When water temperatures reach hot summer levels, South Florida’s Butterfly peacocks flood the shallows in order to spawn. These brightly-colored Cichlids are easy to locate. They are vulnerable to shorebound anglers which makes for several months of exciting fly fishing. “Spawner fishing” may seem disruptive but on the contrary, Butterfly peacocks are hardy and if handled carefully, will return immediately to the task at hand. According to non-native fisheries biologist Paul Shaffland, future populations don’t suffer in the process.
Since this is sight fishing, anglers have a chance to pursue larger-than-average fish. Axiomatically, the first rule of the game is to find a waiting prize. You can locate trophy fish by simply walking the canal banks and scanning the near-shore shallows. While searching, pay close attention to flat, gravelly bottom in two to three feet of water. Once you find stationary fish, you can begin the aggravation process. Butterfly peacocks of both sexes guard the spawning area. Consequently, either large females or smaller males may attempt to remove an offending fly from the bed. Pick the individual fish you want and stick with it. In the world of spawner fishing, persistence pays off.
Incidentally, this is the time for angler restraint. Simply allowing a weighted, diaphanous fly to drop is all it takes in order to create interest. At first, most peacocks will merely attempt to “blow” the fly from the bed but if the angler repeatedly lifts his offering and allows it to sink, the fish’s annoyance will soon escalate to downright aggression.
Anglers who intend to fish for spawning peacocks should use heavy tippets from twelve and twenty-pound test and carry a wet net and camera with them to the water. Once you hook-up, work quickly and don’t exhaust the fish. After all, a few photos and the memory of releasing one of the world’s great freshwater gamefish are worth its weight in South Florida Gold.
LANDCAPTAIN FISHING REPORT: May 15-31
Plenty of baby tarpon in a few select locations in the southern Everglades; snook fishing however, remains marginal due to extremely low water conditions.
Further north along Alligator Alley, the largemouth bass fishing is spectacular if you know where to go. The fish average slightly over a pound but are numerous. Still, an occasional four-pounder livens things up and yes, it’s all topwater bug fishing.
In town, the grass carp are still at it while peacock fishing continues to heat-up. A few large tarpon are also showing-up in the suburbs. Flyfishing for mullet in the South Fork of the Middle River is improving. Dozen-fish evenings should soon become commonplace.
Fred Mussler of Pompano Beach landed four nice peacocks during an afternoon trip in mid-May. Glenda Kelley from the IGFA and husband, Pat decked eleven on May fourteenth. Later that same week, “Cigar Fred” enjoyed his first experience with an Everglades tarpon. George and K. C. Smith had a half-dozen peacocks on a half-day trip on May 21. Dave and Susan Sylstra of Fair Oaks, CA released ten peacocks and two grass carp to fifteen pounds on May 22. Texan Kelly Watson caught a half-dozen peacocks and sixty largemouths on the 23d.
NOTE: Whenever I update this report, (which should be approximately every two weeks), I’ll be happy to answer a few Landcaptain flyfishing questions.