Peacock Bass in Florida: How to Find & Catch Them

Updated on:

Peacock Bass in Florida: How to Find & Catch Them

Updated on:

Peacock Bass are an introduced fish and no relative of the largemouth bass – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a great sports fishing target.

Native to Brazil and other parts of South America, they thrive in a number of Florida waterways and are becoming a popular target for anglers.

We’ve put together all the key facts you need if you are thinking of fishing for peacock bass in Florida.

Peacock Bass Fishing in Florida: All the Facts

Peacock bass are an exotic species that are much loved by South Florida anglers

About Florida Peacock Bass

Peacock bass are a predatory freshwater fish that is native to the Amazon basin. They are a striking fish that are popular as an aquarium fish as well as an angling target.

They are light to dark yellow in body color with a bright orange color on their fins and vertical black s on both sides of the fish.

There are 15 species of Peacock Bass. In the United States, the most common one is the Butterfly Peacock bass and is a medium-sized species ranging from 6 to 15 pounds.

The largest species in the genus, the speckled peacock bass (C. temensis), reaches up to 13 kg (29 lb) in weight and 1 m (3.3 ft) but has not established itself in Florida.

How They Got To South Florida

Butterfly Peacock Bass were introduced to Florida in 1984 and were stocked for a period but are no self sustaining. Today they are found across more than 300 miles of canals in South Florida (predominantly in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties).

Where and When To Target Peacock Bass

Peacock bass are one of those rare fish that bite best during daylight hours.

They can be caught by both land-based and boat and kayak based anglers.

Using live baits such as shiners is a popular and effective way to catch peacock bass, but lure fishing with relatively light tackle is a great way to tackle them too.

Unlike largemouth bass, they aren’t too keen on worms and other soft baits and the most effective artificial lures are minnow-like crankbaits and topwater poppers, as well as jigs. Fly tackle is also a very good way to catch peacock bass.

In terms of locations, Miami is the epicentre of the South Florida peacock bass fishery although Palm Beach County offers some great peacock bass fishing too.

Peacock Bass have not extended beyond the South Florida area as they cannot tolerate water temperatures of 60 and below and also cannot tolerate salty water.

In terms of the best time of year to fish for peacock bass, there are two distinct seasons: between March and June and September and December. These times are when most big fish heavier than four pounds are captured.

The unique thing about Peacock Bass fishing in South Florida is that is an urban fishery for the most part.

How To Catch Peacock Bass

Tackle required

A light to medium weight spinning or baitcasting outfit is enough to tackle peacock bass providing enough feel and finesse and the ability to overpower a large Florida peacock bass.

We recommend using braid with a fluorocarbon leader for peacock bass fishing.

Peacock Bass Habitat

Peacock bass are an ambush feeder using their speed to rush out of cover and overwhelm their prey. Target bridge pylons and bridge pilings, canal intersections, culvert mouths, docks and other structure such as lily pads.

Casting in close to these features will often lure out the bass.

Lures and techniques

As mentioned above, minnows and surface lures are very effective. When peacocks are guarding spawning beds (typically in May/June) they can be sight fished with tubes and small jigs.

Fly anglers use Dahlberg Divers and poppers as surface flies and Deceivers, Clousers and other baitfish patterns when fishing subsurface.

While the rod, reel and line sizes and types that you use for peacock bass fishing is the same as for chasing largemouth bass, peacock bass won’t generally take the Senko type plastic worms and other soft baits that are a staple of largemouth bass fishing in Florida and the rest of the US.

Laws and Limits

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has imposed a daily bag limit of two fish, only one of which can be greater than 17 inches to help protect this superb sports fishery.

Peacock bass can be eaten by the FWC encourages catch and release as these fish play a role in removing more undesirable introduced species in urban canals and other waterways such as tilapia.

Top Spots in Florida to find Peacock bass:

Airport Lakes

The lakes and canals around Miami Airport provide some excellent peacock bass fishing for those prepared to put up with aircraft noise. These are best fished with a boat or in company with a fishing guide.

Lake Ida

Accessed via Palm Beach, the Lake Ida system is great for both shore based and boat based fishing for peacock bass.

Lake Ida itself can be readily accessed on foot and the adjoining E4 canal system offers miles of great fishing.

Aerojet Canal

This canal is close to Key Largo and has less fishing pressure than other peacock bass fishing areas due to the proximity of high quality saltwater fishing. This area has some of the finest Florida peacock bass fishing.

Lake Osborne

This big lake in the city of Lake Worth in Palm Baach county is the northernmost range of the butterfly peacock bass and is noted for the long length of shoreline that can be accessed making it a great spot for shore based anglers.

Peacock Bass Around the World

Brazil

Brazil’s Amazon basin is the natural home of the peacock bass and the area where the fish reaches the largest size (the current record is more than 28 pounds). Fishing for trophy peacock bass in Brazil is popular among local and visiting anglers alike and guided fishing in Brazil is a lucrative source of income for locals.

Panama

Peacock bass have been introduced in the lakes and canal systems of Panama where they are a popular fishing target.

Hawaii

Outside of Florida, Hawaii’s Lake Wilson is the only other place to fish for peacock bass in the United States.

Peacock Bass FAQs

Can peacock bass live in saltwater?

No, these fish have a very low tolerance for salinity and don’t survive in water that is at all salty. That’s what has limited their spread in the US to the South Florida region.

Where is the best peacock bass fishing?

In the US, obviously South Florida offers the best peacock bass fishing! Outside of the US, there is no doubt that Brazil offers the best peacock bass fishing, particularly for anglers targeting big peacock bass.

Do peacock bass have teeth?

Peacock Bass have small teeth that angle inwards towards the throat of the fish. Their jaw strength is also much higher than other bass species. When handling Peacock Bass, most anglers use a glove or thumb protector – or a Boga grip or similar lip gripper – to save their skin from being damaged by the teeth.

How can you tell if a peacock bass is male or female?

Male peacock bass have a large, pronounced hump on their heads. They are also larger than the females. The hump usually appears on males when they are sexually mature, which is around a year old or so.

Are there peacock bass in Lake Okeechobee?

No. Okeechobee is a great largemouth bass fishery, but the water is too cold for peacock bass.

Are there peacock bass in Orlando?

No, Orlando is outside the South Florida range of peacock bass in the US.

Photo of author
AUTHOR
Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water.