hooking and injury of valuable fish; consistent promotion and education on best practices for ensuring one’s fish is returned to the river healthy and safely. The competition runs a policy of measuring size fish caught as this is less traumatic than weighing them. Multiple species of fish have been added to the point scoring in the tournament to reduce pressure on the prime targets such as the mighty Nile Perch.

Charlie Marriam pupils of Paraa Primary School Photo by Peter Bowser
Charlie, Marriam, pupils of Paraa Primary School Photo by Peter Bowser

The MFIFT has diligently collected, collated and saved data from all competitions, slowly building a long term idea on fish growth, migration patterns, and the Murchison Nile’s general health and ecology. It is incredibly difficult to monitor the health of fish stocks, but this regular practice of catch-and-release sport fishing gives a sustainable method of monitoring the ecosystem. Hopefully this information will go a long way in helping determine conservation policy and best practice.

Lee Wulff famously said “Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once, [so] the fish you release is your gift to another angler. Remember, it may have been someone’s similar gift to you.” It is a mantra the Murchison sport fishing fraternity fully embrace – a community of anglers who do not want to injure their own sport or the sport for others in future.

The Murchison Falls Invitational Fishing Tournament 2023 - Sunset
Sunset at The Murchison Falls Invitational Fishing Tournament 2023

leave your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *