Fishing for peacock bass
in Brazil brings anglers into intimate contact with the incredible natural
world of the Amazon basin.
by Paul Reiss
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Fishing in Amazonia is much
more than just fighting incredibly aggressive, tackle busting fish.
My good friend Joe Fanelli, an American scientist, had come to Brazil this
fall to fulfill his dream of catching big peacock bass and he had been
doing just that for almost a week. Like most other visitors to this
fantastic place, he quickly became fascinated by the flora, the fauna and
most of all, the native river people, the "caboclos". Joe had been
trying, all week long, to make contact with a family of turtle hunters
working the lagoons just off the Rio Caures. There were about two
dozen individuals spread out over 50 miles of river, silently paddling
their dugout canoes from lagoon to lagoon, checking their turtle lines
and traps. It seemed that this was the moment he would finally get
his chance. He had just spotted a pair of youngsters nearby
in the mouth of a lagoon, just downriver from our camp. Just as he
was about to raise his hand and point, he stopped in amazement. Joe
gaped in disbelief as the tiny dugout canoe with the two young boys in
it suddenly lurched forward in the water and raced past his fishing boat
at ridiculously high speed. As they passed Joe's boat and headed
into the main channel of the river, he saw a rope line stretched taut from
the little dugout to an unknown source of propulsion under the water.
He looked questioningly at his Brazilian guide, Normando, and Normando
looked back with a puzzled shrug and a surprised expression.
The young caboclo admires a big catfish held aloft
by his "benefactor", Normando
The Freshwater Dolphin
"Eu acho que e um boto" Normando whispered incredulously
in Portuguese. "I think it's a dolphin". Joe only understood
one word. "Boto" (pronounced bow-too) refers to the Amazon basin's
unique freshwater dolphins. Two species populate the Amazon river
system. The larger and more secretive variety is the true "boto"
(Inia geofrensis). This large (up to 8 foot long) mammal has
a most unusual face, an elongate snout and a pale pinkish color.
It is the stuff of legends through Amazonia, believed to seduce young women
and have mystical powers.
The specimen towing the young "caboclos" in their
canoe, was a gray dolphin (Sotalia fluvatilis), known as the "tucuxi"
(pronounced too-coo-she). They often follow fishermen, waiting for
a tired peacock bass to be released, making an easy meal for the dolphin.
They are very curious and very smart. Unlike just about any other
creature that lives in the Amazon jungle, no person ever eats, hunts or
hurts a dolphin. The mystery surrounding them and the people's respect
for their obvious intelligence has protected them better than any governmental
regulations ever could. Normando, with all his years of living and
working on the river had never seen anything like this. What was
going on here?
Without another word, Normando fired up the motor,
Joe hunkered down into his seat and they roared off in hot pursuit of the
canoe. As they pulled abreast of the alternately shouting and crying
youngsters, Normando quickly got the facts in a rapid-fire exchange with
the boys. Pointing and gesturing, he got Joe to crouch in the bow
and hold out a rope to the older of the two boys. Quickly, the two
boats were linked and Normando eased back on the throttle. As the
weird procession began to slow down, the guide slipped the motor into reverse
and began to bring everything to a halt. The increasing pressure
on the rope forced the dolphin to the surface and into plain view.
Joe could clearly see the juvenile gray dolphin with a fish harpoon tip
protruding from the ridge of flesh just before its tail.
The boys weren't crying out of fear, they were crying
because, somehow, they had broken the taboo and had harpooned a dolphin!
Normando used the fishing boat to guide the dolphin
toward a shallow sandy bank. Within seconds, the boys, followed by
Normando and finally by Joe, were in the water and struggling to restrain
the panicked creature. It thrashed violently in an undulating motion
until the first set of hands reached it and it calmed, perhaps somehow
sensing that this was not to be its end or perhaps resigning itself to
just that fate.
The "boto" is carefully freed
With the dolphin safely immobilized on the
bank, the older boy used his machete to carefully remove the barbed tip
of the harpoon while the younger boy untangled a netlike apparatus from
its nose. Quickly, the dolphin was freed, and regaining its composure
it gracefully swam off into deeper water, none the worse for wear.
As the tension evaporated, the four rescuers, simultaneously, sat back
against the bank in the shallow, tepid water and breathed a sigh of relief.
What an unlikely foursome they made. Two young native "caboclos",
a crusty Brazilian fishing guide and a biochemist from California, sharing
an intense "real life" experience. Joe certainly got a lot closer
than he had ever expected.
While they relaxed, Normando coaxed the story out
of the boys. The younger boy, only ten years old had been entrusted
by his father to help his fifteen year old brother tend to the turtle lines.
In some way, still not explained, the dolphin, perhaps out of curiosity,
perhaps accidentally, either stole or became entangled in the boys' father's
turtle trap. The thought of losing the precious device, on which
their livelihood depended and which had been entrusted to them by their
father, caused the older boy to instinctively let fly with his harpoon.
By the time the reality of how they had compounded their troubles sunk
in, the boys were flying hell-bent downriver behind a panic stricken, four-foot
Within a few minutes, the older boy's tears turned
to laughter as he began to do what it seems all older brothers everywhere
do to their younger siblings. He began to tease him mercilessly,
bringing fresh tears to the youngsters eyes. Soon they were wrestling
in the warm water and then both were laughing, probably with relief.
They settled down and talked a while, swapping river information and admiring
a big catfish held aloft by Normando. Then they thanked Normando
and Joe and as quickly as that, the incredible experience was over.
The ropes were untied and the boys paddled away.
The river people travel with house and hearth
loaded onto their boats
'Caboclos' - The River People
Although dolphin are ubiquitous throughout the areas
we fish for peacock bass, caboclos are not. Typically, these native
Brazilian river people live in small riverfront villages within a few days
boat travel of a larger town or dependable source of supplies. They
settle in areas away from the floodplains so that they are not driven out
by the rising waters of the rainy season. For anglers to be assured
of successful peacock bass fishing, however, requires that camps be located
far upriver, generally well out of practical reach of the slow, creaky
boats of the caboclos. This group was different however.
The turtle hunters set out from the big river town
of Barcellos (about 6,000 pop.) every year at the end of the rainy season,
while the waters are still high enough to allow their houseboats to pass.
They head far upriver to their traditional turtle hunting grounds.
The journey upriver takes over a month for the ponderous diesel powered
boats. When the family reaches their destination, they anchor their
boats and build their dry season camp.
They are committed to remain here until the rains
begin again to refloat their boats and allow them to begin the long journey
to the high and dry, rainy season security of Barcellos. They depend
on a generous harvest of the local river turtles in order to earn enough
to weather the floods and resupply themselves for the next year.
They are a friendly people and quick to smile.
Given the opportunity, they will chat and laugh and tell you everything
you ever wanted to know about singing and dancing
and harvesting turtles. They are happy to share fruits or turtle
eggs or some
of the other bounty they collect on the river for a can of Coke, some old
fishing line or just some smiles and friendly nods. They are a fascinating
and enchanting adjunct to the Amazon experience.
The turtle hunter's dry season settlement
- For decades, caboclos have collected turtles without depleting their
numbers and without negatively impacting the delicate balance of river
ecosystems. Today, increasing demand for these gentle but tasty creatures
has driven prices high and sent hordes of new, professionally equipped,
turtle hunters into the rivers. The increased pressure has seriously
impacted their numbers and the Brazilian government has taken steps to
correct it, limiting catches and seasons on these reptiles.
The Curious Cayman
Each river has its own unique characteristics and
leaves its own set of memories. I travel to catch fish, and without
exception, a well planned trip allows me to go home having caught and released
scores of hard-fighting fish and several beautiful trophies. But,
somehow, there are always one or two experiences which implant themselves
in my memory as firmly as the onslaught of an 18 pound peacock. The
Rio Tapera is no exception. It is an interesting and different fishery
from most northern Amazon, black water rivers. First of all, it's
a clear-water system, descending southward through the rich jungles of
Roraima province to its juncture with the gigantic Rio Branco. It
twists and winds, hurrying for a stretch through narrow, tree covered jungle
channels then abruptly opening into wide, lazy sections, lined with silent,
placid lagoons. Just as quickly, it plunges back into convoluted
Our camp on the Rio Tapera was located on a low,
narrow point with a commanding view of a wide stretch of river on one side,
and a big, still lagoon on the other. The camp was staffed by a dozen
Brazilian employees who acted as guides, cooks and baby-sitters for the
eight anglers in their care. As part of the service they provided,
our laundry was collected and washed and dried daily. Believe it
or not, the camp had a gas powered washing machine. As luck would
have it, the machine went on the blink early in the week, forcing the young
girl who washed the clothes to do it the old-fashioned way, standing in
the river. At first this aroused everyone's curiosity, but after
the first day, the only watcher was a huge, ancient cayman, over sixteen
feet in length.
At first, he stayed over a hundred feet away, submerged,
with just his eyes blinking at the surface, keeping an eye on the curious
events taking place in his domain. By the next day he began to cruise
about 70 feet away. A day later he was circling the camp no more
than 50 feet away. It was far too close and we really liked the laundry
girl. That evening, several of the guides rigged a chicken onto a
shark hook, took a boat over to the cayman's haunts and quickly hooked
him. They tied the wire line onto the back of their boat and towed
the grizzled old monster through the lagoon, then hauled him downriver,
away from camp, and pulled the hook loose. The hope was that the
huge old reptile would learn some sort of lesson and head for more peaceful
The next morning the apparently unfazed leviathan
was back and cruising closer than ever. I'm not sure exactly what
lesson we taught him, but clearly, he had his own interpretation of our
meaning. That night the guides took their shark rig and hooked him
up again. This time they dragged him into shore. What an uproar!
At the end of the little peninsula which housed our camp was a gently sloping
point. The guides slid the boat onto the sandy shore and began dragging
the reluctant and less than happy cayman onto the bank. Amid much
shouting and pointing and posturing and plenty of advice from the entire
population of the camp, watching from atop the bluff, it was decided that
ropes would be looped around the creature's hips and neck. Cayman
may look slow and ponderous out of the water, but they are capable of running
over land at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, much faster than a human.
His hips were anchored to the boat, his neck to a tree and the shark line
tied to the crest of the bluff. It took the efforts of half a dozen
grown men, but our scaly friend was securely trussed up for the night.
Even so, I'll bet that nobody in the camp slept without cocking an ear
toward our unwilling, half ton guest, from time to time.
The huge, ancient cayman spent the night with
The next morning the cayman was towed across the
river, and using the ropes attached to his hips, tied to a tree on the
bank. All the other lines were removed and the apparently chastened
creature was left with about 30 feet of slack. There he stayed until
the week ended and our guides struck camp.
For decades cayman have been hunted for their skins
and meat, until their numbers dropped dramatically in Amazonia. Today,
both the black and spectacled cayman are protected in Brazil. I'm
convinced that the attitude of the camp staff was affected by this official
stance and helped protect the cayman's life. This huge and majestic
specimen had seen many, many years. I was very glad that we could
find a way to keep his unwelcome curiosity from causing his demise.
If he can only learn to be a little less interested in laundry girls, I'm
sure he'll continue to dominate his stretch of the river for many, many
years to come.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my trip to
the Rio Tapera, was the emergence of my 16 year old daughter, Jenny, as
an angler of the first order. I have visited many different rivers
in Brazil and have spent many, many weeks fishing, exploring and catching
big peacock bass but I had never before taken one of my children to the
Amazon with me. Jenny had enjoyed fishing since early childhood,
but not very often and not very intensely. Her perspective on the
sport appeared to me to be, "It's fun now and then but I'm not sure I really
care all that much about it". There are an awful lot of things on
the minds of teenage girls and I don't think that too many of them contain
the word fishing.
Last winter, Jenny had her schoolwork well in hand
and my planned trip just happened to coincide with the end of her semester
in high school, so I asked her if she'd like to come along. I explained
to her that we would be hundreds of miles from civilization, in the midst
of the largest wilderness in the world. The only other people we
would be likely to see would probably be Amazon Indians. We would
be living in the middle of the jungle habitat of the most diverse and unusual
animals in the world. I thought that I was warning her of all of
the possible caveats of jungle travel and I expected her to react with
concern or at the very least, uncertainty. Instead, the more I spoke,
the more her eyes lit up. "You want to do this, huh", I said and
she nodded so hard that her hair began waving. "Well, then start
packing" was all that I had left to say.
Packing for Brazil meant a little bit more than just
tossing a few pairs of shorts in a bag. First came all the personal
items; sunglasses, camera, sunblock, every medication you might ever need,
books (yes, she actually did homework in the jungle), shampoo, lotion and
on and on. Then came the vaccinations, a booster for all the ones
she had already had and then the gamut of U.S. Public Health Service recommendations.
Finally, the good stuff, the fishing tackle. The holiday season gave
me an excuse to load Jenny up with pertinent fishing gifts; a medium/light
Loomis pack rod, a smooth Shimano 2000 series reel, a tackle bag, and a
collection of lures and gadgets and angler's gizmos. The only thing
missing was a place to practice. The water in our pond was much too
hard in the cold northeastern January. Neither of us could wait for
the blast of tropical heat and toasting sunshine we were heading off to.
The powerful runs of peacock bass put Jenny's
strength to the test
The trip, the travel, the interesting new people, the
amazing jungle, all of these were exciting for Jenny, but nothing surprised
me as much as her reaction to her first peacock bass. Being "The
Dad", I of course took our first foray onto the waters as my opportunity
to shift into fishing lecture mode. I showed her how to rig up her
rod, tied on a woodchopper and launched into my "here's how you do it"
seminar. Luckily for me and my ego, a pugnacious five pounder quickly
battered my lure and took off running, splashing and jumping. When
the racket subsided and the fish was boated, I could see by her expression,
that Jenny was also hooked. Hooked on peacock bass. "Give me
that thing" she ordered, as she reached to take her rod back. A moment
later she was ripping her woodchopper through the water for all she was
Her first peacock was a twin of the one I had just
caught. With a shout of satisfaction she leaned into the fight and
finally boated a tired but beautifully colored fish. Her quest for
bigger and better bass was getting underway. As the day went on we
caught fish and talked and tried different tackle and techniques.
Jenny quickly got a feel for a variety of lures and retrieves and became
more and more proficient at identifying likely structure and accurately
casting to it. It seemed that the lack of practice wasn't going to
hold her back very long. As our first fishing day of the trip drew
to a close, I managed to catch a beautiful 17 pound peacock on a 1/2 ounce
bucktail jig. This was the biggest one Jenny had seen and the effect
on her was electric. "I'm going to a get a bigger one than that before
the week is over", she vowed and our fishing competition began.
As the week went on we traveled through incredibly
beautiful jungle waterways, caught fish in the sunshine of midday, in the
pouring rain, in lagoons and right in the river channel. We ate our
lunches on beautiful sandy beaches, on scenic bluffs overlooking the river
and in shady hollows. We bathed in the clear waters, swam with dolphins
and enjoyed an amazing week together in the wonderland that is the Amazon.
But that 17 pounder was still the biggest fish of the week. Jenny
had caught several fish between ten and twelve pounds and had averaged
20 to 30 fish a day, but I knew that she was still hoping for a "trophy"
peacock, a fish over 15 pounds.
On our second to last day, her chance finally came.
Our guide, Jose, had been probing some smaller lagoons with us and we had
caught several nice fish by 9:00 AM that morning. At the end of one
of the lagoons, a big pile of brush occluded a narrow little channel that
looked like it went nowhere, until we got right up to it. We could
see what appeared to be a sizable basin around a blind bend in the little
channel. We all hopped out of the boat and began wading in the shallow
water. Jose got out his machete and hacked a path through the brush
pile while Jenny and I dragged the boat along behind him. When the
wood had been cleared, we got back into the boat and poled through the
little channel. As we rounded the bend we saw a big, wide lagoon
with a myriad of tree studded arms and coves. We realized that no
other angler had ever fished this body of water before, not even the members
of our group. Anticipation ran high.
Getting set to head back downriver
The fish mobbed us! We hooked fish on almost every
cast, although landing them amid the dead trees was not always a sure thing.
What a blast! Finally, at the edge of a grove of trees, Jenny spotted
her big one. Her week of experience prepared her well. She
landed her "Red-fin" perfectly at the base of a big tree and within
seconds the big peacock struck. Jenny set the hook and quickly guided
the powerful fish's run away from the trees. As he tore off line,
heading across the lagoon, Jose flicked on the trolling motor and positioned
us well into the open water at the center of the lagoon. Jenny played
him perfectly and as he tired she worked him back to the boat. Jose
knew as well as I did, how much she wanted this big fish. As Jenny
guided the fish toward the boat, Jose readied the net, hoping to slip it
under him on the first pass, ensuring her trophy. Instead, I looked
on in horror as he missed, bumping the still strong fish with the end of
the net. The fish took off again with newfound force and seconds
later, Jenny's line went slack. As she reeled in her lure in silence
and lifted it out of the water, we could see the mangled hardware hanging
from her line. The big fish had completely straightened both of the
heavy treble hooks on her extra large "Red-fin". He had gained his
freedom with sheer strength and power and left Jenny sputtering with frustration.
Although we worked that lagoon with a vengeance for the next hour and caught
over 50 fish in there, the big fellow was not to be seen again.
That night we packed for the trip downriver to spend
the last night at our lower camp, prior to departure. Tomorrow would
be our last day of fishing.
Jenny's 17+ pound trophy peacock
The next morning, my friend Ron Carroll, my fishing role
model from Longview, Texas, joined us in our boat, so that his could be
used for hauling baggage. The three of us had fished together before
and enjoyed each other's company. We were quite comfortable
sharing the roomy flat bottomed boat and we fished and joked and chatted
our way downriver. Jenny was finally able to talk about the big fish
she had lost the day before and I realized that she was very satisfied
with all of her successes of the week. The lost trophy was not going to
be a lasting disappointment. She was, however, still fishing the
hell out of each lagoon we visited and by lunchtime had quietly outfished
both Ron and I. In the afternoon, suddenly and unexpectedly, Jenny
latched onto a monster peacock even bigger than yesterday's escapee.
Everything was right for success. Jenny had hooked
the fish on a jig, which helped assure a solid hookset and gave her confidence
that a tight line would maintain the hookup. She wasn't taking any
chances this time. She led the fish into open water and worked him
through two powerful, long runs, finally floating a really tired, finning
fish into the net. Jose let out an audible sigh of relief as he lifted
the huge fish into the boat. Jenny was beaming with an ear to ear
grin and I was more thrilled than if I had caught the fish myself.
Who can explain these things? Jenny's success weighed a shade over
17 pounds and was the biggest fish of the trip!
The experiences we shared that week will forever
be emblazoned in both our memories. Brazil has enchanted us both
and has given us common ground in our relationship with each other.
What's more, Jenny, now 17, is packing for her next trip. It
appears that the Amazon has created a new fishing fanatic, "Fishergirl"!
The Rio Marmelos lies 300 miles south of Manaus,
flowing northward to join the enormous Rio Madeira just south of Manicore.
To reach the fishing grounds on the Marmelos, we traveled several hours
upriver by fast fishing boat, passing the last of the caboclo villages
and then passing through the Pan'ra Indians (pronounced pon-ha) dry season
settlements. Our camp
was situated an hour upriver from the Indians. We focus on reaching
the best possible fishing waters and they lay well beyond the last human
habitation. After several days of exploring the upriver areas and
catching marvelous peacock bass, I thought we'd give the downriver areas
a try. In the back of my mind was the presence of the Indians and
the hope that I might be able to acquire one of their beautiful bows and
arrows. The downriver fishing was all right but not nearly as good
as the upriver waters. I asked my guide if he thought we could visit
Man, woman and child, the whole settlement
My Portuguese is reasonably adequate and I hoped
that my guide might be able to communicate with the Indians and then translate
into Portuguese so that I could understand. No such luck. He
said he had no idea about how to speak their language. "Well, let's
give it a try anyway", I responded in my slow Portuguese, "maybe we can
pantomime our way through a trade for a bow and arrow".
He grinned and we headed for the nearest group of
tiny palm frond shelters where we had seen several Indians earlier in the
day. As we reached the settlement and turned in toward shore, the
women in the group began to point and ululate in a loud sing-song manner.
In a moment several young men and one older man emerged form the jungle
and came to meet our boat. They were carrying bows and arrows.
All of a sudden, the beautiful bows and arrows looked a little less like
collectors items and an awful lot more like weapons. I began to wonder
just how wise an idea this little visit really was. But everybody
was smiling, so I smiled back and decided to trust in the better part of
human nature. The entire group descended on our boat the second we
hit shore. Laughing, smiling and pointing they began to chatter away
in that curious tongue of theirs. Their speech sounded like a convention
of turkey hunters practicing their turkey calls at maximum volume and maximum
speed. I couldn't make out varying sounds but the pitch of their
warbling seemed to move rapidly up and down the scales, in place of recognizable
syllables. Well, we sure weren't going to be able to communicate
in this language!
The crowd of natives parted as the older man, clad
in a natty looking sport shirt, made his way to our boat. The chattering
quickly quieted and the older gentleman cleared his throat and then said,
in pretty fair Portuguese, "voce entende portuguese? Eu falo um poco".
I responded with a big smile, "eu falo um poco tambem",
"I speak a little bit too". My guide groaned and complained that
the two of us were going to irreparably fracture a perfectly good language.
I quickly made him understand my interest in a bow and arrow and he smiled
and nodded and indicated that, yes, that could be done, but he was interested
in some fishing tackle. I wonder how strange he thought my interest
in his bow and arrows (which are used for fishing), when I sat in a boat
strewn with all of the latest in high tech fishing gear. But, I guess
that's what trading is all about. I asked him what he needed and
he replied, "iscas e anzols", lures and hooks. I opened my tackle
box and asked him to point at what he had in mind. In a few minutes
we had set aside several small Mepps spinners, a little crankbait and half
a dozen small hooks. He turned to the crowd and broke into a long
Pan'ra feed their families this way
He was joined by the women and for several moments a medley of inharmonious
turkey calls reverberated along the shore. Apparently something was
settled, because a moment later, one of the young men brought over his
bow and three arrows. I handed over the collection of light tackle
and the older man handed me the bow and arrows. I sat quietly admiring
it for a moment while the entire group remained absolutely silent.
It felt as though something else should be happening, now. I turned
to my trading partner and told him I didn't know how to use it, could he
show me. He broke into a huge grin, yanked me out of the boat and
clapped me on the back, "sim, sim, e muito facile". And the lesson
began amid a deafening cacophony of chattered comments, advice or who knows
what. I couldn't understand a word, but they all seemed to be having
such a good time that I just smiled and nodded and enjoyed the show.
When the group was satisfied that they had uttered every imaginable phrase
relating to the use of the bow and arrow, the older man clapped me on the
back a few more times and led me back to the boat. I guess the lesson
A good deal for both parties
As I sat down, I reached into my tackle bag and
handed him a spool of monofilament, which he graciously accepted.
My guide backed us out into the river and with lots of waving and another
incredible burst of noise, we parted. I think we each felt
we had made the greatest deal since Manhattan Island. We stopped
there once more, later in the week with a gift of bagged rice, sugar and
salt. It made the deal feel that much better.
You Can Eat the Stuff Too!
The hard-fighting suribim
Just about every fish we catch on the Amazon
is safely released to fight again, especially big peacock bass. No
one ever kills a peacock of any size. Great care is taken in releasing
them, helping them to recover fully and be safe from predation by dolphins
or piranha. Often, however, small butterfly peacocks or fish of other
types are brought to the dinner table. Most of them are simply delicious,
some are better than any other seafood you'll ever taste.
Many of my trips to Brazil are with River
Plate Anglers Amazon Outfitters. They take great care to provide
an excellent menu, both satisfying and familiar to American fishermen,
including steaks and pasta and chicken, etc. They also prepare, for
those interested in new culinary experiences, a variety of fresh fish caught
by the guests or the staff. The most common, of course, is peacock
bass. It is delicious and is prepared in a variety of ways, some
familiar and some exotic. With its white, flaky flesh and mild flavor,
broiled or baked or fried or poached, it is a favorite of even the most
timid of palates. Served as an appetizer with tangy sauces when the
anglers return from fishing, you quickly forget just how much you're eating.
Served fried, piranha are a taste treat. They
can be caught nearly anywhere, sort of like sunfish here, and the staff
is happy to prepare them for you, whether you catch them or ask the staff
to. They have very fine, white flesh and a rich taste. You
might be surprised to realize that although piranha don't really eat people
(except in extremely rare and extremely unusual circumstances), people
sure do eat piranha in great numbers.
65 pounds of catfish steaks on the hoof
Less common, but very interesting are a variety
of other species including; matrincha, leporinus and stingray. Common
in Amazonia, the "raya" (pronounced hai-ya), is a freshwater version of
the common saltwater stingray. Trapped in freshwater, geologic epochs
ago when the Amazon basin was formed from a saltwater sea, the ray adapted
to life in the river system. Although rarely taken with rod and reel,
they are easily harpooned in shallow lagoons and make a memorable culinary
The catfish, ah, the catfish. If you like
the farm-raised fillets we get in the states, the taste of fresh Amazonian
catfish will bowl you over. A commonly caught variety, the suribim,
is a terrific fighter, readily hits subsurface lures, fights like a demon
and looks like it has been painted with hieroglyphic characters.
And it tastes terrific. Milder than our domestic catfish, with a
firm white flesh, it is truly delicious fresh from the river. The
red-top catfish, or "pirarara", is a rarer treat. Usually very large,
often gigantic, up to hundreds of pounds, a pirarara will feed an entire
campful of people in style. The meat is served in large steaks and
is a sumptuous meal, richer and more flavorful than the suribim.
It's a good thing fish like this isn't available at home, because I would
soon be bigger than the biggest pirarara.
The fruit-eating delicious giant "tambaqui"
I've saved the best for last. The strange,
but unbelievably delicious, "tambaqui" (tom-bock-key). The "tambaqui"
(colossoma macropomum) is the largest species of fruit-eating characin.
A large fish, it resembles a thick-set, enlarged version of a freshwater
drum. Inside its thick head resides the strangest set of teeth imaginable
in a fish. They look like nothing so much as a set of human dentures.
The huge muscles of its head and neck driving the big molars allow it to
crush and chew its diet of fruit and seeds. Tambaqui wait beneath
trees overhanging the water and feast on the dropped fruits. Although
rarely taken on hook and line, a patient angler on a recent trip managed
to hook and land a forty pound specimen on a Brazil nut! More commonly
they are taken by harpoon while feeding on the surface.
The tambaqui is the best tasting fish I have ever
eaten, bar none. It is typically grilled, its large ribs making generous
individual servings. With its firm fleshy meat and a taste like light,
mild pork, it is a wonderful treat. Even if you aren't lucky enough
to come across one on a fishing trip and enjoy it fresh from the river,
all of the better restaurants in Manaus will offer very, very good tambaqui
dinners. This is a meal you shouldn't miss.
A TRIP FOR AMAZON PEACOCK BASS
Guided peacock bass trips are
available throughout most of August, September, October, January, February
Peacock bass fishing success is dependent on selecting the
right location at the appropriate season. You must be able to depend
on your outfitter to ensure that you'll be traveling during a productive
period, with the right water levels, and configuration of the prospective
fishery. Many programs bring anglers to fixed camps which cannot
adjust to changing conditions and water levels, or they house them on large
houseboats in situations where they cannot access the shallow headwaters,
leaving fishermen far from productive waters. When the fishing is
good, anglers relax and are able to enjoy the fantastic surroundings and
immerse themselves in the experience. The flexibility of movable
camps assures that anglers will have access to waters which enable fishing
success and wonderful experiences of jungle life.
For more information on booking a Peacock Bass fishing adventure,
contact us, Toll-free:
Paul Reiss at (866) 832-2987
E-Mail Paul Reiss, or:
Garry Reiss at (866) 431-1668
E-Mail Garry Reiss
Copyright © 1998 by Paul Reiss
All Rights Reserved
Photo Credits: Paul Reiss