How to Catch Peacock Bass: Targeting This Exciting Species

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Peacock Bass Fishing in South Florida feature image

Peacock bass fishing is becoming more and more popular among US anglers.

South Florida is only destination you can find these fish in the States (with the exception of a lake in Hawaii).

But the good news is there are miles of canals and urban waterways in the Miami and Palm Beach area to fish for peacock bass.

And adventurous anglers can head abroad to the native waters of the Peacock Bass in Brazil’s Amazon Basin or fisheries in other parts of Latin America such as Panama and Colombia.

How To Catch Peacock Bass:

Peacock Bass are an ambush predator who like to position themselves close to structure including bridge pylons, docks, lily pads, weed beds and culvert outlets.

In general, anglers do well casting close in to these areas with either an artificial lure, a fly or a live bait.

There’s nothing better than cruising these urban canals in a boat or kayak and casting to likely lies to catch peacock bass.

Lure Fishing

Lure fishing is a popular way to target this very aggressive species. Fishing topwater plugs and topwater poppers can sometimes make for spectacular fishing as the bass charge out of cover to engulf the lure.

The best subsurface lure options include minnow style jerkbaits, crankbaits and swimbaits. Smaller lures of three inches or less are generally preferred to target peacocks.

When Peacock Bass are spawning (May and June predominantly) they will aggressively guard their spawning beds. This is a great time for sight fishing – you can throw tube baits and small jigs.

Fly fishing

Fly fishing for peacock bass is a common way to target this fish both in the US and in Latin America.

Fly fishers can general use floating lines and the kind of fly rod you would use for bass (a six weight to eight weight) to catch them.

The technique in terms of where to casting is similar to lure fishing, although it pays to mix up your retrieves (slow draw, strip-pause or just letting the fly hang) until you work out what’s working.

Flies can be divided into two types – surface and subsurface. Dahlberg Diver and Gurgler patterns are the best bet for surface flies. They don’t need to be huge – two inches or so is fine.

Popular subsurface patterns include epoxy minnows, Clousers, Deceivers and surf candy patterns.

Live Bait Fishing

The easiest way to catch butterfly peacocks is by using live bait. By far and away the most popular bait is a local minnow called the golden shiner (known as a peacock shiner too), which is about three inches in length. These can be fished in three ways – under a float, freelined and with a small piece of split shot attached to get them to the required depth.

Boat, Kayak or Shore

The other key choice in peacock bass fishing is the choice of casting platform.

Probably the best set up is a boat with an electric trolling motor. That allows you to cruise relatively quietly along the canals or lake edges punching out casts to likely structure (think fallen trees, bridge pilings, docks, rip rap, breakwaters, rock walls and canal ends and culvert entrances).

Trolling motors with a spot lock function allow you to hold on station when you find some fish even in windy conditions or when there is a strong current flowing.

The next best alternative is a pedal kayak such as the Hobie range. These are great fishing platforms and are stable enough to fly fish from as well as use artificial lures and bait.

Pedal kayaks are even more stealthy than using a trolling motor and can get you even closer to the fish. The newer Hobie Outback and PA models come with a reversible drive enabling you to pedal back out of structure when you hook a fish.

Of course you can use paddle kayaks to catch peacocks in most waters, but not having your hands free makes it more difficult to use fly gear or artificial lures.

And finally, you can certainly target peacock bass from shore. The warm water lakes and canals in SOuth Florida (Palm Beach County and Miami and surrounds including Broward County, Dade County) that are the home of this species in the US have good bankside access.

In targeting Florida peacock bass, often you will be fishing in parks and lake reserves or in urban areas. You can drive to the spot and wander the banks with light spinning tackle or baitcasting tackle and end up with some beautiful fish.

When to Fish for Peacock Bass (seasons)

There are two distinct seasons for peacock bass fishing in South Florida: between March and June (this includes the spawning period) and September and December. These times are when most big fish heavier than four pounds are captured.

In Brazil’s Amazonas region, Peacock Bass expert Larry Larsen says the key to good fishing is low river levels during the dry season.

” For example, in the southernmost regions of Brazil’s Amazonas, this dry season is in the months of May through October, generally. In the central part of Brazil’s Amazon region, the dry fishing season is around the months of September through mid-December. In Northern Brazil and southern Venezuela, this season occurs from mid-November to mid-April, generally.”

The Peacock Bass Association, of which Larry is executive director, has a host of information about fishing for butterfly peacock bass in Florida and fishing for peacock bass in Brazil.

When to Fish for Peacock Bass (during the day)

Peacock bass feed best in daylight hours, so no need to get up super early or stay on the water til really late. That’s one of the positives of fishing for peacock bass – you can fish in gentleman’s hours!

Fishing Trips and Guides

One great way to pick up the techniques needed for catching peacocks is to go on a guided trip. There are a range of guides available to take you out for a trip to catch peacock bass in South Florida’s Palm Beach or Miami areas.

Of course there is a cost involved in guided fishing, and not everyone can afford it, but if you can find the cash it is a good way to learn a lot in a short space of time and most anglers don’t regret it.

Tackle shops, too, can be a great source of information for anglers starting out targeting peacock bass in Florida.

Final Word On How to Catch Peacock Bass

Hopefully this article gives some good hints on how to catch peacock bass, but the best way to learn is to get out and do it. The Butterfly Peacock Bass, which was introduced to South Florida in the 80s to reduce populations of tilapia and other invasive species to help improve the largemouth bass fishing, has become a popular target in its own right for sports fishers. And deservedly so – they are a beautiful fish, they can be sight fished and are known for aggressive eats and strong runs. What’s not to like!

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village.