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Peacock Bass

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cichla ocellaris

OTHER NAMES: Butterfly peacock, peacock bass

RANGE: Introduced by FWC in large coastal canals of southeast Florida in 1984; low water temperatures and intolerance of saltwater prevent this species from becoming abundant outside of coastal Miami-Dade and Broward counties.  Native range lies within the Amazon River basin of South America.

HABITAT: Successful in warm, slow flowing canals, ponds, lakes, deep rock pits, and lateral canals; frequently found in shady areas around bridges, culverts, canal intersections, bends, dead ends, and near fallen trees; spawns and often feeds in shallow water adjacent shorelines with overhanging vegetation; cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60oF or salinities greater than 18 ppt.

DESCRIPTION: Body shape similar to that of a largemouth bass; color highly variable, but generally golden with three black vertical bars that tend to fade and are possibly absent in older fish; black spot with a yellow-gold halo on the caudal fin.

SIZE: Grow rapidly to 12-14 inches during the first 16-18 months, after which they become much heavier with each inch they add in length. A 17-inch fish will weigh approximately three pounds while a 19-inch fish will weigh up to five pounds.  The largest butterfly peacock caught in Florida weighed 12.0 pounds and measured 25.5 inches, but this fish was not submitted for a state record.  It is not known how long they live, but preliminary data suggests about six years.

FLORIDA RECORD: 9.08 pounds

FOOD VALUE: Good but the real value of this fish is in its use for controlling over-abundant exotic forage fishes and its sporting qualities; therefore FWC encourages anglers to catch and release these fish, especially those longer than 14 inches

GAME QUALITIES: Most popular sport fish in southeast Florida coastal canals where it generates millions of hours of fishing pleasure for thousands of anglers who spend more than $8 million a year to catch them; available to both boat and bank anglers using the same basic tackle as largemouth bass anglers

TACKLE AND BAITS: small shiners are the preferred live bait; rarely take plastic worms like largemouth bass do, but top-water lures, minnow imitating crank and jerk baits, and marabou jigs are popular artificial baits; streamers, epoxy minnows and pencil poppers are favorites of fly fishers; daily bag limit of two fish, only one of which can be greater than 17 inches.

FISHING TECHNIQUES: Casting; Still Fishing.


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