THE INCREDIBLE PEACOCK BASS
One of the Most Challenging Freshwater sportfish in the World!
Since the mid 1980’s, an ever-increasing number of anglers (including two former United States presidents) traveled to the Amazon watershed of Brazil and Venezuela targeting the peacock bass, a freshwater species that people suggest as the most exciting game-fishing on earth! It was in the late 1950’s or early ‘60’s that the first accounts of peacock bass were told by the late Field and Stream editor A.J. McClane. His text described huge, hump-backed fish that had a resemblance to largemouth bass, but were much larger and were ornately colored. McClane referred to those fish as pavón, the local Venezuelan name, which loosely translated to “peacock” in English. Some believe that the “bass” name was either added to peacock by Florida Fish and Game team that were involved in the early stocking programs, or perhaps an American fishing tour operator, believing that not many “gringo” anglers would be interested in traveling to South America to catch a fish called pavón or tucunaré.
Actuality, the peacock bass is not a member of the bass family at all. It is just one of some 1,600 plus members of family of fish called cichlids. There are some striking similarities to the largemouth bass, such as basic body contour, cavernous mouth, ravenous appetite and a strong propensity to attack prey and fishing lures with a ferocity that is more reminiscent to much larger fish. While largemouth bass anglers revel at the fierce topwater strike, there is no comparison when it comes to the attack that peacock bass does on a lure, even the small size ones! One striking difference, immediately apparent is that the peacock bass is much more vividly colored in varying shades of green, blue, orange and gold.
A black circular “eye spot” – dramatically rimmed in fluorescent gold – at the base of the tail fin (see photo at left) is a common characteristic shared by all species of peacock bass. It is said that this “eye spot” resembles that found on the tail plume of the peacock fowl and perhaps this is the reason that South American anglers referred to this fish as pavón or peacock. It has been postulated that this eye spot is a defense mechanism to deceive larger fish species in search of a meal. Fish with these eye spots are much more likely to survive a bite to the false eye to its tail than it would to the anatomic eyes situated on its head – a targeted site by larger prey species. Another unique difference between peacock bass and their North American counterparts is that both female and male fish can reach trophy proportions. In largemouth bass, the female of the species grows largest.
IDENTIFYING THE PEACOCK BASS
During your peacock bass fishing adventure to Brazil with us you will likely catch three or four species of peacock bass. We will now introduce you to the various species you will likely identify during the course of your fishing trip.
BARRED PEACOCK BASS
The barred peacock bass, scientific name (cichla temensis), called Tucunaré Açú in Brazil, banded, striped, three bar or black barred peacock, is dusky green on the dorsal surface, blending to a golden or greenish yellow on its sides. It is characterized by three black vertical bars along each side, and black irregular patches situated behind the eye on the cheek (opercula). The presence of these cheek patches will almost always distinguish it from the butterfly peacock bass, of which certain variants of this species can often resemble the barred peacock. This species can grow in excess of 28 pounds.
SPECKLED PEACOCK BASS
The speckled peacock bass (cichla temensis), called tucunare paca in Brazil, is found in the Amazon River basin in the Rio Negro and Uatumã River drainages; Orinoco River basin in Venezuela and Colombia. This species possesses three dark vertical bars (becoming more distinct and defined with age), as well as four to six rows of white or pale yellow spots or broken lines, running in horizontal rows along the length of their bodies. Brazilian peacock bass expert Dieter Kelber states that the spawning male cichla temensis (refer to the barred peacock bass above with the bump on his head) does not demonstrate this speckling pattern.
BUTTERFLY PEACOCK BASS
The butterfly peacock bass (cichla orinocensis), also referred to as the Orinoco peacock bass, Tucunaré borboleta (Brazil), or pavon Orinoco or mariposa (Venezuela), can be distinguished from other peacock bass species by three black circular spots (called rosettes) along each side of the body. This fish is most commonly found in the black waters of Orinoco and Amazon River basin. They like to be near rocky and wood structure of slow flowing waters, as you will find throughout most Amazon tributaries. This species will grow up to 10 pounds, however most are between two and five pounds that are regularly caught by anglers.
YELLOW PEACOCK BASS
The yellow peacock bass (cichla monoculus), also known as tucunaré amarelo, popoca or botão is predominantly yellow with three black bars in each side of the body. The bars start from the base of the dorsal fins and ends at the middle of the lateral body. The black blotching on the opercula (cheek region) is not present in this species. Some of the fish have spots on the anal fins. When they live in deep or stained waters the yellow colors change to a dark brown. This species can attain weights of 6 to 8 pounds, but most on the Rio Negro drainage average 2 to 4 pounds. They are found in the Amazon, Araguaia and Tocantins rivers besides others.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE PEACOCK BASS
DID YOU KNOW?
One differentiating anatomical characteristic between male and female peacock bass is that male peacock bass develop a prominent hump (see image above), its purpose the source of much speculation. Theories suggest it is used in combat with other males and to attract females during spawning activity.
DID YOU KNOW?
Unlike largemouth bass, peacock bass will strike a topwater lure all day, even under bright, sunny skies. However, like the largemouth bass, early and late in the day are the prime times to target a trophy peacock bass on a topwater lures. Some Peacock bass anglers mix it up and cast a variety of lures during the day.
DID YOU KNOW?
A spawning male cichla temensis will not demonstrate the speckling pattern as seen above. You will not see this variety of the cichla temensis with a prominent nuchal hump (head bump). The example above and the ones with no spots are the same species (cichla temensis) in different phases of growth and spawning activity.