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The Angler's Guide to Payara

A guide to the different species known as payara, their taxonomy, biology & how to catch them.

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Other Payara—Family Cynodontidae

Payara: Roestes

The family consists of 5 genera, with only 13 species recognized. Hydrolycus armatus is prized by sports fishermen and grows the largest, over 1 meter and almost 40 pounds. Rhaphiodon can reach 650 mm but is lighter bodied, reaching about 8 pounds. Other genera rarely exceed 300 mm and include; Roestes, Cynodon and Gilbertolus.

ID Key: All species are recognizable as Cynodontidae by their oversized pectoral fins, oblique jaws and well-developed canines.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Varied within the family, however none of the 13 species possesses particulary noteworthy patterns or markings. Most have subtle dark patches, particularly on posterior fins. Mostly silvery fishes. Some coloration ranging from yellow to red on posterior fins. Adults: Ranging in size from over 1 meter (H. armatus) to less than 100mm (Gilbertolus alatus). Large canines
oblique jaws
compressed bodies
large pectoral fins
13 species in 5 genera.
2 subfamilies; Cynodontinae and Roestinae
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Venezuela. Argentina, Uruguay

River Basins: Amazon, Orinoco, Essequibo, Uruguay and Parana drainages.
Most species live in mid to surface waters in rivers, lakes and flooded forests. They are predatory and mostly piscivorous. The most prized angling quarry, the giant payara, (Hydrolycus armatus) is typically pursued in fast water rivers and sometimes in their more lentic outflows. English: Most are called payara when encountered by anglers.
Local: An enormous variety of names, regionally applied and usually descriptive of their dentition and flat body shapes.

Fishing Tactics

The only species generally targeted is Hydrolycus armatus. For information on catching them see our menu above for more information. Other Cynodontidae are generally encountered by anglers pursuing peacock bass, giant payara or other larger Amazon predators.

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