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; a Canal Overview Map of the major canals is available, as well as a Canal and Infrastructure Map provided by the South Florida Water Management District .
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
TrophyCatch is FWC's citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger. The following TrophyCatch bass have been submitted from the various Metropolitan Southeast Florida Canals:
Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 6
Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 2
In October 2015, fish in six southeast Florida canals were stunned with electricity, netted, weighed, measured, and released unharmed back into the waterway from which they were collected. These six “core” canals (two in Palm Beach County, two in Broward County and two in Miami-Dade County) were selected to represent the urban fisheries in the metropolitan West Palm Beach – Miami area
The overall electrofishing catch rate of largemouth bass in these core canals was 25 fish over ten-inches-long every hour which is the average number of bass collected from these canals since since study was initiated in 1997. A total of 224 largemouth bass >10 inches were counted from six 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. This year the electrofishing catch rate of butterfly peacock larger than ten-inches-long in four Miami-Dade and Broward counties averaged 27 fish every hour. This is also the average number of butterfly peacock >10 inches collected over this 19 year period. A total of 164 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 32 fish over six-inches-long every hour which is also the average number collected annually from these core canals.
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 and Wildlife Laboratory in Boynton Beach predict that anglers will enjoy excellent catches of largemouth Bass, butterfly peacock, and bream this quarter.
The 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 Tamiami Canal (C-4) in Miami-Dade County, Cypress Creek Canal (C-14) in Broward County, and West Palm Beach (C-51), and Boynton (C-16) canals in Palm Beach County.
- Some of the best canals for butterfly peacock were the Tamiami (C-4), and Cutler Drain (C-100) canals.
- The best canals for largemouth bass and butterfly peacock combined were Snake Creek (C-9) in Miami-Dade County, and Boynton (C-16) and West Palm Beach (C-51) in Palm Beach County. Catches of butterfly peacock in north Broward and Palm Beach counties are increasing. For the first time since the 2010 winterkill, butterfly peacock >10 inches were collected from the Cypress Creek Canal. A large number of juvenile peacocks were collected suggesting a quick rebound if we have as mild of winter as predicted. The number of peacock bass in the Boynton, West Palm Beach, and associated canals have also rebounded and are back to historical numbers.
- One canal yielded largemouth bass over six pounds, one canal yielded largemouth bass over five pounds, and two canals yielded bass over four pounds. The largest largemouth bass collected this year weighed 6.4 pounds and measured 22.4 inches.
- The highest number of largemouth bass were shocked in the West Palm Beach Canal, and the Cutler Drain (C-100) Canal had the most butterfly peacock.
- Four canals yielded butterfly peacock over four pounds, four canals yielded five pound butterfly peacock, and one canal yielded a butterfly peacock over six pounds. The largest butterfly peacock collected this year weighed 6.7 pounds and measured 21.7 inches.
- Some of the best bream canals were the Tamiami (C-4) canal in Miami-Dade County, Cypress Creek (C-14) in Broward Canal, and West Palm Beach (C-51) and Boynton (C-16) 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 (C-4), Snake Creek (C-9), and Cypress Creek (C-14) canals.
January and February are the peak spawning months for largemouth bass in south Florida, and now is the best opportunity for anglers to catch big bass. Butterfly peacock fishing continues to be excellent in Miami-Dade County canals except for temporary slowdowns associated with cold fronts. We strongly encourage anglers to practice catch and release of sportfish at all times but especially for largemouth bass during this season.
Small, minnow imitating lures by Rapala, Matzuo, Yo Zuri, and Rebel are good baits for largemouth bass in Miami-Dade waters. Weedless Texas rigged plastic worms in colors including pumpkinseed, junebug, and watermelon are also an effective tactic for Florida’s most popular sportfish. 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.
Small, minnow imitating lures used for bass are also good choices for anglers targeting butterfly peacock, south Florida’s premier sportfish. The fire tiger and chartreuse color patterns are a dependable color whatever your choice of lure. One tactic for catching butterfly peacock during these cooler months is to troll at a fast pace (5-8 mph) to cover a lot of water and when you locate a school, stop and cast into it. Bridges often hold butterfly peacock during the winter months so don’t overlook them! As the water temperature rises in February or March, the butterfly peacock will begin to spawn. This is an excellent time to sight fish for large fish in shallow water. Tossing just about any kind of lure or jig onto a guarded nest will trigger a response. You just have to keep trying until the fish actually takes the bait. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission strongly encourages the catch and release of butterfly peacock to ensure the continued success of this very popular sportfish.
Bluegill, redear sunfish, Mayan cichlid, Oscars, and jaguar guapotes can be caught using wigglers, crickets, a piece of night crawler, or a bread ball fished under a bobber, or with only a sinker 3 feet above the hook. Small poppers, and beetle spins are also popular baits. Aerojet Canal and Parkline Canal are good angling destinations for this time of year.
Largemouth bass 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 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 Hillsboro, Griffin Road and Cypress Creek canals, or local parks such as Plantation Heritage, Markham, Brian Piccolo, Tradewinds, and Quiet Waters are good areas to try for bass and bream.
Fishing for butterfly peacock in south Broward waterbodies should be good except for a day or two after cold fronts pass through. Small, live shiners are always a top butterfly peacock bait. Butterfly peacock are not as abundant as they were prior to the 2010 cold snap but anglers are catching them from canals in the Weston and Miramar area. The FWC strongly encourages the catch and release of butterfly peacock to help them rebound from the effects of this historically cold winter.
Palm Beach County:
A live shiner is always a good choice for largemouth bass, particularly while the water temperatures stay cool. Try fishing topwater lures right on the surface or speed up your retrieve to make them go sub-surface until you find a pattern that works. 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 junebug are excellent choices. Also crank baits such as Yo Zuri’s Rattlin Vibe and Rattle Traps in natural colors such as blue and black chrome, or shad colored fished around culverts with moving water are good bets for some fast action.
The butterfly peacock in the Ida-Osborne chain-of-lakes particularly Lake Ida and associated canals including the Delray Beach Canal (C-15) are doing well. Live shiners and minnow imitating lures are good bets for peacocks and you might even catch the very unusual appearing clown knifefish.
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 441 Canal (E-1), West Palm Beach Canal (C-51), Earman River (C-17), and Delray Beach (C-15) canals are places anglers should give a try.