The Peacock Bass (aka Butterfly Peacock) was introduced to Florida waterways between 1984 and 1987. During that three year span, the FWC stocked nearly 20,000 butterfly peacock fingerlings into the canal systems of South East Florida. Although they are exotic to Florida, they were purposely introduced to help combat and increase predation of other exotic species, mainly the African Spotted Tilapia. FWC performed years of research before making the decision to introduce this species. In addition to the positive affects on the eco-systems, they provide excellent sport fishing opportunities as well. There are actually 15 different types of peacock bass but the butterfly peacock is the most prevalent in Florida. FWC attempted to stock the speckled peacock bass as well but they have not flourished like the butterfly peacock.. To get scientific, the peacock bass is not a member of the bass family whatsoever. It’s part of the 1,600 plus tropical members of the cichlid family.
The peacock bass is similar in shape to the largemouth bass. Along it’s body you will find iridescent hues of green, blue, and orange. You can also notice it has three distinct vertical black stripes. On its caudal fin, there is a black spot surrounded by a silver halo. There will often be many variations in colors and patterns from fish to fish. During breading season, the mature males will grow a nice sized lump on their head. The reason for this is unknown but there has been a lot speculation giving many different reasons.
Any water colder than 60 degrees could potentially kill the peacock bass. For that reason, they are isolated to the southern parts of Florida. It was discovered that Florida canal systems rarely dropped below 65 degrees due to the Biscayne Aquifer right below the surface. This has been the main reason why many exotic species have survived colder than normal winters and the Peacock Bass is no exception. They are restricted to freshwater and cannot migrate into the brackish areas like some fish. They can accidentally get swept into salty water due to Florida’s spillways. Just like the popular largemouth bass, butterfly peacocks are typically ambush predators and like to hang around structure and vegetation.
Recommended Guide: Capt. Patrick Smith (561) 503-0848
Anglers who are targeting peacock bass can feel safe using light spinning tackle. It will help induce more strikes from these open water fighters and they wont typically wrap you around structure and cut your line. Also, butterfly peacocks are normally caught during daytime hours. You will find this beneficial if you are a late sleeper. The bite usually stays consistent throughout the day.
The best producing baits by far are small shiners around 2-3 inches. These popular live baits are known by the locals as “peacock shiners.” Artificial lures will work well also. Using something that resembles a minnow such as a Rapala or jerk bait should produce, Xraps in particular. Topwater lures can also provide great excitement and is our favorite way to fish for peacock bass. Nothing beats the strike. You can use many of the same lures as you do for largemouth bass, but peacocks will not take on artificial worms (a popular largemouth bait). For the fly enthusiast, poppers and small streamers should provoke a bite. Be ready because these fish are exceptional fighters. If the fish are bedding, make sure to use a fly with a slow sink and plop it right onto the bed. A peacocks first instinct is too attack so it can protect the bed.
If you are looking for specific locations, we suggest you take a look at FWC’s south east canal guide. They have useful maps and locations available for both boaters and non-boaters. If you are looking for a public lake, may we suggest the Lake Ida Chain. You will just have to really be on top of your game due to the amount of pressure the lake can receive. The hidden gems are the private lakes contained within neighborhoods gates. Start asking your friends and family if you can fish within their gated community.
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