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The Peacock Cichlid, Cichla Ocellaris

Bass-like shape and large mouth with underslung jaw.Very colorful—green to black dorsal surface with yellow or cream-colored sides, marked by vertical black bars, and one huge black spot with a white margin—the “peacock eye”—on the upper lobe of the caudal fin. Large males also have a red stripe on side and a pronounced hump forward of the dorsal fin. A similar and larger species, the Speckled Peacock, Cichla temensis, was introduced along with this one, but did not adapt and is now rarely seen.

OTHER NAMES: Butterfly Bass, Butterfly Cichlid, Butterfly Peacock

SIZE: Averages 1-2 pounds; lunkers run 3-5 pounds; maximum is perhaps 8 or 9 pounds.World record 12 pounds, 9 ounces; Florida record 9.08 pounds.

FOOD VALUE: Very good.

GAME QUALITIES: Hard striker and strong, acrobatic fighter. Most anglers consider it tougher than a Largemouth of equal size. As an added bonus for sleep-in anglers, Peacocks do not like to bite early in the morning—or at night.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Rather light spinning and bait- casting tackle with lines testing up to 12 or 15 pounds. Live shiners are almost a can’t-miss bait, but many anglers prefer to cast with lures. Among the best offerings are topwater plugs, crankbaits and spoons, worked steadily and fairly fast. Skip plastic worms; Peacock Bass don’t like them at all. For flies, try large streamers—marabou seems particularly appealing—and strip them quickly.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Still Fishing;Trolling.

RANGE: A warm-water species restricted to deep canals and their adjacent lakes in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area (Dade and Broward Counties). Those waters have depths where the temperature never falls below the Peacock’s tolerance level, even during the occasional freeze.The species may creep northward during protracted warm periods, but outside Dade and Broward it is subject to being killed back during a harsh winter.

HABITAT: Like the Largemouth Bass that share its waters, Peacocks usually stick close to grass or other structure.