The Vundu Fish (Heterobranchus longifilis) is the largest air-breathing freshwater catfish and fish in Southern Africa. Subsequently it is the largest fish in the Zambezi river system, reaching lengths up to 150 cm and a weight of 60 kg’s.
It is rather large, strange looking and often confused with the Barbel fish.
No other catfish in these waters have such a large second dorsal fin, nor such long barbells which reach almost to the origin of the pelvic fin, with the extra long barbels being used to hunt in the murky water.
They have ineffective eyesight and they rely on vibrations and smell when looking for food.
It is a light to dark olive brown on its dorsal surface, getting lighter over the mid-body to a light brown, off-white belly. The fins are usually a light brown.
This fish are known as a bottom feeding river species and are becoming rare in habitats like Lake Kariba and should always be released back into their freshwater habitat as their numbers are dwindling.
They are only found below the Victoria Falls – there has been no recorded catch above the falls.
This catfish species are omnivorous but can also be cannibalistic.
They are mostly active and scavenging at night, feeding on any available food including insects and invertebrates when young and then moving on to fish, small vertebrates and any carcasses and offal found in the water.
Vundus can be found in all depths of water but prefer depths between 10-30 feet. They can easily reach over 12 years of age and can survive long periods out of the water.
Fishing practice is as for most catfish but, naturally, larger baits and heavier tackle are used. Anglers use ox livers, hearts, kidneys, plucked birds, meat and fish that have been turned inside out.