Where to Catch Them
Choosing the Right Destination
Fishing TV shows, fishing advertising and fishing product sales techniques are full of hype and hyperbole. This may not be too far removed from fishermen's own perceptions of the exaggeration jokingly associated with their sport, so it is often accepted with the proverbial grain of salt. It’s probably OK for selling magazines and promoting Saturday morning TV shows. A little bit of flimflam is probably harmless for such casual entertainment decisions, but when it comes to making decisions about trips costing thousands of dollars, we believe that it's a far more appropriate service to our clients for us to tell it like it is. So, we are pleased to provide this unexaggerated guide to where we fish for peacock bass, when and why.
The giant peacock bass, Cichla temensis, is the largest species of the genus Cichla and is the most important sportfish in lowlands Amazonia. Its natural range consists primarily of pulsative lowland rivers with extremely variable seasonal water levels and often widely spaced fish populations. These giants are found in Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia from the Rio Negro and Rio Orinoco drainages as well as blackwater tributaries of the Rio Madeira and Branco along with a few effluents of the Rio Solimoes and Amazonas. Unlike several other, smaller species that have been transplanted elsewhere, C. temensis has proven resistant to human manipulation. Efforts to introduce these huge predators into other regions have mostly failed, probably because of a great sensitivity to cold and variable temperatures. As a result, and in spite of its relatively widespread range, sportfishermen tend to concentrate their efforts in certain regions and specifically in certain rivers within those regions. Here's a look at where and when.
Some limitations are quickly evident. A combination of political and safety issues have made both Columbia and Venezuela less attractive destinations. We operate only in safe and friendly Brazil. Within the Brazilian Amazon basin, three types of peacock bass fisheries provide attractive and productive angling opportunities and each of them has its own characteristics and variables. In every case, performance is determined by the single most important factor in successful peacock bass fishing: water level. The variables are complex, but we can get a good idea of each region's differences by considering the main characteristics of the fisheries.
Rio Madeira Basin: The Madeira, like the Solimoes is a whitewater system, carrying suspended particulate matter from the Andes and is not itself a peacock bass fishery. However, many of its tributaries exclusively drain lowlands flooded forest (igapo). During high water, this submerged vascular plant material is steeped by the flood, like a vast tea bag, emitting tannic, fulvic and humic acids, making these rivers acidic blackwater systems. Lower Madeira tributaries such as the Igapo Acu and Matupiri provide perfect habitat for Cichla temensis, the giant peacock bass. These rivers are equally excellent for fly and conventional anglers. They are known for quantity, typically producing large numbers of peacock bass. There are good numbers of trophy sized fish in the mid to upper teens, and occassionally a big hulking 20+ pounder. This is the place to go if your goal is lots of action, no matter the fishing style. We concentrate on this region from late August through early-October, when water levels are generally perfect. The Rio Madeira basin represents a great balance between quantity and size and is a great place to start a serious peacock bass habit.
Rio Negro Basin: The most famous of all trophy peacock fisheries and the heart of the species' territory, this huge basin contains the world's largest peacock bass. With endless islands, archipelagoes, channels and productive tributaries, , such as the Araca, Urubaxi, Jufari, Cuini, Alegria, Arirara, Caures and Paduari, we fish this region from mid October until the beginning of March.
The deeply tannin-stained waters here are unique in their austere characteristics. Consequently quantity tends to be lower here, but size is the key. The Rio Negro basin contains the world’s largest peacock bass; with plenty of fish in double digits, fish well into the teens common, and monsters ranging from 20 pounds up to world record size lurking here. If a shot at a world record is your goal, then this is your fishery.
Rio Branco Basin: Like the Madeira, the Rio Branco itself is not a peacock sportfishery. However, some of its lightly stained blackwater tributaries, can produce great numbers of peacock bass. Although peacocks over 20 lbs. are rarely found here, the area is known for a good proportion of midsize fish.
The key to successfully fishing any of these regions is to be in the right place at the right time. Peacock fishing is simply at its best in dropping water conditions. Everything we do is geared to enabling us to effectively access peacock bass waters as they drop. Thankfully, the Amazon has a reasonably consistent seasonal progression of water levels that allows us to predict fairly well, where we'll be fishing and when. But, even though we can make complicated schedules, Nature still has the power to trump any human plans. So we stay mobile. Why? In the face of falling and rising waters, bureaucratic unpredictability and the demands of a mighty, untamed river system, our best strategy will always be to stay flexible and be prepared to move even faster than the changing waters.
For more information on where to fish for peacock bass, see our peacock bass fishing maps.