The death toll rose above 100 on Friday after a ferry capsized and sank on Lake Victoria, Tanzania state radio reported.
John Mongella, the commissioner of Mwanza, says 37 people have been rescued after Thursday's capsizing.
Rescue operations were suspended overnight and hopes are fading that more survivors might still be found, more than 18 hours since the vessel sank.
Shana said more rescuers had joined the operation when it resumed at daylight on Friday.
An official investigation will take place once rescue efforts to find survivors have ended.
Tanzania has a history of maritime disasters for over two decades.
In 1996, a ferry disaster on Lake Victoria in the same region killed at least 500 people. Officials have confirmed that the vessel was carrying more than 400 passengers when it capsized.
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According to local media, the exact number of those on board was not known as the boat was believed to be carrying people beyond the stipulated capacity.
"There were more than a hundred passengers on board when the ferry sank, it is feared that a significant number have lost their lives", said George Nyamaha, the head of Ukerewe district council of which the island is a part. He recalled how crowded his trip on the aging ferry had been last month: "Most of us were standing up".
In a televised address, the president said the ferry captain had been detained after leaving the steering to someone who was not properly trained. "They had gone to the market in Bugolora to buy a school uniform and other supplies for the new school term", said Domina Maua, who was among those seeking information about loved ones.
Some of the deadliest have occurred in Tanzania, where passenger boats are often said to be old and in poor condition.
President John Magufuli was "deeply saddened" by the disaster and called on Tanzanians to "stay calm during these hard times", according to spokesman Gerson Msigwa.
Accidents are often reported on the large freshwater lake surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.