Posts Tagged ‘Fish of the Week’

Fish of the Week: Catfish – Sorubim

September 26, 2011
Sorubim

Sorubim

Our “Fish of the Week” is Catfish – Sorubim, which is a beautiful species sporting an elegant pattern of hieroglyphic black markings on a silver grey background dorsally and stark white ventrally. The common name sorubim is used for several similarly shaped species in the genus. Body markings, typical habitat and maximum size differ. P. tigrinum is commonly encountered by anglers in Amazon lowland, highland and Guyana shield fisheries.

The Sorubim is distinguished by its flattened head, elongate body and large terminal mouth. Its silvery gray upper body with heiroglyphic markings dorsally, and tiger stripes laterally, also set it apart. Sorubim’s fin markings continue from the body, evolving into spots toward margins. The silver gray on its dorsum changes abruptly to white on its ventral sides, as well as its abdomen. Specimens up to one meter in length and more than 100 pounds have been reported. The genus contains eight recognised species, and although all are similarly elongate, many are uniquely marked and have separate ranges. Common names include Barred Shovelnose (English); sorubim, suribim, cachara (local); and Bagre rayado.

This catfish can be found in Brazil, Peru, Guyana, Ecuador, Bolivia, Suriname, Columbia, Venezuela and Argentina, particularly in the Amazon, Orinoco, Essequibo, Corantijn and Parana drainages and river basins. They usually occupy lotic (moving water) environments in blackwater river systems. Primarily feeding on fishes, P. fasciatumis are readily encountered with cut bait on shallow sandbars in river channels. Although mostly an evening and nocturnal feeder, anglers are often surprised by large sorubim attacking artificial lures in open water at any time of day. The current IGFA record is 35 pounds, 10 ounces.

In addition to being a great angler’s target, the barred sorubim is a pleasant adjunct to any fishery. Its habit of attacking artificial lures and then fighting like whiskered tuna, makes it endearing to peacock bass anglers and catfishermen alike. In most high gradient fisheries sorubim can be targeted by anglers at evening time. They tend to congregate and forage at the edges of shallow beaches with nearby drop-offs to deeper water. Small live bait or pieces of cut bait are equally effective when cast onto the beach and allowed to drift naturally to the nearby drop-off. An effective rig consists of a 10/0 to 14/0 circle hook (or smaller J hook) with a wire leader and relatively light sinker (approx. 1 oz.), enough to keep it down while still allowing the current to slowly carry it. The take is usually quite forceful. Once hooked, sorubim will fight in open water with strong runs and surprising stamina.

Pintado

Pintado

Pintado – Psuedoplatystoma corruscans – up to 1.5 meter
This larger catfish is found outside the Amazon in the Pantanal and the Sao Francisco and Parana river basins
(Illustration from “Peixes do Pantanal” – Embrapa – poster)

Pintado

Pintado

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Fish of the Week: Payara – Hydrolycus scomberoides

September 12, 2011
Hydrolycus scomberoides

Hydrolycus scomberoides

Our “Fish of the Week” is Payara – Hydrolycus scomberoides, which is readily distinguished from its congeners by three features: It possesses serrations on the exposed portion of its scales; It has a small black spot on the base of the innermost pectoral fin ray; The base of the pelvic fin is dorsal of the ventral profile of the body.

The key to identifying a Hydrolycus scomberoides is its silvery, elongate body, as well as the unique black spot on pectoral fin base. It also has a dark blotch above the pectoral fin. Its adipose fin also has a dark pigmentation. Hydrolycus scomberoides also is mostly silvery, darker dorsally, with dark pigmentation on anal and caudal fins. This fish features a black spot on its pectoral fin and has 93-106 lateral line scales. Museum specimans have been measured up to 300 mm.

Similar to Hydrolycus armatus, this fish can be found in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, particularly in the river basins of the Amazon, above Tapajos and Rio Apure drainages.

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Fish of the Week: Catfish – Loricariidae

August 29, 2011
Catfish - Loricariidae

Catfish - Loricariidae

Our “Fish of the Week” is Catfish – Loricariidae, which is the largest family of catfish with almost 700 species. These fish are covered with up to five rows of bony plates. Their ventral, disc-like sucker mouths help identify this family which includes several species widely-known as “plecostumus”, popular aquarium favorites. Although barbels are not always predominant, their lower lips are often edged with papillae (fleshy protuberances).

 

 

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Fish of the Week: Peacock Bass – Cichla temensis

August 8, 2011
Cichla temensis

Cichla temensis

Our “Fish of the Week” is Peacock Bass – Cichla temensis, which is the largest member of the peacock bass genus. This top level predator is considered by many to be the most powerful freshwater gamefish in the world, as evidenced by its current IGFA record of 27 pounds.

Cichla temensis, in its bright spawning color phase, is called “assu” in Brazil or “three-bar” in English. They become heavier and deeper bodied in this form due to prespawn changes and matured gonads. In the “paca” form, Cichla temensis displays a darker color pattern and a more hydrodynamic shape.

Cichla temensis identification is made somewhat complex by the species’ morphological variability. Specimens are encountered in two very distinct color and pattern phases, with an array of intermediate stages corresponding to their degree of reproductive readiness. The spawning pattern transformation process is gradual – the bars darken, colors brighten and the white speckles disappear. The brilliantly colored acu (pronounced ‘assu’) is in reproductively active condition. The Paca morph has white or yellow dots (3) arranged in four distinct longitudinal rows. Both morphs have 3 distinct dark bars (2) along the sides of the body and a distinct black stripe or speckled markings from the eye to the end of the opercular bone (cheek or gill cover) (1), no ocelli on the sides or at the base of the second dorsal.

Cichla temensis

Cichla temensis

Temensis is the most elongate of the Cichla species, with a body depth generally around 25 percent of its standard length (length measured to the base of the tail). It has the smallest relative scale size of the genus, generally having from 100 to 125 scales along its lateral line.

The species has three distinct, entire bars from dorsal peak to below lateral line, almost to the abdomen. It also has a distinctive postorbital band (or series of connected blotches on operculum [cheek]). In paca form, they sport four horizontal rows of light colored speckles. Its colors are extremely variable. Juveniles can grow up to about 300 cm (12 inches), while adults can grow from 300 mm up to about one meter (39 inches). Its depth to length ratio is approximately 25 percent and it has about 110 lateral line scales. Similar species include Cichla pinima and Cichla vazzoleri.

Cichla temensis

Cichla temensis

Cichla temensis’ violent behavior and awesome tackle-busting power is the primary attraction that brings avid sport fishermen to the Amazon. Its known range include the countries of Venezuela, Columbia and Brazil. Within these countries, you’ll find Cichla temensis in the Rio Negro, Orinoco, Madeira and Branco basins, with some limited populations noted in several rivers draining into the Solimoes and Amazon. Temensis primarily occupies lentic (slow or still water) environments in lagoons, backwaters and shoreline pockets. However, they will readily enter faster waters to feed and when water levels leave most lentic habitat dry. They are mostly restricted to blackwater systems. Common names for this peacock include three-barred peacock, speckled peacock, tucunare, acu, paca and giant peacock.

A primarily piscivorous (fish-eating) predator, C. temensis will behave as both a pursuit feeder and an opportunistic feeder. Their determined and aggressive fry-guarding behavior makes large acu readily accessible to sharp-eyed anglers. Cichla temensis is the premier peacock bass species pursued by trophy anglers. Its sheer size, violent attacks and general overall aggressiveness have made it the most highly regarded of all freshwater sportfish. It has spurred volumes of literature and endless variations of tactics and techniques. See our ‘Peacock Bass Primer‘ for a thorough introductory guide to catching this species in its native, pulsative river environments.

 

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Fish of the Week: Catfish – Jau

August 1, 2011

Our “Fish of the Week” is Catfish – Jau, whose 109 pound world record speciman was caught on an Acute Angling trip in 2005. Not surprisingly, the Jau is one of the Amazon’s largest catfish. More benthic in habit and less agile than the piraiba, its mode of battle is the application of sheer power and its prodigious weight. Although widely distributed, it is not uniformly distributed – Jau may be present in a certain river and completely absent in a neighboring one. We’re thrilled to have caught the world record size Jau to date, but we know there are bigger ones out there.

The key to ID’ing a Jau is that its body is thicker and less elongate than the piraiba. Jau has a large adipose fin and heavily boned pectorals. Adults are marked with a regular pattern of closely spaced small maroon to black spots – these are more distinct in smaller specimans. Its body has a dark olive color on its dorsum and sides, shading to off-white on the abdomen. Its lower fins are darker with distinct patterning. Adults may reach sizes of 1.4 meters and possibly exceed 200 pounds, which would obviously be a new world record.

Jau are found in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins and the countries of Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana and Venezuela. It ventures well upstream in high gradient rivers and is said to migrate in pursuit of migrating baitfish. Jau primarily occupy deep holes and still pools in lotic (fast water) environments in high gradient river systems. Going by common names such as Pacamao and Toruno, the world record 109 pound speciman was caught by Russell Jensen of Bronx, N.Y. on an Acute Angling trip.

Catfish - Jau

Catfish - Jau

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Fish of the Week: Peacock Bass – Cichla Orinocensis

July 11, 2011
Cichla  orinocensis

Cichla orinocensis

Our “Fish of the Week” is Peacock Bass – Cichla orinocensis, which is often called “taua” or “borboleta” (meaning butterfly in Portugese). Its name often confuses fishermen familiar with Florida’s “butterfly peacocks” (transplanted Cichla ocellaris). This species can be found in the Negro, Branco and Orinoco drainages, and it can weigh up to 12 pounds.

The Cichla orinocensis has three distinct, black ocelli ringed with a silvery outline on the sides of its body in place of the vertical bars of other species. Its body color ranges from bright golden yellow to olive green and is fairly uniformly distributed along the torso. There are no dark markings on the operculum (cheeks). Reproductively active specimans feature intensed coloration. Some specimens have a unique reticulated pattern and a reddish cast to their coloration are encountered in certain regions (based on meristic characters, apparently a phenotypic variant of C. orinocensis). Otherwise coloration is fairly consistent between individuals.

This particular species can grow up to about 200 mm (8 inches) as juveniles and from 200 mm to 500 mm (20 inches) as adults.

They are found in Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil in the Rio Negro, Rio Branco and Rio Orinoco basins. Interestingly, when found in waters where Cichla temensis are present, Cichla orinocensis tends to occupy shallower, slower waters in and around lagoons, backwaters and shoreline pockets. This species relates to black water environments.

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Fish of the Week: Catfish – Diplomystidae

July 5, 2011

Our “Fish of the Week” is Catfish – Diplomystidae, commonly called ” Velvet Catfishes” as their skin is covered entirely with papillae. Considered to be the most primitive of Siluriforme families, they lack some of the characters shared by other families. Found in small waters (typically at high altitudes) in Argentina and Chile. No species are of angling interest.

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Fish of the Week: Arapaima – Pirarucu

June 20, 2011

ArapaimaOur “Fish of the Week” is Arapaima – Pirarucu. They are the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world. Arapaima over 600 pounds and over 12 feet long were said to be not uncommon in the past, before they became a favorite of urban fish gourmets. Now a mainstay of pisciculturists, wild populations are recovering in several protected areas. Arapaima are obligatory air-breathers, periodically surfacing to gulp air. Oxygen is absorbed by a vascularized air bladder while CO2 is exchanged via their gills. Their mouth-brooding, fry-protective behavior has allowed them to succeed as transplants outside of the Amazon.

The arapaima’s enormous size, flattened head, terminal mouth and large silvery scales with bright red patterning are distinctive.

The extremely large scales are edged in bright red pigmentation forming an array of fine, diagonal, stripe-like markings. Light silvery white anterior, darkening to a steel grey, highlighted by bright red to purple markings posteriorly. They can grow up to 650 pounds (4 meters). The arapaima is truly one of a kind and not likely to be mistaken for anything else in the Amazon.

Arapaima are difficult to catch with artificial lures. Most non-targeted encounters are by peacock bass anglers who see the big beasts surfacing in a lagoon. What generally occurs immediately afterward is that two anglers will quickly whip the water into a froth, hoping to entice a hook-up. Although arapaima will occasionally strike a lure, most often the sighting leads to nothing more than an exciting interlude.

Anglers can be more successful when targeting arapaima with cut bait, or even better, live bait. Small whole fishes on a wide gap circle hook work well, especially if a small piece of foam is inserted in the gills to keep the bait near the surface. The take is very visible. Anglers should allow the line to go tight and then point the rod tip at the fish, so the circle hook can do its work. A “J” or treble hook is usually more difficult because the angler must drive the hookset into the arapaima’s bony, hard mouth. The fish at left, weighing approximately 180 pounds, was caught using a live “tamatoa” (a small armored catfish) as bait.

Once hooked, they tend to make runs appropriate to the location. In small lagoons, they tend to run to a bank or up to a heavy structure object and simply stop, perhaps they’re not yet really sure they have a problem. Once the pressure returns, they’ll leave that spot and run to another. The resulting fight consists of a series of short, albeit unstoppable runs, continuing until the fish tires. In more open water, a large fish is capable of rapidly spooling an angler. Once a run begins here, guides must quickly fire up the boat and follow or watch the line disappear into the sunset. These more sustained runs will help to tire the fish more quickly. Once the fish is at the boat (or perhaps better stated as the boat is at the fish), the real fun begins. Just because they’ve stopped running, doesn’t mean they’ll let you manhandle them into the boat for a photo. Even when tired, a fish this large and this strong can be unpredictable. It’s probably easiest to simply join the tired fish in the water for a photo (as was done at left) making for a less stressful capture (and release) for all concerned.

Arapaima

Arapaima

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Fish of the Week – Redtail Catfish (Pirarara)

June 14, 2011
Our “Fish of the Week” is redtail catfish, also known as pirarara in Brazil. One of the most ubiquitous of the giant cats, it appears to have very few habitat limitations, just as happily living in acidic, blackwater lowlands streams as it is in alkaline highlands rivers. They can be found in all parts of clear (blue) water, blackwater and whitewater (sediment carrying) rivers, including small tributary streams.
Redtail Catfish

Redtail Catfish

Their unique markings and bright coloration makes them very easy to identify – their bright tail is an instant giveaway. Their dark upper body contrasts sharply with a cream to white segment below the lateral line posteriorly. The mix of contrasting colors highlighted with red makes this catfish one of the most striking of the big cats. Its body color is dark olive to shiny black, its abdomen white and lower fins red. Its dorsal fin and adipose fin are fringed with red.

A very powerful fighter, redtails are known for a sustained, line-pulling initial run and the ability to find a tangle of submerged logs at the end. Adults can grow up to 60 inches and can weigh more than 100 pounds (the IGFA world record is 113 lbs, 9 oz. caught in the Rio Negro). Found in the Amazon basin in Brazil, their seemingly endless appetite makes them easy for anglers to engage. They’re ominvores, as they feed on fish, detritus, crabs and fruit (we’ve actually caught them on pieces of watermelon!). They’ve been landed on everything anglers use, ranging from free-swimming live bait to a Wooly Bugger fly (cut bait is easiest, for practical purposes).
An entire head of a traira on a circle hook is a durable and widely accepted bait for redtails. Use an Amazon rig, configured as follows: “For Redtail Catfish, a large (14/0) circle hook haywire twisted to 12 to 18 inches of strong (120 – 220 lb. test) wire then twisted to a heavy (180 lb. test swivel. A two ounce (or heavier – as current demands) egg sinker is allowed to run freely on heavy line (50 pound or greater) braided line. This wire reinforced ‘Amazon’ rig helps keep piranha away from the actual running line and minimizes the loss of hook, line and sinker.”
Set up your road according to your preferences. Try a woodchopper rod (medium-heavy baitcaster or spinner) equipped with heavy braid (50- to 65-pound test). You’ll have fun catching these guys on light tackle – they’re very durable fish that don’t tire easily.
Several types of water are usually productive. In a river without a lot of features, a curve will often suffice. Drop the bait into the deeper, channel side. If deep pools with eddying water are available, select these types of water. Often, piranha activity on the bait is followed quickly by a take, which may summon the redtail. In any case, the traira head is a great bait even when almost entirely denuded. Let the piranha have their way and wait for your quarry. If there is a redtail there, you’ll usually meet up within 15 minutes. If not, move on.
To succeed with this tackle, you must survive the first run. Make sure your boat is ready to move upon the hookup. The “take” is usually a no-doubter – redtails grab forcefully and move on. With an open bail (or clicker on), allow line to be taken until you’re certain the fish is moving away from you and has had a chance to engulf the bait. Point the rod tip upward, engage your reel and allow the rod to be pulled downward until it points at the fish. With resistance occurring, a redtail will usually react with a screaming run, hooking himself with the circle hook in the process. This method is highly recommended because it will unfailingly result in a safe hookset in the corner of the fish’s mouth, never in its gullet or stomach.
Depending on the size of the fish and the underwater structure, anglers with light tackle can be spooled on the first run. Make sure the boat stays with the fish and you keep a reasonable reserve of line. Don’t try to stop him with a thumb or a tightened drag – you’ll probably just break him off. Let him burn off that first blast and then you can start to fight back. The key to landing a big redtail on light tackle is to get him off the bottom. If possible, get nearly over him, but offset at an angle, and work him upwards. If you can lever him into the water column, you gain the tactical and mechanical advantage and can probably land the fish quickly. If he is able to remain on the bottom, he will seek cover or structure and even though you may have survived the difficult first run, you can still lose him to an unforgiving snag. Once at the boat, redtails can be easily lifted from the water by their heavily boned pectoral fins. He’ll talk to you the entire time you take your pictures. Put him back to fight again.
If you’re record hunting or simply want to land the highest possible percentage, a heavier rig (i.e. – an Ambassador 7000 sized reel with a stiff, short and heavy Ugly Stick rod) can be used with line up to 100 lb. test. This is enough to slow down the runs and then muscle all but the biggest redtails off the bottom, the key to landing them.
John With Big Redtail

John With Big Redtail

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Fish of the Week – Piranha

May 23, 2011
Pacu

This Brazilian Pacu took a "bread fly" (spun deer hair, cut and trimmed to look a piece of floating bread) in moving water, just like a trout sipping a dry fly.

Our “Fish of the Week” is Piranha … yes, the same one you hear about in fantasy horror scenarios and made famous by movies such as Piranha. Don’t run for land just yet, though – these creatures, like many portrayed in Hollywood and science fiction, aren’t nearly as fearsome as they seem; in fact, they’re rather fascinating to study and observe.

Piranha are members of the subfamily Serrasalminae, within which are also included Pacu. They are distinguished by their very different teeth. Throughout the Amazon, the name pacu has been given to a range of flattened, rounded fish from primarily the genera of Mylossoma, Myleus and Metynnis. Pacu, like their larger cousins tambaqui and pirapitinga, favor a vegetarian lifestyle; however, that doesn’t mean they can’t be convinced to join in on a little sportfishing activity from time to time.

Several species can be pursued with light tackle and will put up an impressive fight. Ultralight spinning rods that can deliver a kernel of corn or a wadded piece of bread can divert these little guys from their typical afternoon snack. Fly casters should use 2/0 Clousser Minnows and especially fruit-colored Glo Bugs dead-drifted in trout/salmon fashion.

Piranha

Piranha

There are at least 20 species of piranha (Serrasalmus sp.) swimming the rivers of the Amazon basin. Some grow larger than 8 pounds and can make for excellent light tackle action, especially on smaller spinning/casting rods or a 5-6 weight fly rod. Examination of piranha stomach contents show that their typical diet consists of about 1/2 fish while the other half includes fruit, seeds and bottom detritus. Piranhas are not picky eaters and will hit literally anything resembling a baitfish, such as a small Rat-L-Trap tipped with meat. If you’re not fishing for them, however, they can be quite a nuisance, as they have a habit of destroying your lures or that custom-tied $8 streamer the second it hits the water. Definitely use a wire leader to minimize damage to your line and be careful when removing the hook from their snapping jaws. While we are strictly a catch and release operation, these little guys do taste very good pan-fried.

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