Amongst the Florida counties of Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade lies an invasive species which anglers in South Florida have quickly grown to love - the Peacock bass.
The exotic species is known for their aggressive behavior, lightning fast attacks, and voracious appetites. Peacock bass are commonly targeted by anglers of all ages and have found in a home in a variety of South Florida waterways.
Peacock Bass History in South Florida
In the beautiful paradise we call home, SouthFlorida is all about the butterfly peacock bass which is a widely popular freshwater gamefish first introduced to south Florida back in the early 80's. Frequently targeted by both land-based and boat anglers using a wide variety of offerings ranging from live bait to artificial lures & flies.
After careful documentation of these facts and review by Peacock Bass authorities nationwide, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided to going ahead and move forward with the introduction. Butterfly peacock were then brought in from Peru, Brazil, and Guyana and bred at the FWC’s Non-Native species Research Lab. Using 3 stocks maximized genetic variability, and fish were stocked only after stringent testing by both the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Auburn University to confirm they were healthy specimens and parasite free.
Today the peacock bass fishery encompasses more than 300 miles of urban waterways in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties and is self-sustaining. Since future stockings are not needed, there is ZERO on-going cost for the program. Yet the Florida Peacock bass fishing program produces endless hours of angling enjoyment each year and generates nearly $8 million of annual revenue to the local economy.
South Florida Peacock Bass
Aggressive Peacocks prefer live bait such as juvenile bass-both the largemouth and peacock variety along with baby bream. Fish imitating lures are frequently used by largemouth bass fishermen, however peacocks will shy from feeding on any soft plastic worm frequently used to target largemouth bass. Butterfly Peacock bass are also much more temperamental and extremely irritable while protecting their offspring during bedding season. Exhibiting a thick caudal fin and oversized peck fins, peacock bass reach lighting fast speeds quickly with deadly precision when ambushing their prey.
- Retrieving a realistic swimbait at fast speeds can also score big with aggressive peacocks.
Lure Retrieval Techniques and Native Baitfish patterns
Peacock bass are a structure oriented fish, much like largemouth bass and look for ambush points to feed easily and efficiently. Sinking lures can be very effective when targeting them, as this enables the bait to get down into the optimal strike zone. When Peacocks Bass are bedding and in full spawn mode, their aggressive nature is heightened. Enticing them with a sinking twitch bait such the Manic Minnow by MareaGear or Rapala's CountDown series.
Both artificial lures have a very natural fall and drive fish crazy, especially during spawning periods. Simply locate the fish on the bed, cast well past bed holding the fish with your lure and within 3 ft of their nose, slow down the presentation and let the lure fall like a naturally injured baitfish.
Focus on using color patterns that match the forage available where you're fishing. Perch, Tilapia, or bream color schemes have always done well along with the oldie goldie motto. This simply means that orange or gold hues on the baitfish's side resemble a goldfish or perhaps even a baby peacock? Loyal peacock bass anglers are aware that they are cannibalistic and will favor colors schemes resembling a spring batch of baby peacocks.
Peacock Bass - Fish Biology
With a thick body profile similar to that of a largemouth bass, Peacock bass flaunt highly vibrant and variable colors. They are generally golden with three dark colored vertical bars that tend to fade. Larger specimens at times are absent from these markings.
Peacock Bass Fish Profile & Markings
Most fish also have a black spot with a yellow-gold halo on the walloping caudal fin. This contrast in colors along a Peacock bass's profile, also known as countershading, helps the predator disorient it's prey. This unique pattern also creates great ambush camouflage to quick inhale the next meal.
Peacock Bass Behavior
- Spawning Cycle
The Butterfly Peacock bass usually spawns from April through September typically peaking in May & June with abnormally aggressive movements. They will then set up camp near a hard sand shoreline and build a bed. Here the females will lay as many as 10,000 eggs per episode, protecting their young with their lives. If anything, and I mean anything goes near the nest or bed, an attack is eminent. The males commonly develop a 'nucchal' hump on foreheads when reproductively active and use it to deter any intruders.
- Feeding Habits
This exotic and non-native species feeds almost exclusively on fish. Peacock Bass are also equipped with a broad caudal fin built for great speed to capture prey. Typically feeding during daylight hours, this fish has helped reduce the number of undesirable exotic fishes, such as snakehead fry, juvenile pacu, and especially the spotted tilapia.
The only thing missing here is for you to book your trip to South Florida with one of the many great full-time guides out there making a living at perfecting the craft of locating and landing these amazing fish.