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Gamefish of the Amazon Basin

Amazon Gamefish Encyclopedia: A compendium of scientific and angling information for the fisherman - to help you better understand your quarry.

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Dorado and Yatorana

Freshwater dorado (Salminus brasilensis) are a migratory freshwater gamefish not to be confused with the saltwater dolphin fish or mahi mahi (which is also called dorado or 'el dorado' in Spanish-speaking countries). Physically, the freshwater dorado is best described as a golden salmon-like body with the jaws of a pit bull terrier. Although recently renamed, ichthyologists had appropriately given the southern species of dorado the Latin name, Salminus maxillosus. Salminus, meaning salmon-like, and maxillosus referring to the fish's immensely-powerful jaws. Dorado are hard-hitting, incredibly-strong, acrobatic fighters that attain weights in excess of 50-pounds. They are, in short, South America's hyped-up version of a 'tropical trout.' Dorado are commonly found throughout a massive watershed between southern Brazil/Bolivia and Northern Argentina. Although not really an Amazon species, they can be found in a few southerly Amazon bordering locales, thus making them worth mentioning here.

Conventional gear for big dorado is virtually the same as that described in the trophy peacock bass section, although a wire leader is essential. Dorado are usually not surface oriented fish, so medium jerk baits, Rattle Trap-type lures, spoons and jigs are most productive. Dorado are fished with an 8-9-weight fly rod and either a 200-grain, 24-foot sink tip line or a full floating line depending upon water conditions. A heavy steel leader is a must, as these fish will chew through mono like it is cotton candy! Dorado take a variety of streamers, sliders and even Atlantic salmon-style Bombers during ideal conditions (all on 4/0 heavy, long shank hooks). Northern Argentina, Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Bolivia have the strongest populations of dorado.

The bocón or yatorana (Holobrycon pesu) is a relative of the dorado. They are a migratory, fast water fish found throughout the Amazon basin. Bocón behave similarly to dorado when hooked, but do not reach the latter's size, so they can be fished on lighter tackle. 

Amazon gamefish species matrincha
Typically between 1 and 3 pounds in weight, some populations can reach 5 to 10 pounds. Depending on the region, large Brycons may also be called Mamori by the locals.

Characins - Characidae

Characidae comprise a large family within Characiformes, restricted to the tropics and subtropics of Africa, South and Central America. Recently, taxonomists have redivided the Order from 16 to 13 families.

Characins include a wide range of species such as piranhas, tetras, copeinas, tigerfish, trairas and payara. Most Characins that are considered gamefish have distinctive teeth. Many of the most popular aquarium fishes are also characins. They are mostly egg-scatterers. Many species breed in group spawnings, leaving the eggs and young behind to fend for themselves.

fly fishing for dorado
Dorado display brilliant golden coloration.
freshwater golden dorado
Their sharp teeth and
powerful jaws make wire leaders a must.
dorado on the fly
Flyfishing for big,
golden dorado in crystal clear waters is a fishing experience not be missed.
Amazon gamefish species dorado leaping out of the water
Dorado are acrobatic fighters and will fight powerfully on fly or conventional tackle.
Amazon gamefish species being dorado released after capture
Paul Reiss releasing a
Dorado after capture.

Yatorana, jump and fight like dorado and run in schools, so once you're into them the action is fast and furious.  This is all the fish you'd want to tangle with on light tackle.

Matrinchá (Brycon falcatus) are a close cousin to the bocón. This fish has an affinity for small baitfish and terrestrial insects and can be taken on small spoons, jigs, and jerk baits or small streamers and ant and beetle imitations in fast water (just like trout fishing). The matrinchã's range seems to be concentrated in the Brazilian Amazon.

Matrinchá are fierce fighters on light tackle. They strike baits at high speed and continue moving right through the drag. Within seconds they're out of the water and flying through the air.

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