Florida offers a unique opportunity to catch a game fish species found nowhere else in the continental United States: peacock bass.
For many anglers, catching this novel species is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But for those who call the southern tip of Florida home, it’s just another day on the water.
Known for their vivid coloration and vicious strikes, peacock bass have become some of Florida’s most prized game fish. Most anglers would agree that they out-fight largemouth bass pound for pound.
Peacock bass are not native to Florida. However, officials brought this species here on purpose, unlike many invasive species that have found their way into the state’s waters. Now they’ve flourished in South Florida for decades.
What Are Peacock Bass?
Peacock bass are a family of fish native to the Amazon River and its tributaries in South America. The species that anglers catch in Florida are called butterfly peacock bass, and they commonly measure 16 to 20 inches and weigh 3 to 6 pounds.
These brightly colored predators were introduced into South Florida waters in 1984 to help combat invasive species like cichlids, oscars, and tilapia.
The inability of peacock bass to survive in cold conditions—temperatures below 60 degrees can be fatal to them—limits their ability to spread and become invasive themselves.
But they thrive in Southern Florida’s lakes, ponds, and especially in the urban canal system throughout Broward and Dade counties near Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Are There Peacock Bass in Orlando?
Anglers visiting the Orlando area to go to Disney World or for other reasons are often hopeful that they can catch peacock bass while in the city. But because peacock bass are tropical fish that require consistently warm conditions, they cannot survive in this part of the state.
As a result, there are no peacock bass in Northern Florida areas like Jacksonville or Tallahassee. Nor will you find peacock bass fishing opportunities near Central or Southwest Florida locations like Orlando or Tampa Bay.
The northernmost place to reliably catch peacock bass in Florida is Palm Beach County, about 2.5 hours southeast of Orlando. If you draw a line across South Florida, the Naples area on the western side also has some peacock bass available, as you’ll read below.
Can You Keep Peacock Bass?
Yes, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) allows anglers to keep two peacock bass per day. Only one of those can be 17 inches or longer.
Can You Eat Peacock Bass?
Yes, peacock bass have mild flavor that some anglers rate highly.
However, as with largemouth bass and other primarily sport species, many anglers prefer to release all peacock bass to help maintain this exciting fishery and also allow the species to continue to manage less-desirable invasive fish in South Florida.
How to Catch Peacock Bass
Peacock bass are aggressive predators, and they often strike lures with a reckless abandon that surprises anglers more accustomed to catching largemouth bass in pressured waters. Many lures that work for largemouths will also work for peacock bass.
That being said, you can leave your plastic worms at home. Peacock bass almost exclusively eat smaller fish, and the best bait of all is a live shiner or shad. They also frequently strike jerkbaits, crankbaits, topwater poppers, and “walk the dog” lures.
Most anglers catch peacock bass using medium-light spinning tackle and 8-pound line.
Fly fishing can be a lot of fun too, and peacock bass will strike minnow-imitating streamers and popper flies.
Focus on edges.
Peacock bass often use structures like bridges, culverts, rocks, ledges, and drop-offs as ambush points.
In canals, they commonly suspend along the near-vertical canal edges or hide in shady spots waiting to grab passing baitfish.
The best time of year to catch peacock bass in Florida is summer. These are warm-weather fish, and they are most active between April and September.
Peacock bass rarely bite at night, but the morning and evening hours are great times to fish for them.
Where to Catch Peacock Bass
The range of Peacock Bass in Florida is quite restricted, but within the few counties at the southern tip of the state, anglers can catch these fish in a wide range of waterways.
If you’re out to catch peacock bass in South Florida, these are the best places to do so.
Broward & Miami-Dade County Canals
Built during the early 20th century for flood control, drainage, and water storage, the extensive urban canal system throughout Broward & Miami-Dade counties includes over 300 miles of waterways.
Peacock bass thrive in these channels, more so than any other place in Florida.
The canals are a bit like a labyrinth, including a maze of visible, above-ground canals and underground culverts that connect them.
The fishing is often fantastic—largemouth bass and other species are also common—but the canals can be confusing, to say the least.
Fortunately, the canal system is widely accessible from bridges, roads, and paths throughout both counties, and there are numerous places to wet a line. The canals pass through residential neighborhoods, between shopping centers, and below busy thoroughfares.
The FWC offers a very helpful Metropolitan Southeast Florida Canals information page, which includes individual maps and guides to many of the best canals.
One of the most productive canals for peacock bass fishing is the Black Creek Canal in southeastern Miami-Dade County. The Black Creek Canal has 9.3 miles of navigable water, with a canoe launch on SW 97th Avenue.
The Snapper Creek Canal is another excellent option, stretching 12.3 miles and connecting with several boat-accessible lateral canals and a 7-acre lake.
You’ll find a paved boat ramp on SW 97th Avenue and excellent bank fishing along Red Road Linear Park.
The canals generally have clear water, making sight fishing for peacock bass a fun option, especially for fly fishing. In addition, there’s usually a great topwater bite in the early morning and evening.
Packs of peacock bass often cruise shallow water or gather around distinct structures like bridges and drop-offs. They usually respond to bold-colored lures fished aggressively.
Miami Airport Lakes
Located immediately south of the Miami International Airport, the chain of artificial lakes known as the Miami Airport Lakes offer some of the best peacock bass fishing in Florida.
Anglers catch loads of 2- and 3-pound peacock bass here. Some are much bigger. A former state record weighing over 9 pounds came from this chain of lakes in the early 90s, and trophy-sized peacock bass are still a possibility.
The five lakes that make up this chain from east to west are Blue Lagoon Lake, Red-Shouldered Hawk Lake, Red-tailed Hawk Lake, Lake Joanne, and Lake Mahar.
Blue Lagoon Lake is the largest and most easily accessible of the chain.
Antonio Maceo Park provides a boat ramp on Blue Lagoon Lake (it’s the only ramp on the Airport Lakes) which is the primary access point. This lake is linked directly to Lake Mahar via the Tamiami Canal.
The waters of the Miami Airport Lakes are deep and clear, with great fishing structures for peacock bass. Try casting around docks, piers, rip-rap, and bulkheads along the shoreline.
There are also ample opportunities to fish the Miami Airport Lakes from shore, though most access isn’t official.
Businesses and apartment complexes occupy much of the shoreline, but numerous boardwalks, sidewalks, and parking lots provide access.
A 669-acre public park in Fort Lauderdale, Markham Park provides some excellent opportunities to target both peacock bass and largemouth bass. Markham Park is located north of Alligator Alley at the western end of Fort Lauderdale, right at the edge of the Everglades.
Markham Park offers a few fishing options, including lake and canal fishing. The network of small lakes inside the park is great for paddling and has abundant bank access for anglers.
The western and southern boundaries of the park are right along the North New River Canal, which offers the best peacock bass fishing in the park. Walking trails along the bank provide great access, and areas throughout the canal can hold fish.
Two concrete boat ramps are located on the canal in Markham Park, with ample parking for vehicles and trailers. Camping is available in the park as well.
Anglers who launch in Markham Park can access many miles of navigable canals eastward into Fort Lauderdale and northward along the edge of the Everglades.
Cast minnow imitations under bridges and past culvert openings to tempt peacock bass.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to read our complete guide to fishing in the Everglades, covering peacock bass and much more.
Lake Osborne & Lake Ida
Two suburban lakes connected by a canal in Palm Beach County, Lake Osborne and Lake Ida are the northernmost lakes where you can reliably catch peacock bass.
Both lakes offer ample bank fishing access as well as boat launch facilities.
In addition to peacock bass, Lakes Osborne and Ida are home to native game fish like largemouth bass, bluegill, and redear sunfish, as well as exotics like clown knifefish and Mayan cichlid.
Lake Osborne is the larger of the two lakes at about 390 acres and is very easy to fish thanks to abundant parkland around its shoreline.
John Prince Park offers boat launch facilities, fishing piers, and walking paths along Osborne’s lakeshore.
The habitat in Lake Osborne includes a lot of healthy vegetation like willows, cattails, spikerush, and hydrilla, which provides cover for peacock bass and other species.
Live gold shiners are the preferred bait for both peacock and largemouth bass.
The northern end of Lake Osborne has lots of access from public parks, while the southern end is more developed. Casting around boat docks can be productive.
Lake Ida, located roughly 10 miles south near I-95, offers some great fishing opportunities too.
At 147 acres, this smaller lake has ample bank and boat access through Lake Ida Park West. The lake and its adjoining canals are perfect for kayak anglers.
Golden Gate Canals
Offering the best chances to catch peacock bass on the western side of Florida, the Golden Gate Canals are a network of freshwater channels that meander through the Golden Gate neighborhood in Naples.
Peacock bass thrive here alongside native game fish such as largemouth bass and black crappie. The canals are deep, clear, and warm enough to support a self-sustaining peacock bass population.
The best fishing tactics are similar to those proven effective in Miami’s canals. Peacocks commonly congregate around bridges and other obstructions and are also known to suspend along the canals’ steep edges.
Fly fishing with poppers and streamers is a popular way to target peacock bass in the Golden Gate Canals.
It’s always a good idea to have live bait as a backup. A live shiner under a float will draw strikes when peacocks refuse all other offerings.
Golden Gate Community Park provides the primary bank and boat access to the canals.
The Golden Gate Canals twist and turn through a primarily residential neighborhood, so there are few other places to fish the canals aside from informal access at bridge crossings.
Dead ends at the back of some of the smaller side canals are some of the best spots.
There’s great fishing here during March and April when the peacock bass are spawning, and the fish remain active throughout the summer.
Best Fishing in America contributor Rick Bach’s photo was taken on a fishing trip organized by BassOnline.
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