The Peacock Bass (or Butterfly Peacock) was introduced to Florida waterways between 1984 and 1987. During those three years, the FWC stocked nearly 20,000 butterfly peacock fingerlings into the canal systems of South East Florida. Although exotic to Florida, they help combat and increase predation of other exotic species, mainly the African Spotted Tilapia.
FWC performed years of research before deciding to introduce this species. Besides the positive effects on the eco-systems, they provide excellent sport fishing opportunities. There are 15 different peacock bass species, but the butterfly peacock is the most prevalent in Florida.
FWC attempted to stock the speckled peacock bass, but they have not flourished like the butterfly peacock. To get scientific, the peacock bass is not a member of the bass family but part of the 1,600 plus tropical members of the cichlid family.
Peacock Bass Appearance
The peacock bass is similar in shape to the largemouth bass. Along its 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 the breeding season, the mature males will grow a large lump on their head. The reason for this is unknown, but there has been much speculation. A fun trick when you catch one: gently rub the hump on their heads, it’ll make their spines stand up!
Peacock Bass Habitat
Any water colder than 60 degrees might kill the peacock bass. For that reason, you are unlikely to find them in any northern parts of Florida. The Florida canal systems rarely drop below 65 degrees because of the Biscayne Aquifer right below the surface. This has been the main reason many exotic species have survived colder than normal winters and the Peacock Bass is no exception.
However, they’re restricted to freshwater and cannot migrate into the brackish areas like some fish. They can accidentally get swept into salty water because of Florida’s spillways. Just like the popular largemouth bass, butterfly peacocks are typical ambush-predators and like to hang around structure and vegetation.
Peacock Bass Fishing Tips & Tricks
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 and will make the fight way more fun! Don’t worry, these are open water fighters and they won't typically wrap you around structure and cut your line. You want to target peacock bass during the daylight hours. You will find this beneficial if you're not a morning person: sleep in!
When targeting bedding fish always remember to only catch one fish and to try your best to return the fish to the bed. We do not want to disturb the reproductive process of peacock bass. Catching both fish will leave any eggs or young peacock bass vulnerable to prey. Also, we want to ensure that they produce as many babies as possible and they get bigger for us to all have more and bigger fish to catch.
Best Peacock Bass Bait / Lures
The best-producing baits by far are small shiners around 2-3 inches. For a few bucks a dozen they are worth their price tenfold. Peacock bass will not let more than a few seconds pass before destroying a fresh shiner. Just remember, do nothing besides drop it in the water as close as you can to a peacock and let it do its thing.
Artificial lures will work as well and are more rewarding. Using something that resembles a frantic minnow fleeing or injured should produce. A Rapala husky jerk or Xrap are my go-to jerk baits to induce a reaction bite. Any topwater lure will provide great excitement and is my favorite way to fish for peacock bass.
You can use many of the same lures as you do for largemouth bass. The only distinction is that peacocks will not eat artificial worms (a popular largemouth bait).
For the fly enthusiast, poppers and small streamers should provoke a bite. Be ready, these fish are exceptional fighters. If the fish are bedding, use a fly with a quick sink rate and plop it right onto the bed. A peacock's first instinct is to attack so it can protect the bed. My go-to fly is a clouser with medium eyes, always seems to do the trick.
Check out our favorite peacock bass lures.
If you are looking for specific locations, we suggest you look at FWC’s southeast 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. The hidden gems are the private lakes contained within neighborhood gates. Start asking your friends and family if you can fish within their gated community.
From experience, when fishing other lakes, make sure you are not trespassing. This could cause some angry neighbors yelling at you, or worse, police being called. Always park your car in safe places not susceptible to towing or tickets (also from experience). There are spots just as good as the dangerous or risky ones, you might just have to walk/drive a little further but it’s worth the peace of mind.
Of all the sport fish species in the state of Florida, redfish might just be the most popular overall. For most anglers, red fishing in Florida is high on their bucket list for plenty of reasons. It's no surprise our Performance Redfish Shirt is one of our best sellers!
It’s not uncommon to catch dozens of redfish in a single outing when the bite is on. I consider fishing in Florida for reds to be one of the most exciting during the warm months. Especially when they are in the shallows near the shoreline.
Redfish, also known as red’s, channel bass, and red drum, are on every stretch of coastline in the state of Florida. Anglers from all over the world flock to the Sunshine State once the bite gets hot. In late autumn giant reds will viciously strike at almost anything in reach during this time. This is my favorite time to throw top-water lures.
During the colder months, redfish move out into the deeper channels (hence the name channel bass). Once you’ve fought and landed a trophy over 20 pounds, you’ll understand why this species of fish is atop the list of “favorites” for anglers of all skill levels and backgrounds.
Where to Find Redfish?
Most fishermen know redfish as a “shallow water” species because they are most often found in water less than 10 feet in depth. Great spots to look for and find reds are usually where rivers spill into the ocean, flats and marshes, oyster bars, and just about any bays or sounds in the state of Florida.
For experienced anglers who have targeted redfish for many years, it doesn’t take much investigation to quickly seek out where they are schooled up, and where to find huge redfish that will test your skill with a rod and reel.
During colder weather, you can usually bet that redfish will move away from the shore and venture into deeper channels and around reefs or shipwrecks. They will slowly move in closer to the shallows once the weather warms and you can count on the Grand Finale of red fishing to take place in late October, November, and December.
How to Fish for Reds?
Years ago, before heavy regulations, people would come to Florida from all corners of the United States and load their boats with redfish. We hail them as one of the tastiest species of game fish in the world and there are countless recipes on the best ways to filet and cook redfish.
It didn’t take long for people to realize that Florida’s natural population of redfish were being depleted by commercial fishermen to fulfill the high demand for redfish from the many seafood restaurants all over the southeastern United States.
One of the main reasons redfish became so scarce was the ease with which most anglers can catch huge numbers of reds in a short amount of time. You can catch redfish on live bait, artificial lures and sometimes probably a bare hook. Let’s inspect the best ways to catch redfish in Florida.
Artificial Lures for Redfish in Florida
Perhaps the most popular method of catching redfish in the Sunshine State is by using artificial lures during the late fall and early winter when they are nailing top-water and other types of bait in the shallows around the state.
Since redfish is a species of bass, you can’t go wrong using anything that remotely resembles a baitfish to catch reds, especially when they are in the shallows during the late season. A wide range of deep diving plugs can catch redfish that are hanging out in deep channels during the cold weather months, but you can also target them with nearly any kind of lure you want during the warmer months.
Plastic baits and jigs are effective on redfish just about any time of year. However, I and most anglers who fish for them think red fishing is most exciting when using top-water lures late in the year.
Redfish will annihilate anything that includes poppers, spoons, buzz baits and everything else top-water during the late season. This is the main reason they are such a popular fish for sportsmen to target.
There’s nothing like watching a giant redfish home in on a top-water plug and strike with amazing force and precision. Couple that with their surprising ability to bend a rod and yank off half a spool of line in no time and it will become clear why reds are the king of the shallow water fisheries in Florida.
Live Baits for Redfish in Florida
As you might expect, you can have plenty of success fishing for redfish in Florida using live bait. Reds will hit just about anything that normal shallow-water game fish go after such as live shrimp, minnows, and especially mullet.
Redfish are so easy to catch on live bait rigged just about any way you want. Novice anglers will find great success using any of the baits listed above.
If you plan to do some bottom fishing when redfish are deeper around reefs, you can catch them on a simple drop shot or bottom fishing rig with cut bait like mullet or cigar minnows.
Tips for Catching Red Drum in Florida
Most seasoned anglers know that there are some specific tips you’ll want to stick with for catching reds throughout the year and most will agree on a few tried-and-true methods.
- Stay with the tide as it pushes baitfish further in and out of the shallows.
- Fishing anytime near a full moon is always great.
- Look for areas where the baitfish are plentiful.
- Be quiet and stealthy. Large redfish have keen senses and will spook easily if you make too much noise and move in too quickly.
If you’re planning a trip to go red fishing in Florida soon, I hope these tips are useful to experience the rush of red fishing in the Sunshine State!
Don't forget to check out our Long Sleeve Redfish Shirt!