March 16, 2012
Warm, windy weather puts me in the mind of peacock bass fishing in Miami. I used to live on Snapper Creek Canal, which for all its suburban filth is nonetheless ideal habitat for butterfly peacocks. These tough cichlids, native to South America, were introduced to South Florida waters by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in the 1980s. They've proven resilient to cold weather only at the southern terminus of the peninsula, which the FWC (then Game and Freshwater Commission) predicated at the time of introduction. When peacocks get on the beds, which they'll do in midsummer, they're fun to sight-fish. But during spring, as waters warm and the fry of panfish and other cichlids gather up around shoreline vegetation and structure, the larger peacocks sometimes go on feeding frenzies. If the water remains cool, the fish may suspend near culverts, beneath bridges and around other structure, where sinking lines and flies perform well.
At times they'll run the banks like jack crevalle, striking fast-moving, flashy streamers such as the Clouser Minnow pictured here. This fish, released immediately after the photo was taken, was caught on a little backwater not far from the Miami International Airport. The FWC has done a fine job of chronicling access points for this region. Click here to find them. Bag limit is 2 per person, only one of which may be 17 inches total length or larger. State record is 9.08 pounds.