Peacock bass. The mere mention of their name brings to mind visions of traveling through the Amazon in a dugout canoe, targeting dark pockets along heavily vegetated banks followed by one of the hardest fights of your angling life. But you can also find this exotic trophy a lot closer to home – in South Florida. This means you can put it on your bucket list instead of your wish list. With that in mind, the question shifts from “if I ever” to “how will I”. Although Amazon is famous for producing big, hard fighting peacock bass it is not an option for many anglers. Luckily, it is not your only option. Thanks to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, which first introduced the species to Southern Florida waters in the 1980s, they now thrive in the canal waters in and around Miami. Much cheaper and more attainable trip. But knowing where you can fish for peacock bass is only the first step to adding one to your list of trophies, you also need to know how to catch them. No worries, we are more than willing to share some of our secrets and tips with you.
Where to Catch Peacock Bass
As stated earlier, the canals and ponds in & around Miami, Ft. Lauderdale & Palm Beach hold plenty of butterfly & speckled peacock bass. There are several areas specifically known as peacock hot spots but almost anywhere you can cast a line is a possibility. A growing number of anglers choose to slip a kayak into favorable waters and paddle along tossing a lure likely hot spots. Others just walk the shoreline and sight fish, tossing a lure or bait to those they see in the shallows. In either case, you want to seek out shallows where they establish beds for breeding or structure where they will be ambushing prey. Experience has shown that although they are not a true bass they often live side by side with the native largemouth - docks, bridge pilings, retaining walls and even bends in the canal are all places you will want to check out.
Peacock Bass Gear
Fishing for peacock bass does not require any specialized gear. If you have ever fished for largemouth you probably have almost everything you need.
Rod/reel – a quality spinning outfit in the 6’ to 7’ range will do the trick. If using live bait opt for a slow action set up, bumping up to a fast action if using lures.
Line: 20 lb. with a clear fluorocarbon leader
Bait: golden shiners are the go-to local live bait and are available at most area bait shops or you can also catch bait locally including multiple species of panfish. Regardless of which you select make sure you keep it alive and fresh as peacock are hunter predators and prefer active dinners.
Lures: you do not need a lot of lures, but it is important to have an assortment that will allow you to target peacocks in a variety of water depths. Surface poppers, propeller lures, sinking, suspending and floating lures can all be productive depending on the time of day/year and water conditions. Be sure to have multiple color patterns as well especially those that resemble shiners or panfish.
Misc.: split shot, bobbers, and corks
Hook: 1/0 or 2/0 circle hooks
How to Catch Peacock Bass
Once you have your gear ready and have found likely water it is time to start catching fish. When it comes to Florida peacock bass you have a few different options depending on the type of water and whether you are using a lure or live bait.
Freelining – there are almost no more productive means of landing big peacocks on live bait than simply freelining. Tie the leader directly to mainline using a Uni to Uni knot, run the leader to a 1/0 to 2/0 hook without any hardware, hook the baitfish. In the canals, you may need to add a small split shot to slow the bait when the current is fast.
Sight Fishing - walking the edges of a canal or park pond and locating fish in the shallow areas is one of the more popular means of catching peacocks because it works and keeps the process as simple as possible. It's also extremely exciting watching an aggressive pea pursue its food.
Casting- when the fish move to deeper water it is time to tie on a lure and search the depths. Working a lure with a lot of action will entice almost any peacock in the area to check out the commotion. Depending on where you are the water can range from a few inches to 8-10 ft in depth. Be prepared to fish anywhere the fish may be.
Bobber or cork – tossing out your favorite live bait suspended under a bobber or cork can produce big fish and the excitement experienced when your float disappears, and the line starts a run.
Once you hook a fish be prepared for other peacocks to be drawn to the area. It is not uncommon for an angler to retrieve one fish only to find even bigger ones were following it to shore. If this happens, be prepared to target these camp followers as they are often bigger than the potential meal you already have on the line.
When fishing in urban areas map apps such as Google Maps will help you identify hidden waters and identify the owner.
Peacock can be caught almost any time during the day or night, but mid-day trips tend to be the most productive.
Looking for a guided peacock trip? Capt. Kevin Cannon is a licensed fishing guide and one who knows how to put peacock bass and clown knife fish in the boat. He is based out of South Florida also, so there is no need to book expensive trips out of the country unless you want to of course. You can reach him here:
Here is some awesome video footage catching Peacock bass in South Florida, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great video content: