Peacock Bass Fishing in Florida: A Short Guide
May 25, 2020 | 6 minute read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

When it comes to fishing in Florida, there’s a lot to say. However, if you’re after an exotic adventure, Peacock Bass fishing is something that shouldn’t be missed. The species are native to South America but were introduced to Florida’s waters in the ’80s. They are a beautiful and brutally strong freshwater game fish.

An angler holding a peacock bass

Over the years, they have adapted to their new home, and have earned their place in the hearts of local anglers. Today, they are an iconic part of South Florida’s fishing scene. So let’s get started with all you need to know about this pretty fish!

Peacock Bass 101

The Peacock Bass originates from South America, specifically the Amazon and Orinoco river basins. Even though they resemble Black Bass, they don’t belong to the same family. Peacock Bass come from the family of cichlids, the same as Tilapia.

They were brought to Florida to fight the invasive Oscar and Tilapia. The fish have quickly adapted to their new surroundings and they started eating up their invasive relatives, without threatening other native populations.

an angler releasing a peacock bass into water

There are somewhere around 15 different species of Peacock Bass. The most common one in the US is the Butterfly Peacock Bass, which is usually the anglers’ target. They are very tasty, but due to conservation purposes, local fishermen suggest releasing them to protect their numbers. We’ll dive into the specifics of fishing regulations a bit later.

When it comes to the size of Peacock Bass, it highly depends on the type of species. For example, the Speckled Peacock Bass is the largest one, and it can grow to size over 36 inches. However, they haven’t been seen in Florida for over 16 years, and are illegal to catch.

The smallest species is the Royal Peacock Bass, and they can grow to a maximum length of 10 inches. The most common species, the Butterfly Peacock Bass, is usually somewhere between these sizes, and their weight varies from 6 to 15 pounds. Don’t forget that what they lack in size, they make up for in aggressive strength.

The Best Spots for Peacock Bass in Florida

There are many amazing Peacock Bass fishing spots in Florida, especially in the southern parts. The stretch from Palm Beach County to Key Largo holds a number of these feisty fish. You’ll also find some really good fishing grounds in Broward and Dade counties.

Let’s have a look at some of the premier fishing spots you can explore in the Sunshine State.

Miami

When you book a trip to Miami, Butterfly Peacock Bass fishing might not be the first thing that pops into your mind. However, besides great times on the beach and awesome parties, Miami’s fishing grounds hold some of the best fishing spots in the state.

aerial view of miami

Many anglers flock to the local canals to test their skills out against these strong fish. Snapper Creek and the Tamiami Canals System are some of the best spots in Miami to catch a Peacock Bass, and there are over 40 miles of fishing grounds to explore. The Peacock Bass usually hides around rocks and bridge pilings. You can also find them near any underwater construction.

Butterfly Peacock Bass love warm water, and the mild climate of South Florida is perfect for them to swim all year round. You can target them during any season, but local guides suggest that the period between March until the end of May is the best time to go after them. Another great thing about this fish is that they usually hunt during the day when there’s a lot of light, so you don’t have to get out on the water too early.

West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach is known for its amazing fishing action. If you’re looking to catch a Peacock Bass, this town should already be on your list! The freshwater canals surrounding the town are filled with huge fish. The local guides usually offer “exotic species trips,” where you can target a range of non-native species, such as Snakehead, Clown Knife Fish, and of course, Peacock Bass.

a view of west palm beach and a bridge

The waters are sometimes too narrow for boats, meaning you can take trips on kayaks or even on foot. The Peacock Bass shares its home with Largemouth Bass, making it a great spot for even more productive fishing.

Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale has so many amazing angling opportunities that Peacock Bass fishing has only recently started to gain popularity. Anglers are starting to discover the fishing potential of this exotic fish and its feisty nature.

Fishing for this specimen in Fort Lauderdale is good throughout the entire year, but you’ll be especially lucky during the warm months. There are many fishing guides in the area that specialize in fishing trips for this South American fighter, and they can help you make the most out of your trip. 

Naples

Fishing for Peacock Bass in Naples is especially fun for families. They don’t grow as big as they do in other parts of the state, making them a bit easier to catch. Their beautiful colors will hook even the most amateur anglers into fishing in no time! If you’re a pro fisherman, don’t worry – there are also some great opportunities for you.

a view of naples canal and waterfront homes

The waters around the city are full of this exotic fish, and you’ll be able to catch a lot of them. The best place to target them is the Golden Gate Canal System, and you can expect to come across some Largemouth Bass as well. 

The Best Techniques to Hook a Big One

The best ways to target Peacock Bass are with light spinning or fly gear. They are known to obliterate life in waters they are introduced to, meaning they will take a variety of different bait. Live bait is their favorite, but they also like plugs, spoons, streamer flies, and popping bugs. On the other hand, they don’t like plastic worms.

an angler releasing a peacock bass into water

Making this fish take your bait is the easier part. Once they bite, the party begins. Peacock Bass are known as “freshwater bullies” because of their aggressive hunting and fighting power that sometimes damages the fishing gear. 

Do I need a license?

Yes. If you’re going after Peacock Bass, you will need a freshwater fishing license before you head out on the water. You can buy a Florida license online or at a number of registered retailers, such as Walmart, a tax collector’s offices, and registered bait and tackle shops. You can also purchase them over the phone at +1 (888) 347-4356. For more information about Florida fishing licenses, check out our detailed guide.

Can I keep my catch?

Butterfly Peacock Bass is the most common catch from the family, and it’s legal to keep two of these. Only one of these two can be 17 inches or longer in total length. They are known for their white, non-oily, Snapper-like taste. Even though they make for good table fare, most of the professional anglers practice catch and release fishing for conservation purposes.

It’s illegal to possess or kill Speckled Peacock Bass due to their low number in Florida.

Be sure to always check the latest updates on fishing regulations before you head out.

Peacock Bass Fishing in Florida is a Unique Experience

Over the past few years, fishing for Peacock Bass has become very popular, and we can totally understand why. Anglers who have targeted them before all agree on one thing – fishing for them is incredibly fun and memorable. Witnessing the acrobatic jumps of these aggressive fighters is something that attracts anglers to come back to Florida’s fishing grounds.

Have you ever fished for Peacock Bass in Florida? What is your favorite fishing spot? Let us know in the comments below!

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