Every location has that one fish that brings tons of people to the area and for South Florida, it’s peacock bass. Peacock bass fishing is attractive because of the eye-catching color of the fish and the brash and aggressive nature of the fish.
If you’re traveling to Miami, Naples, or anywhere in South Florida, you’ll want to continue reading to learn more about peacock bass and why they should be on your list of “fish to catch in my lifetime.”
Understanding Peacock Bass
The first thing you should understand is that peacock bass aren’t actually bass, they’re Cichlids. In fact, there are a ton of huge differences between these guys and bass. This is the reason why a lot of anglers come to Florida confused by the fact that they don’t behave the same way as largemouth bass.
First of all, there are actually 16 different species of peacock bass. The problem is you can’t catch most of them off the coast of the United States. The fish originated in the Amazon and that’s where most of the species still live.
So, that begs the question; how did they get here? According to the FWC, they were brought into Florida by the WC in 1984 and it’s also believed that they were imported from Guyana, Peru, and Brazil as well.
Why Target Peacock Bass
Another question is why would we come to Florida to fish canals and waterways when there are so many brilliant opportunities in offshore fishing? You can catch things like sailfish, snapper, group, and tarpon; why would we go after these?
While there’s no right or wrong answer to this, we think it has a lot to do with their appearance and the fight they give for a smaller canal fish. They’re finicky about what they eat but once they decide on something, they’re highly aggressive and will not give in easily. You better be prepared for a fight if getting a picture with a peacock bass is on your bucket list.
When you’re traveling and fishing the urban canals, portability is key so you’ll want to make sure you’re only traveling with the amount of gear necessary to get the job done. Telescopic rods are nice but I don’t recommend them due to the lack of durability and strength.
Where you can save a little space and weight is through using an inflatable kayak. These are highly portable and you’d be surprised by how much abuse they can take.
Best Lures for Peacock Bass Fishing
Peacock bass are a bit finicky so you want to choose the right lures and stick to them. Once you understand what lures to use you’ll have no problem bringing in a lot of peacock bass and when they bite, get ready because it’s like someone dropped a 20 lb rock on top of your hook.
Here are some of my top choices for peacock bass lures:
Rip Roller Stick Baits
Rip Rollers are some of the most popular lures for peacock bass because of their noisy presentation and larger size. You don’t have to get this specific type but you want something with a few treble hooks and the propellor on the back. 5.5-inches is around the size you’ll find most of these and they’re usually made of solid wood to create topwater buoyancy.
When it comes to color, you want to mimic something that the peacock bass are used to eating so I’d go with a perch color or something else that’s orange and bright. These are deadly in the warm water months.
Next, we have a 5-inch crankbait that creates a little less noise for the days when the fish aren’t biting. Keep in mind that if you’re fishing in South Florida, you’re fishing highly trekked waters. Peacock bass are used to people fishing this area to death so sometimes a bit loud presentation doesn’t work.
This is a spook type crankbait, it’s big, durable, and comes with heavy treble hooks that can handle this type of power. It also has an internal rattle so it’s not completely silent. Go with the redhead on overcast days and a brighter bronze color on sunny days.
Bear in mind that a lot of peacock bass feed below the surface so topwaters won’t always work. Yo-Zuri is a great saltwater lure brand and their minnows allow you to walk the dog, jerk erratically, and create the presentation of a wounded baitfish.
This is especially helpful if you’re not having any luck. The area you’re fishing may simply be overdone and the bass are very timid. This method is a great way to get them biting again.
Bucktail Extended Jigs
The last piece of peacock bass fishing tackle I’ll give you are extended tail jigs. These are growing in popularity amongst peacock bass anglers for a few reasons.
One, you can work them in heavily vegetated areas because the tail helps you cruise over stumps and dense brush.
Second, you can troll with them if you’re trying to cover a lot of water. You can fish them by working through the vegetation with erratic short jerks followed by lull periods of trolling but make sure to keep it moving quickly. If you slow down the presentation too much you’ll attract black bass.
Third, they’re a dime a dozen and you’ll lose a lot in the water because most fish take a liking to these. You don’t have to spend $25 on one lure and you can pair up a variety of color combinations.
Lures To Stay Away From
It’s not often that we tell you lures to avoid but as mentioned, peacock bass are finicky so you want to stick to what works and avoid what doesn’t like the plague. Soft plastics are generally the worst-performing lures for peacock bass fish. They just don’t like them.
Another reason we don’t recommend soft plastics are because every other fish in the water will chew up all your time. You’re not out here targeting black bass and panfish right now, we’re looking for the bright and beautiful peacock so let’s not waste any time. It’s like they say in business, “if you try to win every one, you win no one.” Focus on the species you’re targeting and leave the rest for another day.
We also highly suggest against using live bait. A lot of people will tell you that live bait is the best way to go for peacock bass but as local guides and experts, we recommend you don’t use lie bait, and here’s why.
Peacock bass like to swallow live bait which will result in a deep hook down in the throat or gills. These are a pain to remove and almost always ends with a dead fish. We practice catch and release with peacock bass and we suggest you do the same. Fishing live bait is frowned upon for this reason.
Top Peacock Bass Fishing Locations
We’re separating this part of the guide into three sections. These are the “big 3” when it comes to peacock bass fishing in Florida. If you’re tracking peacock, you want to catch some, and you’re on your own without a guide. These are the three places you’ll want to go.
Best Peacock Bass Fishing in West Palm Beach
Urban canal fishing in Palm Beach county is incredibly popular and it brings a lot of people to the area. If you’re looking in this area, expect to fish around Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. Lake Osborne and Lake Ida Park are part of the Lake Ida chain of lakes and they house some of the best peacock bass fishing in the world.
Best Peacock Bass Fishing in Miami
There are many different locations in Miami and Dade county but there’s one that always seems to exceed expectations. Miami Airport Lakes is the number one destination for peacock bass so you’ll want to check it out especially around Anthony Marcelo Park. Falls Mall Canal is another big one and it’s located near 13145 SW 89 PL. It’s a canal that runs behind the “Falls Mall” in Miami but this is a convenient access point with plenty of parking.
Best Peacock Bass Fishing in Naples
They don’t call Naples, “Paradise Coast” for nothing. There are a ton of things to do here for the whole family and some of the greatest peacock bass fishing you could imagine. The urban canal systems bring about a great population of peacocks and the fight that they put up is next to nothing.
The Golden Gate canal system is where you’ll find the most peacock bass as well as plenty of other saltwater species. Warm water fishing is the best way to go here and as mentioned, the fun doesn’t have to stop once you get off the boat.
Peacock Bass Fishing Charters in Florida
There are great fishing charters all over South Florida and each of them specializes in a specific area and species so be sure to choose wisely.
For example, Captain Mark Rogers has the biggest boat in the fleet that they call the “Big O” on Lake Okeechobee. He does most of his fishing near his home in Naples, Florida so if you have a larger party and want to fish Naples for peacock bass, you might want to talk to Captain Mark.
Either way, we highly recommend fishing with a charter if you come to Florida. Of course, fishing inshore canals and waterways is easy to do on your own compared to braving the offshore waters but to get the full experience, a charter is the way to go.