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After watching videos of anglers catching peacock bass within the tropical waters of the Amazon I embraced strong interests in fishing for, and catching those sporty multi-colored denizen's of those South American waterways. However, my strict budget dampened my dreams of kindling those interests. But after reading about Florida Fish & Wildlife stocking peacock's in Miami's freshwater canal systems that was now actively supporting a booming sport fishery, well, those dreams began to rekindle.
A run of the mill peacock fishing trip to South America cost over $5,000, plus the expense of passports and medical shots. A local trip to Miami, Florida, cost about $480 when using cut rate vacation packages, which includes round trip air fare and 3 nights lodging. My guide for a day and a half of peacock fishing ran around $500. So, for about $1,000 I would be able to fulfill my dreams of fishing for peacock bass. No passport, no jungle shots, and no screaming monkeys?Well, almost no jungle critters!
And if I decided to cut my trip to only one day of fishing, my actual expense for the trip would've been allot less, and reduced even more if on a business trip and opting for only a half day of fishing. My decision was sealed? "WELCOME to Miami!"
My fishing guide, Mark Hall, an experienced pro-angler with 25 years experience who fishes for Peacock bass and a multitude of other exciting sport-fish as well, became a plus on this stimulating adventure. And my two days of fishing Miami's canals also alerted me to the remarkable fishery that Miami offers within, and around, its fresh and brackish waterways. Most sport anglers are already aware of Miami's saltwater options, but few know of the unique and exotic fishery that lies within its countless freshwater canal systems that snake through the entire Miami Metroplex.
Our tackle involved using light action Shimano spinning rigs spooled with 10 lb test Suffix braid and 2 ft flouro-carbon leaders, with tiny Torpedo's for top water action and Rapala's in clear, frog, and shad colors for sub-surface reaction bites. Temple Fork Outfitter Fly-rods added to our other option rigged with streamers for the extreme action of catching Tarpon and Snook that swim these same waters as the peacock.
Meeting Mark in front of the Ramada at 5:am, we took a 15 minute drive to a park, launching into pre-dawn waters of the canal. Mark's 17 ft Dolphin Super Skiff was perfect for this type of fishing taking only minutes to run to where darkened waters would meet our tiny torpedo's. My "very first" cast for Florida peacock resulted in an unseen "explosion" of water, clacking gill plates, and empty hooks after the unseen fish quickly threw the hooks. In fact, my first, second, and third casts were all "Torpedoed" by these ghostly peacocks "blowing up" on my plug and jumping off the hooks.
Chuckles from Mark preceded his personal instructions on just how to catch and land these incredible acrobats, and on using this knowledge, calming my nerves, and setting my jaw, my fourth cast finally connected with my very first "landed" peacock of about 4lbs. Holding its brilliant colors up against the dawning light I found it to be just as exciting and colorful a catch that I had seen in those South Ameri can videos. ...AWESOME "Cichlid" folks!
The common name of peacock bass actually umbrellas several species of this tropical freshwater genus called Cichla. Indigenous to the Amazon River area of South America, these tropical fish are not true basses, but members of the cichlid family. They are also found in the tropical waters of Colombia, Dominican Republic, Malaysia, Panama, Singapore, Guam, Puerto Ric o, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Although there are 6 species, the 3 most popular peacock bass are;
1-Speckled Peacock (a 20plus lb brute is the largest of the species)
2-Butterfly Peacock (at 14plus lbs is the mid-size of the species)
3-Royal Peacock (at 5plus lbs are smallest of the species)
Speckled peacock are the largest at over 3 feet in length with the royal being the smallest at just over one foot, but all display three wide vertical stripes on their bodies with a spot on their tail that resembles the eye on a peacock's tail feathers, which is why they refer to them as peacock bass. Adult males exhibit a noticeable hump on their foreheads. Other colorful traits vary greatly depending on the species. These include dark rosettes instead of stripes, light speckles and very colorful shades of bright green, orange, blue and gold.
Sport anglers have established the peacock bass as one of the most sought after trophy game fish for its colorful markings and extreme fighting abilities. Well-known for being "freshwater bullies" due to their fierce temperaments and mean dispositions, the peacock often wrecks or demolishes fishing gear when smashing into anglers lures.
Similar techniques used for catching largemouth black bass, such as top water lures and jerk baits, are employed for a ttracting peacocks. Fly fishing techniques are also a favorite method of catching them when using poppers or streamers. Live minnows, such as shiners, are also productive incentives for the peacock bite. And Light tackle maximizes the action when fishing for these unique, and very strong colorful fish.
No longer an "out of reach" fishing fantasy for anglers who dream of tangling with these brightly colored brutes, the peacock, thanks to Florida fish & game, who, "by design" introduced the mid-sized butterfly peacock into the waters of south Florida in 1984. This was done to "hopefully" offset other non-native and problematic species such as the Oscar, Midas Cichlids, and Spotted Tilapia, which were being illegally dumped into those waters by aquarium buffs. The introduction of butterfly peacocks into the canals of south Florida not only brought the invasive species under control, but also provided additional sport fishing adventures for anglers by creating another rather unique and exotic fishery.
The butterfly peacock now flourish in south Florida and are one of the most sought after fresh water sport fish in Florida. But due to their tropical genesis, peacock bass don't tolerate water temps below 60 degrees, which prevents them from flourishing outside of Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties of Florida?s most southerly climates.
Their eating quality is excellent, white and sweet when cooked, they are similar in taste to snapper or grouper. However, most American sport-anglers recommend practicing catch & release for these trophy fish to protect their numbers in the United States. To help ensure this, Florida's Wildlife & Game Commission strictly enforces daily creel limits to protect the species. I would release ALL my peacock on this trip, opting to treasure the photo memories rather than the bragging rights on the wall.
"I've had the experience of growing up with Peacocks, stated guide Mark Hall, further stating that as a guide he was already fishing for largemouth bass. Then there was a hydrilla problem that bega n clogging our canals and waterways, so they introduced the grass carp to eradicate the choking vegetation. Then heavy fishing pressure on bass, followed by the need to control non native cyclides being dumped into our waterways by aquarium buffs, created quite a problem. So Florida Fish & Game decided to experiment by stocking Peacock bass within our freshwater system that would feed on the grass carp and other invasive species and "WALLAH" a new and unique fishing industry was born.
"Peacocks feed almost exclusively on non native species, Mark educated, and the canals became their playground. I started the
"One of the things that drove me was my growing up on the streams of Pennsylvania, catching small mouth bass and trout and I think this is a little off shoot of that. My customers and I have been able to catch peacocks up to about 8lbs fishing amongst a big population within a huge metropolitan area. My young angler clients do pretty good too with a 4 year old customer catching a 4 ? lb peacock last year. In any case, stated Mark, this is becoming a pretty active fishery so far and I think it's only becoming better each and every day. I plan to stay involved with this important program and help my fishing areas that are progressing NOT to digress, keeping a tight line on the issues. That's a big job for a guide, but the guides feel the pulse of this fishery along with the reflections of the tourists who come here to enjoy this most unusual sport.
"The peacocks are very active feeders all year long, advised Mark, and will spawn multiple times a year. The male is the largest with the female being the smaller and both will guard their nests from predators.We witnessed that while fishing along the banks spotting several peacocks on their nests, which made for some excellent sight fishing.
Our two days of fishing up and down Miami's winding waterways, passing the colorful Casa's of its inhabitants and fishing under it's towering sky scrapers and business dwellings, we managed to catch 35 peacock bass, but lost just as many who threw the hooks. I found these Butterfly Peacock to be the hardest biters and toughest fighters of any sport-fish I?ve ever tangled with. And along the way we enjoyed several scrapes with "the other" species that lurk in these same waters.
What the "BLEEP" was that!! I expleted after something slammed my lure before heading under the boat, breaking my line with a loud "thawap". My inquiry was quickly solved after Mark's rod arched to a similar "BLEEP" with flashing silver leaping out of the water before torpedoing back with a tsunami splash. TARPON!! We both chortled at the same time. It took Mark 45 minutes, and several tail walking jumps, to wrestle that fish to the boat, which turned out to be a "baby tarpon" of about 20 lbs. We also experienced the line-sider streaks of Snook and silvery jumps of lady fish (skip-jack) while meandering thru Miami's maze of canals, spotting submerged alligators here, seeing flocks of feathered wildlife there, and eyeballing Iguanas who were eyeballing us from the bank as we cruised up and down those scenic canals. It was like being on a treasure hunt with the peacock being our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow..
I was absolutely in awe with the bright colorations of these Florida peacock bass and found the action superb, exciting, and very memorable. I also found my guide to be very knowledgeable and skilled about "his" peacock, which made for an exceptional and very interesting fishing trip. Several times during our fishing we were bombarded with south Florida's tropical squalls, but I never felt the sting of rain, nor gust of wind, looking only for the next bite of the peacock...Incredible!!
For more information on Peacock fishing in south Florida contact Capt. Mike Hall at -786-317-4777 -or- visit the Fly Fish Peacocks website.I highly recommend his services.
Prices and expenses may vary from my trip of two years ago but if you decide to give it a try I can guarantee the outcome as being one of the most exciting fishing trips you will ever experience.
This article dedicated to the memory of fishing amigo, fellow veteran, family man, and outstanding outdoorsman, George Cook -1937 - 2009-
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