Posts Tagged ‘bass’

Fish of the Week: Peacock Bass – Cichla Thyrorus

April 11, 2011

Our “Fish of the Week” is Peacock Bass – Cichla thyrorus, one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla. Unfortunately, due to the newness of this classification, there aren’t any photos of live specimens currently available. If you have photos, we’d love to see them – email Paul Reiss and we’ll credit you on our website.

The Cichla Thyrorus begins its life with vertical bar markings that are replaced by ocellated blotches as it matures into an adult. Other distinct marketings include the fish’s blotchy cheeks. Its depth-to-length ratio is approximately 29 percent, while it has approximately 83 lateral line scales. Similar species include most other peacock bass – Cichla pinima, Cichla temensis, Cichla vazzoleri and Cichla jariina.

Again, due to Cichla thyrorus’s very recent classification, not much is known about its angling “vitals.” What we do know, however, is that it can be found in The Rio Trombetas and Cachoeira Porteira in Brazil, specifically upstream of the waterfall. If you have any more information about fishing for Cichla thyrorus, please contact us.

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Amazon Peacock Bass Fishing – Mid-Season Report

January 18, 2010

This has been an unusual season so far, to say the least. It began with a flood; the highest river stage in 63 years peaked during the 2009 rainy season. Then it turned into a drought; waters dropped so fast it seemed as though someone had pulled the plug out of a bathtub. Through it all, we enjoyed some of our best fishing in years. We used our extraordinary mobility to take advantage of the conditions and stay on top of optimal water levels. We don’t hesitate to move our operations, so we fished November waters in September and we fished “trunk” rivers in December when the secondary tributaries became too shallow to navigate.

 20+ pound peacock bass.

The Rokey brothers show off a pair of 20+ pound peacock bass.

The results were outstanding with consistently productive weeks and some of our best “big fish” totals in years. I had one of my best days ever early this season, with a single morning that produced 12 fish over 12 pounds, with a nineteen pounder to cap it off. The afternoon was almost as good! Late on, we had a week on our beautiful Blackwater Explorer yacht where ten of our anglers combined to catch a total of 2600 fish, with over 70 in the “teens” and seven over 20 pounds!

Right on cue, the mid-season rains arrived over the holiday season, soaking the upper Rio Negro basin and raising water levels throughout the enormous system to a more manageable and navigable level. The timing was excellent, since the 2010 portion of our schedule and our second round of trips is just beginning. Following the pulse of new water, the rivers are dropping nicely again and we expect even better conditions than before in the newly refreshed Northern fishery. If you can travel on short notice, this is a good time to take advantage of some excellent fishing opportunities. And … we still have some excellent options available for you.

Winter Fishing Trip Opportunities

 
Rio travessao payara

A Rio Travessao Payara

The Amazing Rio Travessão is probably the best variety fishery in the Amazon, with over a dozen impressive gamefish species and unrivaled natural beauty. This season we are taking advantage of a unique opportunity to explore new waters in this amazing system. Due to the aftereffects of the global recession, we are operating a shorter planned schedule this coming season. Although that’s bad news from a business point of view, it presents us with a great opportunity from a fishing point of view. The shorter (three week) schedule will enable us to operate without requiring a resupply mechanism during the season. The benefit of this simpler logistic is far greater flexibility for our camp. Therefore, we’ve elected to explore new waters in an as yet un-fished stretch of the river. We’ll carry all of our supplies in at once and simply depend on floatplane service for all access and egress until the season ends.

This provides us with a new exploratory opportunity on a river we already know to be super-productive. It should be the best of both worlds from an angler’s perspective. We expect to find fish that have never seen a lure, new honey holes, new hotspots and perhaps even new world records.
Take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy pristine waters and join us on the Rio Travessão this February. Northern rivers are already dropping and we expect optimal water levels this year. We have 5 openings remaining. The trip will be hosted by Wellington Melo.

 
Peacock Bass Fishing - Mothership

The Blackwater Explorer Yacht

The Blackwater Explorer is currently heading into the northern Rio Negro basin to take advantage of what currently appears to be the best water levels in the basin, with access to some of its biggest fish. We plan to follow optimal conditions for the rest of the season, wherever that takes us, upriver or down, tributaries or trunks, even moving into the Rio Branco basin if water levels so dictate. We can blame (or credit) global warming for the unusual weather all we want, but most importantly, we’re taking advantage of the great fishing its provided so far this season. Join us on the Blackwater Explore this February. There’s still time to book a trip, get out of the cold and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

Short Notice Travel Deals

Several of our February 2010 dates have inefficiently low numbers of bookings. It’s in our best interest to make our trips as operationally efficient as possible, so we’re looking for anglers who can travel on short notice to help us fill them. If you’re interested in a great deal and can fit into our scheduling needs, call us now. We’ll work with you if you can move fast and be flexible.  Call us now at 866 832-2987

Visit us at;  www.acuteangling.com

Follow us on Twitter at;  http://twitter.com/PeacockBass

Check out our photos at;
 http://www.flickr.com/photos/peacockbass/

Watch our videos at;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnzi3Skwi9M

Fall 2009 Amazon Peacock Bass Fishing Report

October 14, 2009

PERFECT WATER LEVELS MEAN INCREDIBLE FISHING!

The Amazon Fishing season is underway and we’ve gotten off to a great start. Roaming from the western tributaries of the Rio Solimoes all the way east to the small water tributaries of the Rio Branco and Rio Negro, the Blackwater Explorer tracked down the best of the season’s Amazon fishing opportunities.

Rio Solimoes backwaters hold enormous arapaima.

Rio Solimoes backwaters hold enormous arapaima.

Brazil’s Rio Solimoes forms the main stem of the Amazon river. It’s headwaters are a primary source of the Amazon’s mineral nutrients and have given rise to a rich aquatic biodiversity.

Amazon Aruana

Amazon Aruana

This September, the Blackwater Explorer set out on an extended exploration to sample the fishing possibilities of this enormous and complex river basin. Eighteen days and over 1000 miles later, both guides and anglers had learned a tremendous amount, caught a wild variety of species and had the experience of a lifetime.
Starting in Manaus the Blackwater Explorer steamed west through the sediment laden “white” waters of the Solimoes and docked at the port of Tefe. Our intrepid exploratory group of Aussies and South Africans arrived in Tefe by air and boarded the Explorer. After settling in with a robust breakfast, they assembled their gear and began a singular exploratory fishing adventure.

 

A leaping apapa.

A leaping apapa.

Monday – Sept 7th

– Lago Tefe – peacock bass (Cichla monoculus) – Arapaima, aruana
Tuesday – Rio Tefe – peacocks, Tefe streetside dinner.
Wednesday – Blackwater lake of Japura – peacocks, aruana, small pirapitinga and other species.
Thursday – Lago Comapé – Loads of Peacock bass.
Friday – Went looking for Amazon catfish and got waylaid by an enormous school of feeding apapa. Within minutes, the water was boiling with striking fish and we were engulfed in a feeding frenzy. Caught them on spooks, jigs, flies – 5 pounds to 15 pounds. Extraordinary day!
Saturday – More apapa mania, also sorubim, redtails.
Sunday –
Rio Mamiya – Peacocks, arapaima, aruana.
Monday – Codajas – arapaima.
Tuesday – Lago Januauca – Big peacocks, arapaima.
Wednesday – Peacocks, arapaima – begin journey north.
Our Solimoes Exploratory will be described in detail in an upcoming article in Col Roberts “Fishing Wild” magazine.
Meanwhile, we’re scouting new tributaries to explore and more species to find for another intrepid group next fall.

Brothers Ric and J.R. Rokey (right) of Arizona show off a brace of 22 lb. trophy peacocks.

Brothers Ric and J.R. Rokey (right) of Arizona show off a brace of 22 lb. trophy peacocks.

After our exciting sojourn in the Rio Solimoes basin, the Blackwater Explorer headed back eastward to the habitat of the giant peacock bass. It seems that every year now presents us with a new set of firsts – we’ve recently had the biggest drought, the earliest rains, and this off-season, the Amazon experienced its greatest flood in 6 decades. A normally predictable system was once again topsy turvy!  –  For us …. No problem! While the usually low southern rivers proved higher than expected in September, the northern rivers began to drop faster than any of us could remember! I guess it figures. We hit Manaus, turned left and headed up the Rio Negro, a month earlier than planned, and our Solimoes explorers went right along with us.

Sure enough we found perfect water levels, 400 miles from where we expected them, in tributaries of the middle Rio Branco. Thank heavens for the Blackwater Explorer’s great mobility. Our anglers untied their esoteric exploratory lures, put on their faithful jigs and woodchoppers, their spooks and plugs and flies and they went straight to work, with great success. Our first week (actually only 5 days) of peacock bass fishing yielded 997 fish, and an average of 124 per angler. The week’s biggest fish landed was a tie at 16 pounds between Rob Bland and Brent Boswell, both of Australia. Honors for the most fish caught went to the Aussie team of Col Roberts and Brent Boswell, with 377 fish between them. The average size of the peacocks caught this week was high, with fish weights heavily concentrated in the mid-size range. The week produced a high percentage of trophy fish that continued growing through the next two weeks. The world’s weather may be turning topsy-turvy, but the Blackwater Explorer knows how to find plenty of big peacock bass nonetheless.

 

Aussie Neil Patrick with a trophy peacock bass.

Aussie Neil Patrick with a trophy peacock bass.

Our second group arrived and began immediately producing lots of mid to large size fish in the same region. As reports of dropping water levels to the south came in, however, we elected to leave them biting and explore the opportunities in several other fisheries. We let our anglers loose on the Rio Tapera, the Rio Massaui and the mouth of the Rio Caures on the Rio Negro system. The effort proved worthwhile as we encountered plenty of big fish along the way, 78 of them to be exact. Our anglers landed a total of 1688 peacocks, averaging 187 per angler for the week. The team of Don Mitzel and Dave Dunafon, both of Missouri, landed an astounding total of 672 peacock bass between them. Jim Butters of New Jersey took the honors for biggest fish with an 18 pound trophy.

 

Steve Townson (front) and Ron Elbers with a double-digit Rio Caures doubleheader.

Steve Townson (front) and Ron Elbers with a double-digit Rio Caures doubleheader.

Week three found us ascending to the headwaters of the Rio Caures. Not only do we depend on the Explorer’s mobility, but we take advantage of its shallow draft to navigate rapidly dropping river systems. Water levels were perfect and the results showed it. The group landed 1286 peacocks with an amazing total of 101 trophies, including 4 over 20 lbs! The largest peacock was a 22 pound hog, courtesy of J.R. Rokey of Arizona. The hard-working pair of Steve Townson (Portugal) and Ron Elbers (Canada) caught the most fish for the week with a total of 309 peacock bass between them.

If you can travel on short-notice, join us now and take advantage of the best water levels in years! The rivers are perfect and the fishing just doesn’t get better than this. To make things even more attractive, we’re offering a one-time only short-notice discount package for several of our upcoming dates. Call now for available openings – (866) 832-2987.

Visit us at;  www.acuteangling.com

Follow us on Twitter at;  http://twitter.com/PeacockBass

Check out our photos at;
 http://www.flickr.com/photos/peacockbass/

Watch our videos at;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnzi3Skwi9M

The Amazon Fishing Season is Underway

September 6, 2009

Acute Angling’s Amazon Fishing Season is Underway for 2009 /2010

Every March, when the peacock bass fishing season winds down, I head home from the Amazon, always happy to return to New Jersey. After six months in the jungle, I’ve missed my family, missed the comforts of home and, dare I say it, even grown a bit tired of Brazilian beer. I welcome the leisure to enjoy pleasant dinners with my wife; to reconnect with my neighborhood, my friends and the fishes of my home waters. It’s always good to get back in time to enjoy the sense of renewal brought by the advent of spring and then stretch out in the comfortable lazy days of summer. Ah, but every September, as the weather begins to feel like autumn at home and the waters begin to recede in the Amazon, a new fishing season looms into view. I become helplessly reenergized with the excitement of starting off again, exploring new waters and fighting new fish. It seems that every year, the Amazon’s magnetic pull becomes greater and greater as the days get shorter and shorter.

The Blackwater Explorer Yacht

The Blackwater Explorer Yacht

As September rolls around and Americans get ready for the Labor Day holiday and kids get ready to go back to school, I’m getting ready to head off on the Blackwater Explorer yacht and get Acute Angling’s new season underway. We’re going to start off with a bang this year, taking our beautiful Amazon yacht into waters she’s never visited, in search of fishes we’ve not often pursued.

Arapaima - An Amazon Giant

Arapaima - An Amazon Giant

Rio Solimoes Exploratory – We’re starting this season with an exploratory voyage into Brazil’s vast western Amazon hinterlands. For the first time, we’ve organized a single three-week long voyage up the Rio Solimoes on the Blackwater Explorer. We’ll cruise from river to river in the complex flood-plain region. We’ll pursue acrobatic apapa (sardinata), enormous pirarucu (arapaima), fruit-eating tambaqui and pirapitinga, silvery matrinchá, explosive peacock bass, giant Amazon catfish and other fierce fishes of the Amazon. We’ll wander where we choose to and we’ll stop where the fishing is good until the three weeks are done. We hope to learn enough about this enormous region to offer our clientele new access to new species and an altogether new angling experience.

The Pirapitinga - A bruising fighter.

The Pirapitinga - A bruising fighter.

To make this limit-stretching exploration even more interesting, we’ve got a boatload of fish-crazed anglers aboard, including a core cadre of Amazon-hardened Aussies and several adventurous South Africans. This group of intrepid explorers comes complete with a fishing writer and a camera crew, so we’re prepared to document what we experience and then report back to our readers and anglers later this fall. We think it will be a stupendous voyage and we look forward to sharing the details with you.

Rio Madeira basin peacock bass – Later during September, we’ll head back east along the Amazon and into the prolific peacock bass regions of the lower Rio Madeira. Preserved in an Indian reservation, the lagoon studded rivers in this exclusive fishery produce huge numbers of big peacock bass every season. Last year, during our four week sojourn here, 41 anglers caught an incredible total of 11,601 peacock bass ranging up to 22 pounds. Think of it, that’s an average of almost 300 fish each, almost 50 fish per day for every angler! With waters dropping rapidly from this year’s record flood season, we expect to find perfect conditions upon our arrival. Perhaps we can even better last season’s remarkable statistics. If you’ve ever considered an Amazon peacock bass fishing trip, this is the best place to start and the Blackwater Explorer is the best way to get there.

When October winds down, and optimal water levels begin to shift with the season, the Blackwater Explorer will head north. We’ll fish the Rio Negro basin and its many renowned tributaries, such as the Rio Unini and the Rio Urubaxi. Meanwhile, I’ll head home for awhile to regroup and report back on our early season adventures. Watch this spot for reports on where we’ve been and where we’re going – as soon as I can get myself to an internet connection. Come November, I’ll be back in the jungle again as Acute Angling moves into other exciting regions like Brazil’s Guyana Shield and the Rio Branco basin. We’ve got two more exciting exploratory trips planned in our ongoing quest to explore yet more new fishing opportunities. You can learn more about where we’re headed by looking at our 2009 / 2010 fishing schedule. Or better yet, come with us! There’s an awful lot of fishing left to be done before March rolls around ….. and someone’s got to do it!

Visit us at;  www.acuteangling.com

Follow us on Twitter at;  http://twitter.com/PeacockBass

Check out our photos at;
 http://www.flickr.com/photos/peacockbass/

Watch our videos at;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnzi3Skwi9M

Fly Fishing for Peacock Bass – Tackle Guidelines

August 5, 2009

Part 2 – Tackle guidelines

This is what your fly rod was invented for.

This is what your fly rod was invented for.

Since peacocks can be sight fished or blind cast to structure and since this is a hand-to-hand fight (peacocks can literally snap a fly line like sewing thread – not the leader – the line!!), I’ll recommend some specific equipment that can serve to fit a wide range of peacock bass fly fishing needs and hold up to the challenge. I’m not trying to promote any brand over another here. Feel free to substitute your personally preferred model that suits the purpose. Please note that these recommendations are geared toward fishing for giant Amazon peacock bass (Cichla temensis) and not necessarily the behaviorally different and smaller-sized species that are found outside of the Amazon.  All of this gear can be purchased at www.tackle-box.net

Flies

Subsurface Fly Patterns — Large streamers fished on a sinking line are generally the most productive option for fly fishermen (not only in terms of overall numbers of peacocks, but for larger-sized fish as well). We highly recommend Sidewinder’s Peacock Rattle Fly. This fly is designed specifically for peacock bass and incorporates a variety of peacock-specific features.

1. Extra Wide-Gap Hook – Big peacocks have a heavy, thick jawbone. The wide 5/0 gap in the Peacock Rattle Fly’s hook allows it to pass around the jawbone so that it encounters softer tissue, not impenetrable hard bone. With the hook wrapped around its jawbone, the fish’s fighting force is applied at the stress resistant curve of the hook, so that your adversary is unable to apply pressure to the less resistant straight shank
2. Extra Strong Gamakatsu Hook – Peacocks are brutal fighters. Their extraordinary power crushes and straightens lesser hooks like so much tinsel. The Peacock Rattle Fly is built around a high-quality, super-strong 4X hook, to ensure that your trophy doesn’t escape by turning your bait into a pretzel
3. Extra-long Bucktail Material – Bucktail is unique among tying materials in its ability to provide life-like motion. Its hollow hairs naturally float and lend a pulsing motion to a properly fished Peacock Rattle Jig. Its natural flex and springiness can’t be duplicated by most synthetics.
4. Flexible Pulsing tail – Mounted with springy monofilament, the peacock rattle jig’s extended tail flexes and moves naturally. Its bucktail fibers allow it to pulse with the angler’s stripping motion, adding even more enticing, appetizing action.
5. Extended profile – Even the largest deer tails have a limit to the length of their hairs. A simple garden-variety fly is typically limited to about a three inch profile. By adding the Peacock Rattle Jig’s unique tail, the lure’s profile is extended to over 6 inches, providing a more visible, more appetizing stimulus to large peacock bass. The old adage that big baits catch big fish works very well with trophy peacocks.
6. Contrasting Color Pattern – The Peacock Rattle Jig swims with the hook pointing upward when ripped quickly through the water. Just like a natural baitfish, its contrasting colors are arrayed with the darker shade above and the lighter shade below.
7. Flashing sides – Baitfish live and die by the effectiveness of their camouflage. To take best advantage of the natural physics of light in water, they are shiny only on their sides and not on the top or bottom of their bodies. The Peacock Rattle Jig has brilliant flash on its sides, arrayed just like a natural bait, yet highly visible when in motion.
8. Hidden rattle – Tied directly to the shank of the extra-strong hook, the Peacock Rattle fly is armed with a noisy, clacking rattle. Virtually indestructible (plastic – not glass), the rattle provides extra dimensions of sensory output to attract hungry peacocks and makes the fly more effective in murky water than almost any other subsurface lure.
9. Durability – Peacocks strike hard, so these flies are made to last. All components are mechanically anchored and copious amounts of permanent glue are used at every step of the tying process. Although nothing will make it piranha proof, this jig will hold up to the worst a peacock can dish out.

The peacock bass rattle fly

The peacock bass rattle fly

If you wish to tie your own, instructions for tying the similar peacock “Bass Rattle Jig” are available on our website (just substitute the appropriate 5/0 extra -strong hook for the jighead).

Other popular streamers such as big Deceivers, Bunnies, Saltwater Zonkers, Clousser Minnows and flashy baitfish imitations will all take fish. The most effective patterns have contrasting colors and generous amounts of flash.

To most effectively strip these big streamers once you’ve made your cast, hold your rod at arm’s length and point the rod tip at the water. Grasp the line at the rod with your free hand and strip it quickly and sharply to your hip, giving the fly a quickly accelerating 2 to 3 foot motion. Restrain the running line with your rod hand, bring your free hand back to the rod and repeat. The rapidly accumulating stripped line should be managed either at your feet if you’re on a casting platform or into the (carefully prepared to be snag-free) bottom of the boat. Wear a stripping glove on your rod hand or you’ll quickly raise blisters.

A strike will not be subtle. You’ll know it immediately. To set the hook, don’t raise the rod tip, this isn’t a trout. You’ll need a firm strip-set to penetrate the peacock’s tough mouth. Once he’s hooked, raise the rod and see what happens next. Peacocks don’t always panic and run when first hooked with a fly; sometimes they don’t realize they have a problem. If they don’t run right away, take advantage of the moment and try to recover as much line as you can get onto the spool – but get ready for the run, it’s coming. If they do run immediately, here’s where your loose line management technique will either pay off or break your heart. The slightest hitch or hang up will break you off even more quickly than you can think of the appropriate curses bemoaning your bad luck.

The beast will head for the nearest structure. Don’t panic, don’t try to stop him and don’t try to horse him – things will break. Use your head and the extra length and power of your fly rod to lead the fish by sweeping your rod low in the direction you want him to go. Give him an option that’s easier than trying to reach the structure and he’ll likely take it. Once you’ve weathered that first blast, take your time and patiently work him back in. He’ll run many times, each one getting shorter. When you can lift his head out of the water, he’ll stop fighting. Now use your Bogagrip to secure your trophy. Congratulations! You’ve just experienced the ultimate fly rod high.

Surface Flies – In spite of the peacock’s great reputation for surface action (on conventional tackle), surface flies tend to be significantly less productive than subsurface streamers. Fish over 10-pounds are just difficult to coax to the surface with fly rod poppers. Additionally, although big saltwater poppers may be exciting to fish, they can be extremely exhausting to cast and retrieve for a prolonged period. In spite of these negatives and the hard work, extremely large (6-inches or larger) sliders and poppers will sometimes bring up trophy fish …. and a trophy peacock bass crushing a fly on the surface might just be worth the effort. Gaines saltwater poppers in red/yellow and pearl/olive hold up well and are hard to beat in terms of their ‘action’ in the water. ‘Sliders’ are productive in clear water situations. Popovic’s ‘Siliclone Mullet’ in olive and white is effective. Fly shade (depending upon light conditions) can be as important as contrasting color. For this reason have an adequate selection of light and dark patterns.

For a week long peacock bass adventure, we recommend that you bring at least two dozen streamers and several poppers. Hooks must be extra strong, with a wide-gap and razor sharp — dull hooks significantly reduce hookup rate. All of these flies can be obtained from www.tackle-box.net

Fly rods –  Rods should be fast action models, since they load sinking lines more efficiently and generally have more ‘backbone’ than softer models. Bring at least two fly rods, because rods can break under the ‘jungle stress.’ Reels don’t need to hold a lot of backing because peacocks don’t make long runs, but a smooth, strong drag is essential. Consider a wide arbor reel with an anti-reverse mechanism. Peacock’s initial runs can be so sudden and so powerful that the spinning reel handle can badly injure a loitering finger. A wide arbor configuration can more easily handle line when getting the fish on the reel and help prevent unexpected line jams.

Recommended ‘heavy’ fly rod & reel combinations: A stiff/fast action, 9-foot, nine or ten – weight rod (G. Loomis GLX, Native Run or Sage 990-3RPLX) with G. Loomis “Current 7 – 8 or Scientific Anglers ‘System 2 -89’ or reel.

Recommended ‘medium’ fly rod & reel combination (for floating lines): A stiff/fast action, 9-foot, seven or eight-weight rod (G. Loomis GL3 or GLX) + matched reel.

Some fisheries have access to smaller waters that hold “cara” (smaller cichlids) and pacu, both great fun on a 4 or 5 weight rod with floating or intermediate lines. But, find out if your destination has this feature before dragging along the extra weight.

Lines – Sinking lines are most effective for streamers. But don’t bring just any old sink-tip and hang it from your line. We recommend a Rio 300-grain Density Compensated line. This line is designed to not get sticky in the tropical heat and more importantly, its weight is distributed along its profile, rather than hanging off the end of your line like a floppy sinker. This allows you to cast most effectively and to take advantage of the line’s design, rather than defeating any line’s natural configuration by unbalancing its end. These lines can be fished effectively on a 9 weight rod. A spooled-up 200 or 150 grain line may be a good extra to carry in the event of unusually shallow conditions.
If you bring a floating line, a model with a drastic weight-forward taper (like Rio LongCast or Scientific Anglers’ ‘Mastery Saltwater Tarpon’) matched to your rod weight will help handle wind-resistant poppers.

Leaders – Peacocks are not the least bit leader shy. If you are not pursuing line class records, most peacock fly anglers use a straight shot (approximately eight feet) of 35-45 pound monofilament leader material. Light leaders can be snapped off like sewing thread if that ten or fifteen ‘pounder’ runs you into a tree or rock pile. You will go through a lot of leader material, because of the peacock’s extremely abrasive teeth. We recommend buying a spool of soft monofilament leader material (Jinkai makes a soft flexible line that behaves like it’s a much lighter weight). If you’re trying for an IGFA record, you’ll have to follow IGFA’s leader specifications, of course.

An Additional Suggestion – Fly fishing for peacocks is extremely productive, but can be tiring if you’re not used to blind casting (and then rapidly stripping) a heavy-weight fly rod all day long. If you don’t think you have this type of endurance, we strongly recommend that you also bring along casting or spinning tackle to give yourself a break. (Many operations, like ours, have conventional tackle on site and available for clients’ use.)

Peacock bass on the fly – they’re not trout and they’re not bass, but with the right equipment and the right techniques they’re more fun than you would have believed possible.  This is what the fly rod was invented for.  Join us on the trip of a lifetime.

Based on what we’ve covered today in Part 2,  we’ll focus in on the fly fishing techniques that are best suited for peacock bass in Part 3 – Fly Fishing Techniques for Peacock Bass.  I hope to have it posted here in a week or so.  In the meantime, you can see  more fly fishing information on our website. 

Visit us at;  www.acuteangling.com

Follow us on Twitter at;  http://twitter.com/PeacockBass

Check out our photos at;
 http://www.flickr.com/photos/peacockbass/

Watch our videos at;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnzi3Skwi9M

Fly Fishing for Peacock Bass

July 20, 2009

A basic primer in three parts

Part 1 – A Tactical Overview of Peacock Bass on the Fly

An Awesome Fly Rod Adversary– Unlike some of their pursuers, Peacock Bass are not purists. They will happily brutalize you with any tackle you offer them. They are punishing on spinning tackle and they are relentless on baitcasting gear … but fly fishing for

Fly-fishing for peacock bass.

Fly-fishing for peacock bass.

peacock bass offers anglers a whole new level of self-inflicted fishing abuse! Fly fishing for peacock bass is where subtlety and finesse meets sheer physical power – a true test of tackle and techniques. Hook up and you’ll discover that you’re in a serious hand-to-hand battle, without machinery and without mechanical advantage. This is what your fly fishing tackle was made for; it just doesn’t know it yet. Truly, there is no more exiting freshwater quarry for the fly fisherman than the wild and brutish Amazon peacock bass.

They are not Trout – Although they are a great fly rod adversary, their behavior is decidedly not trout-like. Unlike the freshwater fly fisherman’s usual stream-dwelling adversaries, peacock bass occupy structure-laden, still-water environments. Unlike the usually subtle take of a trout, peacocks will attack a fly with unexpected force – nothing subtle about these aquatic vandals. Their behavior is different enough that trout fishermen will find it necessary to use a different tactical approach and mindset to best come to grips with their unique style. Since anglers often target trout waiting for an aquatic current to opportunistically deliver a meal, stream fishing is more focused on drift and presentation, not so much the cast itself. Peacocks, conversely are typically encountered when they are holding tight to structure, actively feeding or defending their flock of young. Fly fishing for peacock bass is more about the cast itself, its placement and what you do next with the fly. (We’ll cover this in Part 3)

 

Peacock Bass on the fly are not a subtle opponent.

Peacock Bass on the fly are not a subtle opponent.

They are not Bass –Their behavior is not really largemouth bass-like either, even though they are called bass (they aren’t – see our earlier posts). Unlike North American bass (Micropterus), who are primarily opportunistic feeders with a generally defined strike zone, peacock bass (Cichla) are far more pursuit oriented. They’ll chase a baitfish (or a fly) halfway across a lagoon to hunt it down. Unlike a black bass, who will happily feed on anything from fish to bugs to mice to worms, peacocks are primarily piscivorous (fish-eaters). Once again, fly fishermen will find it necessary to use a different tactical approach and mindset than they would for temperate zone fishing. Fishing for black bass with a fly is very successfully done with relatively slow presentations, keeping the fly in the strike zone as long as possible and imitating an easy meal. Conversely, for peacock bass, freshwater anglers will find that they’ve never stripped a fly so fast in their fishing careers, while they attempt to trigger the peacock’s pursuit response.

A trophy peacock bass on the fly.

A trophy peacock bass on the fly.

More Behavioral Differences Peacock’s behavior during their spawning cycle is very different from black bass, as is their relationship to structure and their fry guarding behavior. Peacock feeding behavior is different as well. Unlike most freshwater fly fishermen’s targets, peacocks often hunt in packs and they often actively prowl for forage. These and many other behavioral aspects are important to successfully angling these beasts, but they are equally so for any tackle style. I’ll present that information in future posts addressing general peacock bass fishing techniques and behavioral patterns. So follow our Peacock Bass blog as we go forward and we’ll cover additional tactics and offer more subtle techniques for all anglers, or visit our website and look over our general-purpose Peacock Bass Primer. For fly fishermen, the next important topic is to provide an overview of the techniques that are used and how to select tackle to enable the techniques that work best.

Surface vs. sub-surface fly fishing – Bring gear to cast both types of fly line, but be prepared to concentrate on sinking lines. In spite of the peacock’s great reputation for surface action, subsurface (streamer type) flies tend to be significantly more productive than surface flies (poppers, sliders). Yes, peacock bass can be caught with just about anything you can throw with a fly rod, but some tactics are just far more productive than others under most Amazon fishing conditions. If you’re taking the fishing trip of a lifetime and want to maximize your chances for success, it’s important to consider the approach on which to concentrate. For a fly fisherman to be most effective and to have the best shot at a big trophy, the odds are you’ll need to rapidly strip a big streamer, keeping it a meter or so below the surface.

Okay, you’re scratching your head and wondering why I’veforgotten how much peacocks like to hit on the surface. Well, that’s really a reputation gained primarily because of their responses to conventional tackle. Conventional tackle is very effective on the surface because it gets attention and triggers aggression, particularly in fry-guarding fish. But those plug-casters are throwing two-ounce wooden baseball bats with roostertail generating propellers on the back. Fly fishing tackle just can’t duplicate that kind of surface commotion. Even the biggest poppers and sliders tend to attract mostly piranha, small peacocks and other secondary species; pretty much everything but the big trophies we seek. So, under most normal circumstances, fly fishermen will be most successful with sinking lines vs. floating lines, with big streamers vs. poppers. The use of a quality sinking line will overcome the tendency of the fly to be dragged toward the surface due to the rapid stripping action so important for triggering peacock strikes. I’ll cover this technique in detail in Part 3 of this primer. Or just come fishing with Acute Angling, we’ll teach it to you on the water. 

Based on what we’ve covered today in Part 1,  we’ll focus in on the fly fishing tackle that’s best suited for the purpose in Part 2 – Fly Fishing Tackle for Peacock Bass.  I hope to have it posted here in a week or so.  In the meantime, you can see some more general tackle recommendations on our website.  Part 3 will focus on specific techniques for fly fishing for peacock bass.

Visit us at;  www.acuteangling.com

Follow us on Twitter at;  http://twitter.com/PeacockBass

Check out our photos at;
 http://www.flickr.com/photos/peacockbass/

Watch our videos at;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnzi3Skwi9M

Equipping Yourself to Catch Peacock Bass in the Amazon

July 15, 2009
The right gear allows productive monster peacock bass fishing.

The right gear allows productive monster peacock bass fishing.

Well, you’ve made the decision to go to the Amazon, to fish for the world’s greatest sportfish in the home of the biggest peacock bass found anywhere. Like any first time Amazon peacock bass angler, you’re understandably excited. The fish of your dreams is waiting to ambush your lures in an exotic place you can hardly imagine. You’ve invested time, money and emotional energy and you’re charged up and ready to go. This, however, is the time to keep a cool head and make sure that you are properly prepared. As in the well-known credit card commercial;

     Booking an Exotic Fishing Trip – $4000 to $5000
     Airfare to get there – about $1200
      Being properly prepared – Priceless!!!

Don’t walk into a tackle shop and ask them to outfit you for peacock bass. Almost unfailingly someone who has never seen a peacock bass and has no idea what to throw at them will load you up with overly heavy, inappropriate gear. Quite likely you’ll arrive in the Amazon well equipped for tuna perhaps, but not for peacock bass. Before you even start packing your bags and before you think about the tactics and techniques necessary to catch them, you need to know what rods, reels and lures will serve you best. Let’s look at what tackle should go in your gear bag, step by step. These recommendations are for the Amazon giants, Cichla temensis, and, although they will still have utility outside the Amazon basin, they are not specifically geared to smaller, generally less aggressive species.

Step 1. The Lures – When peacocks are in full feeding mode, anglers could probably toss their shoes into the water and get strikes. Lure selection, however, becomes much more critical as soon as conditions make the fish a little more selective. To optimize their lure selections, anglers should focus on the following four classes of lures;

The Woodchopper

The Woodchopper

Prop Baits – The classic peacock fisherman’s tool, these big, gaudy plugs are best known for the spectacular surface explosions they elicit. Anglers should bring at least a half dozen assorted samples, concentrating on the larger sizes (up to 2 oz.). Among the best choices are Luhr-Jensen Woodchoppers, Caribe Lures Pavon Props and Highroller’s Magnum Riproller. Although smaller and lighter versions of these lures are available and some may find them easier to cast, they do not always perform as well. Since they can only carry smaller, less durable hooks, they often lead to bent metal and heart-broken anglers.

Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow

Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow

Swimming Plugs – A great all-purpose tool for catching peacock bass. These baits are easy to use and will work under almost all conditions. Recommended models include; Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow (3/4 oz., floater), 7 inch Cotton Cordell Red Fin, large Bombers and floating Rapala Magnums, among others. Bring a half dozen.

Heddon Super Spook

Heddon Super Spook

Walking Stick Baits – Oftentimes a slowly sashaying stick bait will trigger amazingly violent peacock bass surface strikes. Effective models include; Zara Spook (3/4 oz.), Super Spook (1 oz.) and Mega-Bait (2 oz.). Bring 3 or 4. Note that the smaller models will require hook upgrades.

Peacock Bass Rattle Jig

Peacock Bass Rattle Jig

Peacock Bass Jigs – This is the ultimate peacock bass bait. Nothing catches as many peacocks as a properly fished 1/2 oz. peacock jig (strip it—don’t jig it). Either tie your own or buy a high quality pre-tied model, such as Sidewinder’s Peacock Rattle Jig.  Bring at least a dozen (or more if you’ll be fishing piranha laden waters).

Other Lures – 95% of the peacock bass on our trips are caught by the 4 classes of lures detailed above. Sometimes, however, conditions do call for a different, more specialized tool. Carry at least one or two large spoons (Johnson’s silver minnow – 1 and 1/8 oz.), a few big Rattletrap lures, and perhaps a small, deep diver. Of course, every angler has their favorite lure, one that they just know is going to change the face of peacock fishing and land them a world record. By all means, bring it, but don’t bring too many and don’t get your hopes too high on it. Weight limits and space considerations demand that you focus on the most productive items.

Step 2. The Rods and Reels – Peacock anglers often bring overly heavy gear. Yes, the peacock is an extraordinarily powerful and violent fish, but rod and reel selections should be made based on the lures you’ll be using. Heavy tackle makes you tired, resting anglers don’t cast and lures in the boat don’t catch fish. Keep your gear reasonably light so that you can fish steadily, make good casts and properly work the lures that will ultimately bring in your trophy.

Based on the lures recommended in Step1, Here is a summary of the rods and reels best suited to fishing with each of the lure types.

Medium/Heavy Outfit – This rig will effectively cast and work the heavy prop baits. Whether you’re a baitcaster or spin aficionado, select a Medium/Heavy rod (like the G. Loomis Escape MHC – we recommend 3-piece travel rods). Avoid overlong (no longer than 7’) rods and definitely no long handles. They just make working the lure more difficult.
Select a fast-retrieve reel. For spin fishermen, this is easy; any medium sized reel (i.e. Shimano 4000 series) has a fast retrieve. For baitcasters, you’ll need a 6.3:1 or faster retrieve and these are not the norm in mid-sized gear. We recommend an Ambassadeur C4 5500 series, a Shimano Corado reel (both modestly priced) or a Shimano Calais (more expensive). Don’t neglect this parameter of equipment selection. Slow retrieving reels will make it difficult to properly work your lures and leave you very tired at the end of the day. If you can skillfully operate either type, spin or baitcaster, the baitcaster is the better choice here due to its higher percentage of tangle-free landings and its lower casting trajectory.

Medium/Light Outfit – This is recommended for jigs and other small, lightweight baits. In the hands of an experienced fisherman with a properly set drag, a quality outfit in this category will efficiently handle even the largest peacock bass while providing unparalleled casting ease, efficiency and accuracy with light lures. If you can skillfully operate either type, the spinner is the better choice here. A good rig would be a Loomis Escape MLS and Shimano 2500 spinning reel.

Medium Outfit – This is an American black bass fisherman’s bread and butter tool. Bring your favorite. Retrieve rate is not critical with this rig. A good example would be a 7 foot medium rod (Loomis Escape MC) and a Shimano Calcutta 250 size reel. Use this for Zara Spooks, Super Spooks, Yo-Zuris and other medium size baits. This rod also makes an excellent backup for either of the other two rods described above (rods break).

Step 3. Line – Peacock bass fishing in the Amazon requires braided line. Leave the mono home. Peacock’s tough mouths call for a solid, stretch-free hookset. Great tensile strength is necessary to withstand their violent strikes while the need for casting accuracy demands a thin, light, flexible line. Monofilament’s characteristics will not serve this fishery well. And don’t bother with leaders or clips. They just provide one more point for potential system failure. Tie right to the lures. It’ll help get rid of worn or frayed line tips and make lure action optimal. Even if you’ve never used braid before, don’t worry, the knots are simple and Brazilian guides know the knots and how to use the line. You’ll quickly become comfortable.

Braid Options – For spinning tackle, we recommend a quality thin braid such as Power Pro. Use 30 lb. for medium and light gear. Lines up to 50 lb. test are appropriate for your heavier gear. For baitcasting gear use 30 or 50 lb. test for the lighter rigs. A heavier test thin braid (65 lb. test Power Pro) is recommended for the heavier rigs. These will prove to be more resistant to backlashes and “digging in”.  A hint for new braid users; When tying your line onto your reel’s arbor, place a small piece of electrical tape over the first turn of line. Subsequent wraps will dig into the tape and help to anchor the braid firmly onto the arbor. This will prevent the line from spinning on the spool and will assure that your drag works properly. Learn the “Palomar” knot. All braid packages come with instructions for this simple and super-strong knot.

A Warning – Despite their high tensile strength, even these powerful lines will not allow you to out-muscle a peacock. Their explosive initial bursts will break these strong braids like sewing thread if your drag is not properly set (meaning too tight or locked down). Even if your line survives the initial onslaught, something else will give. Hooks will straighten, rods or reels may break. Peacock bass cannot be “horsed”. Use a properly set drag (you must be able to manually pull out line, although with some effort) and use your angling skills to lead fish away from structure and slowly and steadily tire them out.

Step 4. Traveling Light – Be judicious with your tackle selections. Almost all charter operators have a 44 lb. (20 Kilo) weight limit. Anglers often find they bring material they never use.

Step 5. Where to Buy – All of the individual items recommended here, as well as complete destination specific packages are available at www.Tackle-box.net or call 866 832-2987 or 866 431-1668 for assistance. Lower priced or higher value alternatives are also available.

Blackwater Explorer

Blackwater Explorer

Most higher end trip operators make rods and reels available for their clientele. Acute Angling has stocked the Blackwater Explorer yacht with the appropriate mix of Loomis rods and Shimano reels, free for clients to borrow, so that no one ends up without suitable equipment. Of course, you’re always welcome to bring your own gear. We’re well aware that anglers tend to more comfortable and skillful with equipment they’ve grown accustomed to. Lures are a different story and are best purchased before you leave. They may be unavailable at your destination and they will certainly be more expensive.

Now that we’ve gotten some of the basics covered, we’ll start talking about how to pack and prepare and then how to catch these scaled marauders in upcoming posts.  To find out more about the tackle recommended for these great fish, visit the tackle section of our website;

Visit us at;  www.acuteangling.com

Follow us on Twitter at;  http://twitter.com/PeacockBass

Check out our photos at;
 http://www.flickr.com/photos/peacockbass/

Watch our videos at;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnzi3Skwi9M

Choosing the Right Peacock Bass Destination

July 8, 2009

OK, enough technical talk about Peacock Bass, let’s get into fishing for them. The first group of posts to the Peacock Bass Blog was focused on defining what a peacock bass is, or better yet, what the many species of peacock bass are and how they differ. I felt it important to get that basic definition out of the way before addressing other, perhaps somewhat more exciting (for anglers anyway), aspects of these awesome fighting fish. There’s much more to be said on the taxonomy subject and I plan to get to it in future posts, however, I’ve decided that you and I need a break from this strictly technical talk, so let’s start in on some of those other topics for awhile. To see more about peacock bass taxonomy;
http://www.acuteangling.com/taxonomy/peacock-bass-species.html

I’ll work my way through several interesting threads as we go forward, including; where to catch them, what to catch them with, how to trigger strikes, how to land what you’ve hooked, what is their life cycle, how do they reproduce, what’s their biology and much more. Perhaps we’ll come to consider this blog “Peacock Bass Fishing – 101” (although other than going out and catching them yourself, there’ll be no exams). The focus for those “catching” topics will be primarily on the premier gamefish species, Cichla temensis, although much of what is covered will also be quite applicable to the other, smaller species. In order to get to the lures and techniques and catching stuff, I think it’s important to consider where and when the catching happens first, so this post will give a quick overview of the principal peacock bass fisheries. From there, we’ll delve deeper into the actual fishing in future posts.

I’ve already said that there’s far too much misleading information and outright baloney on the web regarding peacock bass. The same holds true for most other media and most other types of sportfish. Fishing TV shows, fishing advertising and fishing product sales techniques are full of hype and hyperbole. This may not be too far removed from fishermen’s own perceptions of the exaggeration jokingly associated with their sport, so it is often accepted with the proverbial grain of salt. And I guess its OK for selling magazines and promoting Saturday morning TV shows. A little bit of flimflam is probably harmless for such casual entertainment decisions, but when it comes to making decisions about trips costing thousands of dollars, I believe that it’s a far more appropriate service to anglers to tell it like it is. So, here is a condensed, unexaggerated guide to where to fish for trophy peacock bass, when and why.

Three of the principal Brazilian fisheries for peacock bass.

Three of the principal Brazilian fisheries for peacock bass.

As we’ve already covered in earlier posts, the giant peacock bass, Cichla temensis, is the largest species of the genus Cichla and is the most important sportfish in lowlands Amazonia. Its natural range consists primarily of pulsative (more on that later) lowland rivers with extremely variable seasonal water levels and often widely spaced fish populations. These giants are found in Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia from the Rio Negro and Rio Orinoco drainages as well as in blackwater tributaries of the Rio Madeira and Branco along with a few effluents of the Rio Solimoes and Amazonas. Unlike several other, smaller species that have been transplanted elsewhere, C. temensis has proven resistant to human manipulation. Efforts to introduce these huge predators into other regions have mostly failed, probably because of their great sensitivity to cold or variable temperatures. You won’t find these in Florida, or Panama or Hawaii. As a result, sportfishermen tend to concentrate their efforts in certain regions and specifically in certain rivers within those regions. Here’s a look at where and when.

Some limitations are quickly evident. Although there are big peacocks throughout the range described above, a combination of political and safety issues have recently made both Columbia and Venezuela less than attractive destinations for the typical angler. Currently anglers focus most heavily on safe and friendly Brazil. Within the Brazilian Amazon basin, three types of peacock bass fisheries provide attractive and productive angling opportunities and each of them has its own characteristics and variables. In every case, performance is determined by the single most important factor in successful peacock bass fishing, water level. The variables are complex, but we can get a good idea of each region’s differences by considering the main characteristics of the fisheries when they are at their optimal water levels.

Rio Madeira Basin: The Madeira, like the Solimoes and the Rio Branco carries suspended particulate matter and the big trunk river is not itself a fruitful peacock fishery. Many of its lower tributaries, such as the Igapo Acu, Matupiri and Marmelos provide perfect peacock habitat and that’s where the action is. These rivers range from relatively clear to lightly stained blackwater and are equally excellent for fly and conventional anglers. They typically produce large numbers of peacock bass, with a heavy concentration toward the medium sizes while still offering access to the big hulking 20+ pounders that lurk here. This is the place to go if your goal is lots of action with a variety of fishing styles. Under good conditions, these waters will produce 15 to 50 fish per angler per day, as well as trophies into the 20 pound class. We usually concentrate on this region in September and October, when water levels are generally perfect. The Rio Madeira basin represents a great balance between quantity and size, thus it’s a great place for novice peacock bass anglers to start a serious peacock bass habit.

Rio Negro Basin: The most famous of all trophy peacock fisheries and the heart of the species’ territory, this huge basin contains the world’s largest peacock bass. With at least a dozen productive blackwater rivers, such as the Unini, the Urubaxi, the Tea and the Caures, we normally fish this area from late October until the end of February. The deeply tannin-stained waters are unique in their austere characteristics, containing fewer nutrients and less biomass than clearer waters but often more biodiversity. Quantity tends to be lower here, with anglers typically landing 10 to 15 fish per day, but size is the key. Often several of those daily fish will be in the teens, with fish up to the mid-20 lb. class fairly common. If a shot at a world record is your goal, then this is your fishery, but be aware, it often takes a good day’s labor to get the numbers that come easily elsewhere.

Rio Branco Basin: Fishing in this region generally begins in December and can continue right through March. Like the Madeira, the Rio Branco itself is not a peacock sportfishery. However, its clear water tributaries, such as the Tapera and Xeriuini produce greater numbers of peacock bass than anywhere else in the Amazon basin. Although peacocks over 20 lbs. are not very common here, the area is known for a high proportion of midsize fish and with more than enough fish in the high teens to satisfy any fisherman. Anglers here can land as many as 25 to 100 fish per day! The pristine waters in most of these tributaries drain through the vast biofilter of northern Amazon savannah lands. The resultant clear black waters lend themselves to sight fishing and are highly productive for both fly and conventional anglers. When you add in the exceptional beauty of this region, with its small waters, white sand beaches and looming forests, you have the makings of the most idyllic peacock adventure of all.

The key to successfully fishing any of these regions is to be in the right place at the right time. Regardless of the location, peacock fishing is simply at its best in dropping water conditions. Everything we do is geared to enabling us to effectively access peacock bass waters as they drop. Thankfully, the Amazon has a reasonably consistent seasonal progression of water levels that allows us to predict reasonably well, where we’ll be fishing and when. But, even though we can make complicated schedules, Nature still has the power to trump any human plans. So we stay mobile. Why? In the face of falling and rising waters, bureaucratic unpredictability and the demands of a mighty, untamed river system, our best strategy will always be to stay flexible and be prepared to move even faster than the changing waters.

To find out more about the trips, schedules, availability and accommodations that access each of these great fisheries, visit the schedule section of our website.
http://www.acuteangling.com/Schedule/2001Sched.html

Visit us at;  www.acuteangling.com

Follow us on Twitter at;  http://twitter.com/PeacockBass

How to Identify the Species of Peacock Bass

July 1, 2009

Peacock bass aficionados, both anglers and aquarists, know that 15 species of Cichla have already been described by scientists. The genus is widespread in Neotropical South America and several species have been transplanted to other regions. They are all called peacock bass, but the differences among them can be great, in terms of size, behavior and life history. Whether you’re a fisherman or a monster fish keeper, it’s important to know which is which if you’re truly a peacock bass person.

An example of a specimen for identification

An example of a specimen for identification

Telling species within a genus apart from one another is not always easy, even for taxonomists, but by focusing in on a few of the most clearly identifiable characters, it’s usually possible to know which peacock bass you’re dealing with. Sometimes it helps just to know which species your specimen is not. The process of elimination can rapidly narrow down the possibilities. Let’s look at some of the most useful techniques and apply them to the challenge of identifying an example  of a specimen we’ve just caught (see the photo above).

Where – Some of the species of peacock bass have relatively limited natural ranges and some are transplants, so often just knowing where the fish is from will  narrow down the possibilities, or in some cases even make the ID for you automatically. For example, if you’re in Guyana or on one of the two main fast-water tributaries of the Rio Branco, you’re only choice is Cichla ocellaris (Florida too, for that matter). If you’re in Peru (or Hawaii), you’re looking at Cichla monoculus. “Where” can also tell you what isn’t a possibility. If you’re in Bolivia, it isn’t Cichla temensis (or for that matter C. orinocensis or C. pinima or several others). Finally, transplants are generally a single, once-imported species as in Florida, or Hawaii or Panama. You can visit http://www.acuteangling.com/taxonomy/peacock-bass-species.html to see the characteristic ranges of the different species.

Body height – The 15 described Peacock bass species have characteristic relationships between their height and length. When considered as a ratio, this can be a useful identifying characteristic; however the measurements must be properly made to be meaningful. Height is fairly simple; measure the greatest distance from the fish’s back (dorsum) to its belly, without including fins or nuchal hump. This may be simple to see, but it’s not always easy to do without a good measuring device such as a caliper. In the field, in a pinch, fishermen can support the fish above a solid surface (boat deck, seat) and stand their rod butt next to the specimen. Working quickly to protect the fish, either by eye or using a flat, straight item (pencil, twig, knife), determine where the highest point on the fish (usually just in front of the dorsal fin) intersects the rod butt. Note it to measure it later. Then measure length. In this case anglers must measure “Standard Length”, specifically, the distance from the tip of the upper jaw to the base of the tail (where scales end and fin rays begin) – do not include the tail. Once again, your rod can help here. Place the tip at the base of the tail and determine where the tip of the jaw intersects it. If you don’t have a tape or ruler with you to determine the measurements on site, record the measurements with a piece of fishing line to measure later. All measurements must be made without being affected by the curvature of the fish’s body. Once you have accurate measurements, calculate the ratio of height to standard length by dividing the height by the length. For our example, lets say we’ve caught a 23 inch long peacock that has a height of 7 inches. Divide 7 by 22 – you’ll get .318 – move the decimal point two places to the right and you have 31.8% height to length. The chart below shows some of the expected ratios of the 15 species.

Species Common Name Mean Height to S.L
Cichla temensis 3-bar or speckled peacock 24.5%
Cichla monoculus Popoca, botao 30.6%
Cichla orinocensis Borboleto (Brazil butterfly) 29.7%
Cichla ocellaris Lukanini, Florida butterfly 30.3%
Cichla intermedia Royal peacock 27.2%
Cichla jariina Rio Jari peacock 26.6%
Cichla kelberi Yellow peacock 32.0%
Cichla melaniae Lower Xingu peacock 29.7%
Cichla mirianae Xingu peacock 29.7%
Cichla nigromaculata None known 29.9%
Cichla pinima White spotted peacock 26.6%
Cichla piquiti Blue peacock 28.3%
Cichla pleiozona 4 vertical bars 31.0%
Cichla thyrorus None known 29.3%
Cichla vazzoleri Vazzoler’s peacock 26.5%

Here’s an instance of how this character is useful in our example. Several species bracket the value of 31.8 (monoculus, pleiozona, kelberi). Although you can’t readily tell from this information alone which one of the three it might be, you can readily eliminate some other species. You can see from the chart, it’s not likely to be C. temensis or C. pinima, both much slimmer species. Now we can use location to help us further. Let’s say we’ve caught our specimen in the Amazon on the Rio Unini (part of the Rio Negro basin). Only C. temensis, C. monoculus and C. orinocensis are normally found here. This eliminates, C. pleiozona and C. kelberi, which are only found elsewhere and tells you that you’re probably holding Cichla monoculus, common in that region. Are we done? Well, perhaps not with full certainty. Another look at the chart tells us that C. orinocensis at 29.7% is a bit slimmer, but close enough so that for us to be truly positive in our ID, it might have to be considered also. So we’re down to two possibilities. You’ve made a pretty good start at a field ID without having even considered the complexity of markings and coloration. 

Cichla monoculus - note the 3 vertical bars

Cichla monoculus - note the 3 vertical bars

Color and Pattern –  This is a complex and extremely variable set of characters, although once you’ve gained some general familiarity with peacock bass morphology, it quickly provides the most facile of all identification information. Rather than describe the details for all of the species, I’ll refer you to http://www.acuteangling.com/taxonomy/peacock-bass-species.html where an instructive description of color and pattern characters can be found, along with photos and detailed descriptions for each species. Meanwhile, let’s go back to our example. C. monoculus possesses three stubby black bars while

Cichla orinocensis - note the 3 rosettes

Cichla orinocensis - note the 3 rosettes

C. orinocensis has three round rosettes on its sides (see photos). Telling these apart is really a no-brainer. Since we’ve already assumed our specimen has the bars (as in the first photo), you can immediately eliminate orinocensis and come to a final, positive ID of Cichla monoculus. Who cares? If you’re an angler, you do. You might be holding a world record in your hand. If you’re an aquarist, you do too. Try finding the proper mate for your specimen if you can’t positively ID the species.

There’s more information you can use too, such as; lateral line scale count; gill raker count, and relative eye diameter. The problem with considering them all at once, however, is that by the time we finish with all of these measurements, our specimen will probably be totally desiccated. That makes successful catch and release pretty difficult, to say the least. Your tank raised specimen is not likely to hold still for this treatment either. Sometimes this information will be important, however, so I’ll write about it in the future for those who want that degree of detail. For now, however, with the techniques we’ve already covered and the photos and information on the Acute Angling website, you should be pretty well prepared for most field identifications. Go forth and classify.

For more information, visit us at;  www.acuteangling.com

Follow us on Twitter at;  http://twitter.com/PeacockBass

Why Go all the Way to the Amazon – When They Have Peacock Bass in Florida?

June 18, 2009

 

Why go all the way to the Amazon, when they have peacock bass in Florida? Well, for the same reason it’s worth traveling 10 miles down the road to a river full of smallmouth bass instead of fishing for rock bass in the creek behind your house.  The term bass is a catchall for several related but quite dissimilar fishes.  They are very different animals in a very different environment.  The peacock bass imported to Florida are about as similar to the Amazon giants as rock bass are to smallmouths.  They are very different animals in a very different environment.

Amazon Peacock Bass attain enormous sizes

Amazon Peacock Bass attain enormous sizes

 The venerable smallmouth, highly regarded as one of North America’s most sporting gamefish belongs to the family Centrarchidae, as does its smaller, meeker cousin, the rock bass.  Although they are from the same branch of their family (let’s call them cousins) and they are both called bass, they are very different in form and have very different behaviors. (Perhaps you have a first cousin named, well, lets say “Fauntleroy”, whose hobby is collecting back issues of Home and Garden; See what I mean?)

 The same analogy holds true for peacock bass.  All of them belong to the family Cichlidae; Fifteen species comprise the genus Cichla and all of them are called peacock bass.  Cichla ocellaris, also known in Florida as the butterfly peacock (lets think of them as the rock bass of the family, or maybe “Fauntleroy”, for the moment) were transplanted from waters of the Guyana shield region, (north of the Amazon main stem) into South Florida canals some 20 years ago.  A strong, efficient predator for their size, they flourished in the region.  Their native environment in cooler waters outside the lowlands Amazon basin made them temperature-tolerant enough to survive the cold spells common in subtropical Florida.  They have been a good addition to south Florida’s freshwater fish population and they offer a nice alternative to the resident largemouths.  But from a fisherman’s point of view, they are no comparison to the enormous beasts found in the Amazon.

   Let’s compare them point by point in some of the more important parameters;

 1. Size; No comparison here.  Although Florida peacocks (Cichla ocellaris) can attain up to 10 lbs. in weight, a far more typical size is a pound or two.  Their Amazon cousins (Cichla temensis) are beasts of a different magnitude, averaging 5 lbs. or more (depending on the river) with 15 lb. trophies common and with hulking monsters over 25 lbs. lurking in the Amazon’s blackwaters.

 2. Feeding Behavior; Although not as obvious as the size differences, feeding behavior is what characterizes a gamefish and is probably the most significant indicator of fishing quality from the point of view of a sportfisherman.  Florida peacocks tend to be subsurface feeders and can be extremely selective.  Anglers find it often takes a live shiner to get their interest.  Amazon peacocks, on the other hand are exclusively piscivorous feeders and are pursuit hunters.  That means their target is fish and once they decide something is food, they’ll run it down halfway across a lagoon if they have to.  And, unlike the Florida species, they aggressively strike lures on the surface, violently and with abandon, hence Larry Larsen’s famous description of “Peacock Bass Explosions”.  This is probably the most exciting predatory attack of any sportfish in the world.  No comparison here either.  Frankly, no other fish compares, anywhere.

 3. Habitat; Amazon peacocks are found in the most pristine and exotic habitat on earth.  Jungle-lined blackwater rivers, hidden lagoons and white-sand scalloped beaches are just some of the spectacular settings in their native environment.  The alien-appearing, isolated still waters lend a counterpoint to the sudden, violent and explosive attacks of these monsters.  And, there are lots of other fish, ranging from acrobatic aruana to hulking giant catfish.  Even if there were no fish at all, the stunning Amazon environment alone creates a hauntingly beautiful experience.  Florida’s peacocks live in a wide range of very different water bodies, ranging from canals surrounding Miami airport, to residential development ponds, to the infield at Homestead race track.   One might consider these to be exotic also, but in a very, very different way.

 4. Environmental conditions; The central Amazon basin experiences a yearly water level pulsation, akin to a gigantic tide.  With water levels rising and falling as much as 30 to 40 feet during each year, these fisheries undergo astounding changes.  Amazon peacocks have evolved behaviorally in response to these unique conditions.  They feed, spawn and undergo remarkable physical changes during these cycles.  Most importantly, from a fisherman’s point of view, they become highly concentrated, aggressive, accessible and hungry during the falling water period.  This creates optimal conditions for anglers and coincides, of course, with our fishing season.  These conditions aren’t found outside of the Amazon, so Florida understandably provides a more homogenous fishing environment, without the extraordinary seasonal productivity associated with low water in the Amazon.

 5. Price; Surely I’m kidding, right?  There can’t be any comparison, can there? Well, believe it or not, fishing for peacocks in the Amazon costs about the same per day than the same length of excursion in Florida.  Our Brazil trips provide about 6½ days of fishing and start from $3,650, or about $560 per day.  That includes everything (except tipping); sumptuous meals, open bar 24/7, dedicated personal service, one of the world’s last great wildernesses and an unequalled fishing experience.  What about Florida?  You can expect a professional guide to ask for $375 to $550 per day (and sometimes you’ll pay extra for gas, lunch and bait as well).  Let’s be economical and just call it $475.  Now add in a motel, at least $60 a night, dinner and breakfast, if you eat cheap you can manage on $40, (and if you enjoy a cocktail in the evenings you’d better figure that in as well).  We’re at $575 per day already, without even a cold beer, and you’ve got to admit you’re not quite getting the same ambiance for your money.  Compare that to our trips.  Go ahead, you do the math!

Amazon peacock bass are found in the most pristine waters on Earth.

Amazon peacock bass are found in the most pristine waters on Earth.

 There are many other points open for analysis, but I hope that by now it’s become clear that we’re not talking about the same type of fish or the same type of experience.  All of this being said, I wouldn’t disparage the Florida peacock in any way.  It’s a great fish in its own right.  Pound for pound all peacocks are great fighters, displaying an unparalleled power and tenacity on rod and reel.  Florida peacocks are no exception.  They’re great fish when taken in context;  they’re just not in the same league with the Amazon peacocks.

 I’m not a purist, I just love to fish.  I’m a pragmatic fisherman.  When all that’s available to me are rock bass, I’m not proud; my bait will be in the water.  As Steven Stills so famously and perhaps a little bit callously sang, “Love the one you’re with”.  If I can’t be in Brazil, I’ll happily fish for Florida peacocks and if I can’t get to Florida, I’ll happily fish for one pound largemouths in my backyard pond or even rock bass in the creek, just as long as I’m fishing.  But given the choice and the chance, count me in for the world’s greatest freshwater fighting fish, the Amazon peacock bass.

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