Peacock bass fishing in
the Brazilian Amazon with native guides. The peacock bass is surely
the greatest of all freshwater challenges.
'Blackwater' Peacock Bass
by Paul Reiss
peacock bass fishing peacock bass trip peacock
bass river peacock bass Brazil Amazon
After spending a week fishing
for peacock bass on a beautiful river in Amazonia, what could I do to follow
up? Simple, go fish another one! I spent my first week of October
exploring the headwaters of the Rio Matupiri. The fishing on the
was great, but a week later, I had to call the fishing on the Rio Caures
incredible. We caught some of the biggest peacocks I have ever seen.
After leaving the Matupiri, I headed off to Barcellos, to make my way to
the Rio Caures. (Pronounce it "cow-race".) Barcellos is an
attractive, prosperous river town known for it's importance in the worldwide
tropical fish trade. Yes, those beautiful aquarium fish we've all
seen in the pet shops come from many of the same waters we fish for
peacock bass. We even, on occasion, hook up with larger specimens
of some of the aquarium favorites, such as aruana (sometimes labeled as
arrowana) and collossoma. Quiet sections of river, late at night,
when probed with a spotlight, will often become a collecting area for dozens,
even hundreds of varieties of brilliantly colored aquarium jewels.
Just dipping a net into these waters will often yield beautiful specimens
of discus, tetras and other exotic fish.
One of the most exciting aspects of fishing for peacock
bass is the incredible intensity of the strike. Coupled with an angler's
high level of anticipation, it can often provoke surprising reactions.
When a large and powerful fish causes a ruckus while striking your bait,
the first reaction is often to yank it away, either in excitement or panic.
Peacock fishermen learn that the best plan is to relax, keep the lure moving,
speed it up a bit if it's missed, and set the hook when you feel the fish
tighten the line. Sounds great, but just try to keep your head when
some finned maniac pops your lure six feet into the air. I lose my
cool almost every time
My Fishing Buddy, Joe Fanelli
(left) and I hold up
That's why I was so pleased with myself when my
biggest fish of the trip came around. My partner and I had begun
fishing a very shallow and unlikely looking lagoon in late morning.
Things had gotten quiet and we weren't expecting too much from this spot.
Three casts into the lagoon, a fourteen pounder exploded all over my woodchopper.
I set the hook and squared myself to do battle. My partner began
reeling his lure in to give me room and to avoid any snafus. As he
cranked in the last few feet of line, an eight pounder nailed his bait
right next to the boat. So much for obstacle free fishing!
These guys were going to challenge both of us at the same time. After
a lot of "Uh Ohs" and "Watch Outs" (and even one or two "Oh Shits") we
managed to boat both ends of our doubleheader. Well, this unlikely
looking lagoon was going to come alive after all.
We fished our way to the end of the lagoon
where the water began to get really shallow, less than two feet deep in
places. We each caught several more nice peacocks along the way.
At the very end, I expected at best a small peacock or perhaps a trieda,
a bowfin-like denizen of the shallows. I switched over to a "zara
spook" in order to rest my weary arms and hands. It was tied onto
a Loomis fast-action, medium light baitcaster with a Calcutta 251 reel.
In order to maximize my lure "feel" and to easily walk the spook, I was
rigged with 20lb. test Fireline. The light rig with its relatively
slow retrieve was an effortless tool compared to slinging the heavy rods
and baits I had been using earlier.
I began to work my spook along the shoreline.
I had probed about one fourth of the way around the curved end of the lagoon
when a fish swirled behind my spook. I guess I was thinking small,
so I reacted calmly and actually followed my premeditated plan. I
increased the pace of the spook from a steady swish-a-swish, swish-a-swish
to a quicker swish-swish, swish-swish. A big vee rose from the surface,
curved around behind the spook and whacked it forward a good yard.
Surprisingly my head stayed attached, I stayed calm and cranked the lure's
speed up to a fast swic, swic, swic. A wall of water formed behind
the bait and I watched as a monster peacock inhaled my spook and ran.
I let my line tighten and then jammed the hooks home. It wasn't until
that moment that I realized just how big a fish I had.
The author and a beautiful
21pound peacock. Note the hump on top of the fish's head and the
Zara Spook hanging from his lip.
As soon as the fish felt the hooks, it took
off at an angle to the boat and quickly stripped 100 feet of line off my
relatively lightly set drag. The shallow water and the fairly featureless
round end of the lagoon gave me all the tactical advantages. There
was no real cover in reach for the big peacock, so I let it run and worked
it back and let it run again without concern for losing the fish.
I felt it would be a better strategy than to try to put pressure on him
and risk straightening the hooks on the Zara Spook. After half a
dozen runs the big fish tired enough so that we could slip him into the
net and bring him into the boat.
When I hoisted the big fellow up on my Bogagrip
scale, we all whistled at the reading of 21 pounds. A quick tape
measurement showed a length of 37 inches and a girth of 21? .
The fully developed hump on the fish's head told us that this was a big
male in spawning condition. At another time in the spawning cycle,
this fish could easily have carried up to 24 pounds on his frame with a
girth of 24 inches. What a beauty! We snapped off a few photos
and then lowered the big fish back into the water. The Bogagrip's
holding mechanism doesn't puncture the fish's jaw, so my trophy had nothing
worse than a sore spot on his lip to recover from. He finned for
a few moments and then, with a single flick of his broad tail he headed
back toward the bank he came from. Moments as exhilarating and satisfying
as this make lifelong memories. The image of the big peacock gracefully
leaving will stay in my mind for ever. Boy, was I going to brag when
we got back to camp!
As it turned out, there was a lot of bragging going
on that evening. It seems that our successful day was shared by all
our fellow anglers in the camp. The first few days of fishing the
Caures had been very good for almost everyone, but this day seemed to be
a peacock holiday. Every evening, when the boats return, we sit and relax
together at twilight enjoying appetizers and drinks. It's a chance
for the anglers to compare notes and socialize a bit before dinner.
This time, as the fishermen returned from their day's adventures, most
brought tales of catches of more than 30 fish per angler. There
was a 20 pounder, an 18 and a half, and several between 15 and 17 pounds.
I had been sure that I would be the only boaster. Well, at least
my 21 pounder squeezed by as the biggest of the day. It's a real
nice feeling when a whole camp of fisherpersons can spend the evening together,
basking in the glow of their successes.
partner with a twenty pounder.
The week on the Rio Caures continued as it had begun,
with great fishing on an almost daily basis. It seemed that the fish
had some sort of schedule of their own, turning on at one time on one day
and at a completely different time on another. On one day a certain
lagoon would produce twenty fish and on the next day none, but almost automatically,
another lagoon would take its place as the hot spot. The week continued
to produce huge fish including a 20 pounder for my fishing partner, Joe.
It was his biggest peacock ever.
We had great days fishing on the Caures and we had
great evenings back at camp too. Every night brought a wonderful
meal cooked and served by the camp's expert staff. The meals always
began with a unique and delicious soup and a fresh salad. Each dinner
featured several excellent main dishes, including steaks, pasta, chicken
and a wide sampling of the local fish. Meals ended with delicious
and unusual Brazilian desertsand were accompanied by Cokes, Pepsis, local
beers and imported wines. It's easy to forget that you're in the
middle of the jungle, hundreds of miles from the nearest city, when you
sit down to such a sumptuous meal every evening. Jungle life has it's perks!
No trip to the Amazon is complete without a spotlighting
adventure. Vast numbers of Amazon wildlife species are nocturnal.
A great way to see some of the rare and secretive creatures of the river
at night is to drift quietly in a fishing boat equipped with a high powered
spotlight. The light will attract many species of small, brilliantly
colored tropical fishes right to the boat. I find it amazing to be
able to dip a net into the river water and scoop up spectacular specimens
of discus as though you were netting in an aquarium. Some of the
more acrobatic species of fish will often jump right into the boat.
Shining the spotlight along the banks sometimes illuminates one of the
many terrestrial denizens of the river environment, such as tapirs, capybaras,
pacas, deer and if you are extremely lucky, one of the three species of
big cats native to the Amazon, the ocelot, puma and jaguar.
Playing the light along the surface of the waters will
always turn up specimens of the two more common native species of caiman.
The spectacled and black caiman, together with their smaller neotropical
relatives and the American alligator, form the family Alligatoridae.
Amazon reptiles feed mainly on fish, small mammals and birds, which they
capture primarily in the water. They are very rarely aggressive toward
humans, but the sheer size of larger specimens makes respectful caution
a good idea. But not for our rambunctious group! A little specimen
was quickly grabbed while the light held him mesmerized. This just
whetted the appetite of our Brazilian guides and a few of our more insane
fishermen. A few minutes later we entranced a six foot specimen with
our light. You need to catch these fellows from behind, making sure that
you clamp their jaws shut in the process. As our motley crew of mighty
hunters tried to sneak around behind this caiman in the shallow waters,
a thought blossomed somewhere in his reptilian brain and suggested that
this might be a good time to head for the hills. With a lunge and
a great splash, the caiman turned and scrambled right past his stalkers.
He didn't run far, however. Just a few feet up the bank, he buried
his head in a tangle of branches and like the proverbial ostrich, left
the rest of his body out in plain sight. Our intrepid reptile chasers
went splashing through shallows carrying the spotlight and the car battery
that powered it right up to our quarry's ineffective refuge. They
made short work of dragging it out and hauling it back to the boat.
After ferrying our captives back to camp for a photo session, we released
them on the shoreline. It took them a few moments to gather their
wits and go splashing off. I think they're still wondering what that
whole thing was all about.
spotlighting crew and their hapless prey.
When the fantastic week on the Caures came to a close, we motored our way
back to Barcellos to meet the charter flight returning us to Manaus.
The men and women in our group had such a great week together, that we
spent our day in Manaus as a group, sightseeing, dining and partying till
it was time to fly back to the states. I hated to see my October
in Amazonia come to a close after my great trip to the Matupiri
and the Caures, but I missed my family and it was, after all, time to head
home. Besides, I'll be back in Brazil again in February!
Guided peacock bass trips are available throughout most of
September, October, November, December, January and
February. For more information on booking a Peacock Bass
fishing adventure, contact:
Paul Reiss at (866) 832-2987
E-Mail Paul Reiss, or:
Garry Reiss at (866) 431-1668
E-Mail Garry Reiss
Copyright © 1997 Paul Reiss
All Rights Reserved