Peacock Bass Characteristics
Peacock Bass (Cichla sp.): 'Peacock bass' is a generalized name for a group of large bass-like gamefish native to an extensive tropical range in South America. They are not a true bass, but belong to a genus within the family Cichlidae. (For that matter,the largemouth and smallmouth bass found in North American waters are not bass either - they're sunfish.) Cichlids are a diverse family of tropical fishes found throughout Africa and South America. All peacock bass species are tropical fishes and thus temperature-sensitive, although several smaller species have been successfully introduced in sub-tropical areas from Panama to Hawaii, with transplants swimming in many of the freshwater irrigation channels in Miami and Dade County, Florida. There are significant color and pattern variations within many of the species and there is much confusion about common and local names. Until 2006, only five separate species of peacock bass were recognized A new revision of the peacock bass' taxonomy in 2006 has added 10 additional recognized species to the group and greatly aided anglers's understanding of their identification. Peacock bass are called tucunaré in Brazil, while other Spanish speaking countries use the term pavón. For more detailed information, see our peacock bass species guide.
The species you’ll most likely encounter on our Blackwater Explorer yacht and Floating Bungalow trips.
The Giant peacock or “tucunaré” (Cichla temensis), also known as 'speckled', ‘three-barred’, ‘acu’ or ‘paca’ is the largest of all peacock bass species, reaching sizes of nearly 30 pounds. This is our primary target. Like all fishes, each successive age-group is smaller, thus fish size is typically described as a pyramid, with fish from 2 to 7 pounds most common. Anglers will encounter a smaller but significant number of fish ranging from 7 to 12 pounds. 12 to18-pound fish are less common, and 20+ pounders are considered the holy grail of peacock bass fishing. Cichla temensis has an unmistakable mottled black patch directly behind its eye. Body coloration and markings vary greatly as they move through their cyclical color and pattern changes (see Peacock Bass Definition for an explanation of their complex color and pattern variation). Three vertical black bars are usually visible (intensity varies from fish to fish) beginning just behind the pectoral fin and ending underneath the soft portion of the dorsal fin. Often, horizontal white spots are present (running along the top two thirds of the fish's body). On rare occasions, there are neither black bars nor horizontal speckles, but the mottled patch directly behind the eye always remains a distinct characteristic. This species has not been successfully transplanted outside of the Amazon (except for Lake Guri, Venezuela) due to its greater temperature sensitivity.
The Butterfly peacock - This name has unfortunately caused great confusion among anglers. In the U.S., the name refers to a species introduced in south Florida (Cichla ocellaris). This smaller Florida transplanted species has variable markings, but consistently displays a single black ocellum (eye-spot) ahead of the usual one on the tail. It is a more cold-tolerant species from the mountain rivers of Guyana. It is not found where we fish for peacocks in the Brazilian lowlands.
In Brazil, Cichla orinocensis is the species called butterfly ( or borboleto — meaning butterfly) hence the great confusion. It has three black, ocellated spots (about the size of a half dollar depending on the size of the fish) running along its lateral line. Average “borboletos” run about 2 - 3 pounds and top out at about 12.
Cichla Monoculus, also known as the Red Bellied peacock is called “papoca” in Brazil. It exhibits three stubby black stripes down its sides, with a distinct ink-blot horizontal stripe pattern running above the bright red belly. The most beautifully colored of all peacocks, it is common in most of our fisheries.
Several other species of peacock bass may be encountered in our exploratory and variety species trips. All are smaller than the giant Cichla temensis and most have different behavior patterns. For more, detailed information, see our "Peacock Bass ID Guide". The guide willl allow you to identify exactly which species you are encountering.
Other Fishes - Although peacock bass are the main attraction in the Amazon lowlands, there are many other jungle species that are also impressive (regarding both physical beauty and fighting capabilities). Depending upon location, matrinchão, pacú, pirapitinga, jacundá, traida, apapá, tambaqui, pirarucú, piraiba, bicuda, piranha, aruanã, suribim, pirarara, trairao and pescada can be taken and enjoyed. See information about our Multi-species lodge for the ultimate in Amazon variety.
Enjoying the fish - Catching a peacock bass trophy is a memory that will stay with you forever. Photograph it, marvel at its beauty and enjoy the pleasure of feeling its power return as you resuscitate and release it. When you return to your yacht or camp, share the experience with your mates; feel free to exaggerate, maybe even lie and boast if you have to, because they'll probably do the same, but you won't be able to resist enjoying the afterglow of landing a big peacock. It's a true fisherman's must-have experience.
CATCH AND RELEASE -- To insure the best fishing possible, a strict catch and release policy is in effect in all of our operations. Peacock bass species are very robust fishes. Studies have shown that peacock bass have a very low mortality rate after capture, however there is a higher mortality rate on mishandled or carelessly released peacock bass (mainly due to dolphin and piranha predation). We strongly encourage all anglers to fully resuscitate fish and be patient while guides release them in a secure place near structure. Our guides are well trained in fish handling and care. If you want to photograph, measure, or weigh the fish, the guide will hand the fish to you using a device called a BogaGrip, which does not harm the fish. Please keep your hands out of their gills. Your understanding and cooperation will ensure that all our fisheries remain as productive as ever.