Accessing Florida's Butterfly Peacock Bass and other fisheries
Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties:
The man-made canals of coastal southeast Florida are part of an extensive, interconnecting network of canals that were primarily constructed in the early 1900's for drainage, flood protection, and water storage purposes. The freshwater canals in the southern section (Cypress Creek Canal and south) are mostly box-cut into a coral rock substrate, more than 10 feet deep with little littoral zone, and have much subsurface water flowing into them. The amount of groundwater flowing into some canals is sufficient enough to dramatically increase water clarity. Canals in the northern section (Hillsboro Canal and north) tend to be shallower, more bowl-shaped, have sugar-sand substrate, and little water groundwater intrusion. Fortunately, many of these man-made canals offer boat or shoreline access; aCanal Overview Map of the major canals is available. A series of Angler's Guides for the canals listed below provide boat ramp locations, directions, and fishing information for each site:
Local Fishing Guides include:
- Burke, John: 954-971-1915
- Fettes, Clark: 954-426-2094
- Harris, Doub: 954-435-0486
- Norling, Gregg: 954-979-4933
- Zaremba, Allen: 954-961-7512
Local Bait and Tackle Shops include:
- Perk's Bait & Tackle: 561-582-3133
- X Generation Custom Rods + Tackle: 561-296-7637
- Boynton Fisherman Supply: 561-736-0568
- Sandy Hook Bait & Tackle: 561-274-9300
- Everglades Pro-Bass Center: 954-434-4495
- Lloyd's Bait and Tackle: 954-401-5681
- Kendall Bait & Tackle Inc.: 305-670-3474
- The Fishing Line: 305-598-2444
- Marine Taxidermy of the Palm Beaches: 561-585-0830
- Steve's Marine Designs: 954-752-4360
- Don Winge: 941-353-9359
April is a peak month for butterfly peacock spawning and this should be a great time for anglers trying to catch one in shallow water areas. Depending on water clarity, angers can often sight-fish for spawning butterfly peacock. The spawning season provides anglers one of their best opportunities for catching a large butterfly peacock as they are highly aggressive when guarding their nests. Weedless bucktail jigs in bright colors such as orange head, chartreuse body are a good bet for a big peacock on a nest. Free-lining live shiners, or small, minnow imitating lures by Matzuo, YoZuri, and Rapala as good choices for anglers targeting south Florida’s premier sportfish. The fire tiger and chartreuse color patterns are a dependable color whatever your choice of lure. The Fish and Wildlife Commission strongly encourages the catch and release of butterfly peacock year around but more so during the spawning season to ensure the continued success of this very popular south Florida sportfish.
Weedless Texas rigged plastic worms in colors including pumpkinseed and watermelon are an effective tactic for catching largemouth bass in Miami-Dade waters. Live shiners are very effective bait for butterfly peacock and largemouth bass, and are also the bait of choice for snook and tarpon in urban canals. Wigglers, crickets or a piece of night crawler fished under a bobber, or with only a sinker 3 feet above the hook are excellent ways to catch bluegill, redear sunfish, Mayan cichlid, and oscar. Mayan cichlid are often seen bedding in shallow water next to the canal banks, and are easily caught on a variety of baits including wigglers and red worms, bread, small poppers, and beetle spins. Cutler Drain Canal, Tamiami, and Parkline canals are good angling destinations for this time of year.
Fishing for butterfly peacock in south Broward waterbodies should really pick up as water temperatures in urban canals rise and they begin to spawn. Bedding peacocks can often be sight-fished and anglers may want to try 1/8-1/4 oz Roostertails in green/yellow and green/orange or the ¼ oz Bomber Fat A in green with black and yellow spots for some fast action. Small, live shiners are always a top butterfly peacock bait. The FWC strongly encourages the catch and release of butterfly peacock to help them rebound from the effects of this historically cold winter.
Largemouth bass should be coming off the beds ready to feed and anglers are encouraged to try minnow imitating lures made by Rapala and Rebel in color patterns like black/gold, or silver/black for some fast action. Bream will be spawning during this time and anglers should have great fun catching them on light spinning gear. A long shank hook baited with a wiggler, red worm, piece of a night crawler, or cricket often results in some fast bream action. Good catches of bream can also be made using 1/32-1/16 oz crappie jigs with single or multiple tails, small Beetlespins, or Roostertails. These types of lures in white, green, and patterns with chartreuse are great bream bait colors.
The Griffin Road Canal or local parks such as Plantation Heritage, Markham, Brian Piccolo, and Quiet Waters are good areas to try for bass, peacock, and bream.
Palm Beach County: A live shiner is always a good choice for largemouth bass, particularly while the water temperatures stay cool. As the water temperatures rise, the bass will go deeper and plastic worms in the go-to colors such as red shad, black shad, watermelon seed, and June bug are excellent choices. Also crank baits such as YoZuri’s Rattlin Vibe and Rattle Traps in natural colors such as blue and black chrome, or shad colored fished deep around culverts with moving water are good bets for some fast action. Plastic lizards in natural colors and rigged weedless can also be effective this time of year, particularly if fished in the early morning or late afternoon. Cast them out, keep the rod tip up, and retrieve just fast enough to keep the lizard on the surface and hold on! Reports are coming in of butterfly peacock being caught in the Ida-Osborne chain of lakes and associated canals. They will be spawning and weedless bucktail jigs are good baits to use when sight fishing butterfly peacock on beds. They are starting to make a comeback after the 2010 winterkill so FWC strongly encourages catch and release during the spawning season to allow their population to increase. Native and exotic bream (particularly Mayan cichlid) are caught on a variety of baits such as pieces of night crawler, crickets or small tube jigs, crappie jigs, grub tails or Roostertail spinners. Fish these baits along rocky shorelines for some great freshwater action. For flyfishers, try a 4 or 5 weight rod and tie on a bumble bee popper. The Delray Canal (C-15) and the E-4 Canal system are two places anglers should give a try.
FWC's most recent sampling data remains a good way to pick among the many canals to be found in southeast Florida:
Between October and November 2012, fish in 9 southeast Florida canals were stunned with electricity, netted, weighed, measured, and released unharmed back into the waterway from which they were collected. The overall electrofishing catch rate of largemouth basswas 48 fish over ten-inches-long every hour, 50% higher than the 1997-2011 average of 32 fish/hour. This increase is due in large part to exceptionally good catches of bass in the West Palm Beach (C-51; 130 fish/hr), Hillsboro (G-08; 106 fish/hr) and Boynton Beach (C-16; 97 fish/hr) canals. A total of 635 largemouth bass >10 inches were counted from 9 canals.
The populations of butterfly peacock in several well-known-to-angler Miami-Dade canals are doing extremely well despite cold water temperatures in January 2010 and a great deal of fishing pressure, a testament to the good conservation ethic of catch and release practiced by many urban canal anglers for butterfly peacock and largemouth bass. The electrofishing catch rates of butterfly peacock larger than ten-inches-long in six Miami-Dade and Broward counties continue to increase from the 2010 winterkill, and in 2012 they averaged 28 fish every hour, up from 25 fish/hr in 2011 and 22 fish/hr in 2010. A total of 208 butterfly peacock >10 inches were counted and released from these canals.
The electrofishing catch rate of bream (bluegill, redear sunfish, Mayan cichlid, and jaguar guapote) was 27 fish over six-inches-long every hour which is lower than the 1997-2011 average of 37 fish/hr. This catch rate is expected to increase as Mayan cichlid continues to recover from cold water temperatures in 2010.
These results are from an annual electrofishing survey designed to monitor sportfish populations in urban canals in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Each canal is sampled for approximately eight hours and based on these findings, fisheries biologists at the Non-Native Fish Laboratory in Boca Raton predict that anglers will enjoy excellent catches of largemouth bass and butterfly peacock, and good catches of bream this quarter.
The recent survey produced some interesting facts:
--Southeast Florida urban canals produce good numbers of quality largemouth bass but have few “lunkers” over 6 pounds.
--Some of the best canals for largemouth bass were the Tamiami (C-4) and Parkline (L-31W) canals in Miami-Dade County, Hillsboro and Cypress Creek (C-14) canals in Broward County, and West Palm Beach, and Boynton canals in Palm Beach County.
--Some of the best canals for butterfly peacock were the Tamiami, Cutler Drain (C-100), Black Creek (C-1) and Parkline canals.
--The best canals for largemouth bass and butterfly peacock combined were Snake Creek (C-9), and Parkline canals in Miami-Dade County. Low catches of butterfly peacock in north Broward and Palm Beach counties were likely the result of low water temperature related kills experienced early in January 2010. These periodic kills were predicted and expected when butterfly peacock were originally stocked and a few consecutive mild winters will likely enable them to bounce back to historic levels.
--One canal yielded largemouth bass over six pounds, two canals yielded largemouth bass over five pounds, and six canals yielded bass over four pounds. The largest largemouth bass collected this year weighed 8.2 pounds and measured 22.1 inches.
--The highest number of largemouth bass were shocked in the West Palm Beach Canal, and the Tamiami Canal had the most butterfly peacock.
--Three canals yielded butterfly peacock over five pounds, and three canals yielded four pound butterfly peacock. The largest butterfly peacock collected this year weighed 5.2 pounds and measured 20.0 inches.
--Some of the best bream canals were Snake Creek and Tamiami canals in Miami-Dade County, Cypress Creek and Hillsboro canals in Broward Canal, and West Palm Beach and Boynton canals in Palm Beach County.
--Snook and tarpon are found in many southeast Florida canals and the highest numbers of these sportfish were observed in the Tamiami, Snake Creek, and Black Creek canals, all in Miami-Dade County.
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