The Curious Case of Miami’s Peacock Bass

We were sitting at a dockside bar in Key Largo, having a beer and deciding what our next move would be over some conch fritters. We’d had a couple shots at some permit that morning with our friend and guide Bruce Miller, but had to come in early. Now, me and the guys from Fly Lords were looking for a change of speed before making the drive back to Ft. Lauderdale. After a few minutes of watching dock tarpon reject pieces of conch fritter and scratching our heads, my buddy Jared spotted something in his Instagram feed and looked up. “We could fish for peacock bass in Miami?”, and we set off back north to catch peacocks.

Native to the South America and particularly the Amazon, butterfly and speckled peacock bass were first introduced to the Miami canals in 1984. Their original intention was to restore balance to the canals ecosystem, which had been taken over by cichlids and exotic plant species. The one-time stocking took place with 3 different batches of eggs imported from Brazil to ensure genetic variation. The peacock bass took to the canals so well that there has never had to be an additional stocking, meaning there is no ongoing cost for the program. The peacocks serve their purpose well, controlling cichlid populations and eating invasive plant species. As a side benefit, they also provide a healthy economy to South Florida, with anglers spending between $5 million and $8 million dollars a year to catch peacocks.

Peacock bass can not survive low water temperatures, making them an ideal candidate for Florida’s waterways as they are unlikely to spread north and interfere with native fish populations. While both speckled and peacock bass were introduced in 1984, the speckled peacocks have not taken to the canals nearly as well as the butterfly peacocks. Overall, the Miami’s peacock bass stocking is regarded as one of the most successful introductions of all time.

Caught on the new Douglas Sky rod

We were testing out the Douglas 5 weight which was pretty well suited for the peacocks we were targeting. We had an 8 weight with us, meant for bonefish and permit that morning. It was undoubtedly overkill for the 1-2 pound peacocks, although they can reach up to 10 pounds and put up a serious fight. Regardless, we needed to up our gear game and thought of buying those $30 Walmart starter rods, but ended up at a Bass Pro Shops buying a bright green White River Cricket rod for $40. Reel, line, and couple Clouser minnows drove the total cost to $90, even if it was a bit like casting a telephone pole. We didn’t have to walk far before we got into the peacocks. The canal outside the Bass Pro Shop, parallel to the Ronald Reagan turnpike and across from the IKEA, was teeming with fish.

Miami has 330 miles of canals that all contain peacock bass, so it’s hard to put a line in the wrong place. Next time you have some time to kill in Miami, buy a cheap rod and head to any body of water you can find! You’re sure to get into a few peacocks.