Kenya isn’t overly famous for its fishing but those who pass it by are missing out on a lot in my opinion. The offshore fishing off Kenya can be spectacular if you know when to go and who to go with, and there are even some fishing gems inland for those willing to push the distance, but it does require some local knowledge to get it right.
I was born in Kenya and have been fishing both offshore and inland there for the best part of 30 years, so you’re speaking to a local here. Kenya was where I learned to fish and it kick-started what ended up being quite a global fishing addiction that spans 19 countries.
Kenya still holds some of my favorite fishing experiences to date which I hope to give you the opportunity to experience by guiding you through the species you can catch in Kenya, where you can catch them, the best times to catch them, and who to book with so you’re in a safe pair of hands.
Top Fish To Catch In Kenya
When it comes to saltwater fishing, Kenya is incredibly diverse in terms of what you can catch in a single day.
It’s one of the few places in the world where you can catch a fantasy slam of billfish in a single trip which includes a broadbill, blue marlin, black marlin, striped marlin, and sailfish. But the offshore diversity doesn’t stop there.
When it comes to freshwater fishing in Kenya, the species are both weird and wonderful and strangely out of place, but it’s the setting that really takes your breath away – more on that later.
To make things a little easier, I’ll split the top fish to catch in Kenya into two sections, saltwater & freshwater.
Saltwater Fish In Kenya
The top saltwater fish to catch in Kenya will make any other destination a little jealous! Almost every sport fish you can ask for is up for grabs, except for white marlin and bluefin tuna.
Here are the top species to target in Kenya.
If you book a 36-hour overnight trip offshore in Kenya, your chances of catching the fantasy slam are very real, and there are not many anglers in the world who have managed to accomplish it. The reason it’s actually possible is that all the billfish species migrate down the coast at the same time, meaning the pot is very mixed.
Freshwater Fish In Kenya
Kenya is home to some of the most sought-after freshwater fish species that live in Africa that anglers around the world might want to catch. You’re going to have to brave the wilderness though, but that is part of the charm.
Here are the top freshwater fish to catch in Kenya.
You might be surprised to see trout on the list and fishing for them on the equator is pretty awesome, to be honest. The British introduced trout into the high-altitude lakes and rivers of Kenya in 1906 and today you can fish for them in some of the most stunning trout scenery you might ever experience.
Where To Go Fishing In Kenya
Kenya is home to pretty much every environment you can think of. You have the white sand beaches at the coast, savannah grasslands of the bush, tropical forests, high-altitude mountains, and desert landscapes too, all of which you can find fish to catch in. Here is where to go fishing in Kenya and for what species.
Lamu & Manda
The northern coast of Kenya is home to the Lamu Archipelago of islands and it’s one of the best parts of Kenya for saltwater fishing.
The underwater contours around Lamu are made up of a lot of banks that eventually drop into the continental shelf and a few seamounts too. This makes it a hotspot for baitfish and therefore predators too and you’ll find all the species mentioned above in Lamu and Manda.
Another great thing about the Lamu archipelago is the GT fishing. There are numerous cliff faces that fall into the open ocean and you can spin or fly fish for them from a small boat while patrolling the edge.
Lamu is great to visit regardless of the fishing as it’s rather culturally unique in Kenya. It’s an island with no cars, only donkeys, and has more of an Arabic side of Kenya that you don’t get to see in other parts so much. It is my favorite place in Kenya by far and you’ll meet people from all around the world at the bar.
Also on the northern coast of Kenya but an hour’s flight south of Lamu is the little slice of paradise called Watamu. This white-sand bay is home to the largest fleet of sport fishers in Kenya that spend their days scouring the ocean looking for billfish.
The bottom features around Watamu are very productive. Starting with shallow dropping banks into canyons, inner mountains, and outer seamounts. This is where the majority of blue, black, and striped marlin in Kenya are caught.
Watamu isn’t just about billfish though as the banks hold a lot of big GTs but you won’t be surface fishing for them as they tend to sit deep.
On the southern tip of Kenya’s coastline, you’ll find Shimoni which gives access to the Pemba Channel that can offer some spectacular fishing.
The reason the fishing can be so good is that the fish are driven into a channel while migrating down the coast, increasing their concentration, and this is particularly true of striped marlin.
All the other species are on offer in Shimoni too and the area is also home to some of Kenya’s best marine parks if you like to dive and snorkel to see fish while taking a break from catching them.
Aberdares & Mt Kenya
The Aberdares and Mt Kenya are a few hours drive outside of Nairobi and they are where you’ll find the brown and rainbow trout that call Kenya home.
Mt Kenya’s trout fishing is mainly contained to lakes but there are a few streams where you can find a trout or two too. The scenery is stunning and don’t be surprised to be casting a fly while buffalo and zebra are watching.
The Aberdares is a little wilder and is all about rivers with browns and rainbows surrounded by ancient forests. Leopards, forest hogs, antelope, buffalo, and elephants are the kinds of creatures you’ll be fishing close to while you’re there!
North of Mt Kenya is the Matthews Range which is home to a few rivers that hold yellowfish. The rivers are stunning and catching these yellows on a dry fly can only be done in Africa, so it’s a great species to target.
Way up in northern Kenya is Lake Turkana, one of the wildest places on the planet. The lake is filled with hundreds of weird species of fish along with a lot of crocodiles, small tigerfish, and some huge Nile perch that push the 100lb mark quite often.
When To Go Fishing In Kenya
Kenya, like most tropical places, experiences two monsoon seasons a southeast and a northeast monsoon and this has a large effect on the rainy seasons too.
When it comes to offshore fishing in Kenya, it’s best to fish between September and April, during the northeast monsoon. The water is warm, the wind is low, and this is when the billfish migrate past the coast. The best time of year for sailfish is November and for marlin, it’s from January to April.
When it comes to freshwater fishing in Kenya, avoiding the rainy seasons of October, May and June is key, as accessing them becomes impossible and the water will be too high. The best time to fish for freshwater species in Kenya is November to April and July to September.
Best Tactics To Catch Fish In Kenya
If you’re fishing for offshore species in Kenya, trolling and live baiting are your best options and the experienced skippers on the coast are masters at it.
When the billfish bite is hot, you can also target sailfish and marlin with a fly rod which is the most exciting way to catch them in my experience. For the GTs in Lamu, you can spin or fly fishing with poppers and big brush flies.
The trout and yellowfish in the mountains take flies very willingly and using dry flies, nymphs, and streamers on both the lakes and rivers are the best way to go. If you’re not a fly fisherman you can opt to spin.
The Nile perch in Lake Turkana can be caught on the fly with a sinking line but the most effective way of catching the big ones is trolling rapalas, live, or dead baits on a downrigger.
If you’re interested in fishing in the Lamu Archipelago you should contact Peponi or Manda Bay as they have the best skippers in the area and excellent vessels too. For Watamu, Alley Cat or Kingfishers are a great bet. In Shimoni, the Pemba Channel Fishing Club is the best one to contact.
For fishing in the mountains of Kenya for trout and yellowfish, contact African Ascents. They specialize in climbing the mountains and fishing them too.
If you want to do a fishing trip to Lake Turkana, Eliye Springs has everything you need from guides to boats and accommodation.
Kenya’s Fishing Regulations
If you’re fishing at the coast, the boat needs to have a fishing license, not the angler, so you have nothing to worry about when hiring a charter.
Freshwater fishing will involve needing a license and they are done regionally, meaning for every region you want to fish in, you need to get a license from the fisheries office. Again if you’re booking a trip with an operator, they will do this all for you.
Thanks very much for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and are inspired to go on a fishing trip to Kenya.
It’s pretty amazing and I’d suggest mixing it up with a few days on the Aberdares fly fishing for trout and then heading to the beach for some serious offshore fishing, you’ll have a fishing safari and beach holiday in one.
Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.