Wednesday, November 02, 2005
My first post
below is a story I wrote recently, enjoy.
When I was a small boy about the age of 8, I did not wake up on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. Instead, I watched all the great fishing shows on TV with celebrities like Jimmy Houston, and Jose Wejebe. I never missed one of the Saturday morning shows. Watching all these shows sparked an interest, and soon to be passion. One day I approached my father Lazaro, and asked for money to purchase a fishing combo. He replied “do you really need that son?”. The answer to that question was obvious.
Within days, I had my first rod and reel. It started off with my dad and I on Sundays; taking me out to a small pond to catch bream and other small pan fish. During one of the many trips, my supply of bread (which was used to catch bream) ran dry, and all I had was an in-line spinner rooster tail. I tied it on, and casted it toward the bank of the pond. I felt a strong tug that I’d never felt before from any pan fish! I saw a very colorful fish jump out of the water and it immediately took me into the weeds. I finally landed the fish and I asked my old man “dad what kind of fish is this?” he replied “I'm not sure son”. Being we were both unaware of what species fish it was, I snapped a picture of this unknown beauty and it quickly swam off.
Back in 95, a little older and more experienced, I visited a local tackle shop and showed the owner a picture of the fish. I asked him “sir… what kind of fish is this?” He replied “that's a butterfly peacock bass!” Ever since that day, I have been fishing for this great and unique game fish that we South Floridians are blessed with.
The butterfly peacock bass is shaped similar to a bass. Their colors are variable and much like a thumb print, not one are alike. They have a greenish yellow color to them and generally have three black vertical bars. The black bars fade once the fish is mature and has reached the 5+ pound range. Another key identifier is that they have a black spot with a yellow-gold halo on the caudal fin. Butterfly Peacock Bass are actually not bass at all! They are a member of the large "cichlids" family.
These fish were introduced into the lakes and canals of Miami Dade County in 1984 by Paul Shafland and the Florida Wildlife Commission (formerly the Florida Fish and Game Commission ). After ten years of study by the Fish Wildlife Commission, the conclusion was made that Peacock bass would not overly affect the native fish populations. With this conclusion, over twenty-thousand Butterfly Peacock Bass were released to help control the growing population of exotic fishes, particularly the Spotted Tilapia and Oscar. The population of Spotted Tilapia started to drop and the Peacock Bass yielded great results.
These Fish thrive in warm slow flowing canals, ponds, lakes, deep rock pits, and lateral canals. They are also frequently found in shady areas around bridges. They can’t tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and high salinities. Peacock Bass typically spawn from April through September. They can spawn multiple times within a year, depending on the level of water. I believe that every time the water level drops or the SFWMD lowers the system - this triggers them to spawn.
The male peacock develops a lump of fatty tissue on its head when in the spawning mode. Once a mate is found both adults prepare a flat, hard surface near shore. Then they lay between 4,000 and 10,000 eggs. Unlike some fish Peacock Bass have a strong maternal and paternal instinct, and it’s shown once the eggs hatch. Both parents guard the young fingerlings.
Peacocks grow rapidly. The first 16-18 months they grow about 12-14 inches. A 17-inch fish will weigh approximately three pounds while a 19-inch fish will weigh up to five pounds.
A lot of People ask me if it’s alright for you to catch a nesting peacock protecting their fry. I always suggest that they should pass the breeding couple up and look for other fish which are not breeding! If you spot a trophy peacock bass on a bed and can’t resist the urge to try and catch it I STRONGLY recommend for the angler to catch only one of the two, and quickly snap a picture and release it immediately. If you do not, it's a sad sight to see a school of panfish moving into the nest and eating all the eggs, one of which could have been a new record at the end of your line.
Small shiners are the preferred live bait. They rarely take plastic worms like largemouth bass do. Top-water lures, minnow imitating crank and jerk baits get the nod of approval. The new Rapala Xraps work great in clown and hot head colors. You have to keep the lure going very fast to generate interest from a peacock bass. If it's slow forget it! Any canal or lake in South Florida can hold trophy catches. The best time to get out there is when it’s hot and sunny, usually around mid day being prime time. A big part in my success is to have a good pair of polarized lenses. I personally like fishing for peacocks with a medium light spinning rod and a small 4-6 pound class reel. I have caught many Butterfly peacock bass of 5 pounds and better, with my personal biggest being close to surpassing 7.5 - 8 pounds. We are very lucky to have this great and exotic game fish literally in our own back yards.