Species of the month - Rudolph Venter *
Blue kurper (Oreochromis mossambicus)
In this issue I will discuss the blue kurper. The blue kurper is the largest of the Tilapiine species in our country. They are strong fighters on light tackle and provide many years great enjoyment for many anglers! If an angler talks about kurpers he usually refers to the blue kurpers. Some fish experts think all blue kurpers must be considered as vulnerable species because of the threat of inbreeding with Nile tilapia (Nile kurper) in South Africa. The Nile tilapia (Nile kurper) is an alien Tilapiine species from the Nile, which was introduced by the aqua-culture industry in South Africa.
Blue kurpers are not usually blue in color. They are usually silver or gray-blue in color. Young blue kurpers have three spots on the sides, which confuses anglers with three spot kurpers. Three spot kurpers are only found in the upper Zambezi River. As blue kurpers become larger and older the spots along their sides disappear.
Large male blue kurpers's forehead has a concave shaped and they usually have very thick lips. Anglers often refer to the male blue kurpers as "tekkiebekke". The males become dark blue to black in color all over their bodies with white cheeks and jaw. Furthermore, the males have bright red spotted fins. Such a male blue kurper in breeding is really nice to see. Blue kurpers have yellow to brown eyes and red ridges on their dorsale - tail and side fins.
Blue kurpers make round nests that look like “moon crators” and is protected by both male and females. The fish is a mouth breeder and the female carries the small fish in her mouth when they are small. A Blue kurper can become 400mm in length, but is usually between 150 and 300mm. The lure SA record of 3,065kg was caught in Loskopdam.
Blue kurpers are found in hot water systems from lower Zambezi into the lower Orange River. They are not found in the Highveld or Vaal systems. Blue kurpers numbers have reduced a great deal to earlier years due to water pollution, fishing nets, mixing and alien fish species feeding on them. Blue kurpers like small bays, water lilies, dry trees and sedges as structure.
Blue kurpers's feeding pattern has changed due to a lot of algae and reduction in fish to feed on. They are not as aggressive as in previous years and are rather caught with bait or worms than with spinner blades and lures. I believe the best lures for blue kurpers are small white Sada Curlytails or Berkley Power bait. Few fish can fight a fight like a large blue kurper and that is why we must keep their numbers. So next time you catch a blue kurper think twice before you take it home!
(Source: Paul Skelton, A Complete Guide to Freshwater Fishes of the Southern Africa)
* You are welcome to take photos of species that you struggle to identify my emails at email@example.com or find me on Facebook.
(Photo received from Tickey van der Merwe)
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