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Gone Fishing

Introduction of Peacock bass has added fun to Florida fishing

The exotic breed was brought
from South America to the U.S.

BOCA RATON, Fla. – (July 2016) The Peacock Bass. You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve read the articles. Your blood is pumping. You can’t stand it anymore.
Wow, I can’t go to South America to fish. Way too expensive, too far to travel. Fear no more. Your trip is closer than you think. South Florida has some of the best Peacock Bass fishing Mother Nature has to offer.

Photo by Don Ward

Doug Jansen prepares to launch his bass fishing boat at Lake Ida in Delray Beach, Fla., where he often takes his fresh water fishing customers.

Now you ask, ‘What is a Peacock Bass?’ It is also known as the Butterfly Peacock. Does it have feathers? Not hardly. A Peacock Bass, pound for pound, is the hardest fighting fresh water fish in the south. It will put a Smallmouth Bass to shame.
Yes, it is an exotic fish. The Peacock Bass was first introduced to Florida in the late 1960s. This stocking proved unsuccessful. After more research, the Peacock Bass was re-introduced in the early 1980s. The fish was stocked to not only become a much sought-after game fish but was also introduced to manage the invasive species. The Peacock has had great reproduction success, therefore no stocking has happened since 1984. The Peacock is an aggressive fish but also fragile at the same time. Once a Peacock is caught, it should be released as soon as possible. Keeping them in live wells is good but only for short periods of time. The Peacock is also in danger once the water temperatures drop below 60 degrees for extended periods. Remember the fish are from South America, so no cold weather there.

Photo provided

Jim Jansen of Louisville holds up a couple of Peacock bass he caught during a recent fishing trip in south Florida.

The Peacock Bass was first introduced in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas. Up to 20,000 fish were stocked by the Florida Wildlife Commission from 1984 to 1987. They were mainly stocked in the urban canal systems. They have since migrated to the southern parts of Palm Beach County and parts of the Everglades. This is about as far north as they will go because of the water temperatures. In the 30 or so years since their introduction, they have been able to reproduce and live side by side with the Largemouth Bass without interference.
Now you ask, ‘How can I catch one?’ I asked the same thing when I moved to Boca Raton, Fla., two years ago. I became a fishing guide when I first moved here. I learned very quickly how to catch them because I wanted in on this action.
The Peacock can be caught year-round with the warmer weather proving to be the best. Daylight hours also prove to be the best. Not too much fishing here at night. Too many bugs and creatures!
The Peacock can be caught in a variety of ways. The preferred tackle is a spinning outfit equipped with 10- to 15-pound test line. Some have even tried their luck with a fly rod with much success. The Peacock is an aggressive fish in search of smaller prey. A variety of lures will work on the bass as well. Lures that imitate bait fish, such as Rapalas, Rattle Traps and Spinners, along with live bait work well. Live bait has proven to be the best tactic.
Areas to find the Peacock? Keep in mind that you’re fishing in urban areas. You’ll find them around bridges, culverts, docks… any sort of structure. Some people have limited success fishing from the bank. Obviously, the best way is by boat. There are several local guides in the area. I would recommend this for guaranteed success. 

Photo provided

A happy fishing customer from Switzerland shows off his prized catches of Florida Peacock bass.

So next time you visit South Florida and want a little something different, try your luck with a fresh water fishing trip. Florida offers some of, if not the best, fishing in the country. The best thing about the smaller lakes and canal systems is that you don’t have to travel very far. It’s pretty much right out the back door. From Palm Beach to Miami to the Everglades, it’s all within a 50-mile radius.
 If you’re interested in a guided trip, feel free to contact me. If I am unavailable, I can set you up with another qualified guide.

• Doug Jansen is a Louisville, Ky., native who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla., where he works as a licensed fishing guide. Contact him at (502) 758-0848 or email: Djansen1222@gmail.com.

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