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. 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): 3
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 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 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.
Miami-Dade County: Summer is a particularly good time for some fast butterfly peacock action and anglers are reporting better catches in terms of numbers and size from local canals than last year. Many of the butterfly peacock are off their beds and protecting young during this time. In this situation, most any lure you can drag past them will prompt a strike from one of these battlers. Live shiners are also a good bet for butterfly peacock and largemouth bass. There may be some butterfly peacock on beds and an effective way of catching them is to throw a weighted jig like a bucktail or a jig head with a plastic tail right on the bed. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission strongly encourages the catch and release of butterfly peacock year round to ensure the continued success of this very popular south Florida sportfish. In the heat of the summer, anglers wishing to try for largemouth bass will likely do best on topwater lures early in the morning or late in the afternoon. During the day, switch to a rubber worm, cast it into a shady spot under a tree, bridge, or ledge and fish it slowly.Wigglers or crickets fished under a bobber is an excellent way to catch bluegill, redear sunfish, Mayan cichlid, and oscar in urban Miami-Dade canals and a fun way to get kids started fishing. Small Beetlespins and Roostertails are also effective baits for catching bream. The Aerojet and Parkline canals are good bets for largemouth bass; Cutler Drain, and Tamiami canals for butterfly peacock, and the canals near the Speedway for bream.
Broward County: Largemouth bass fishing during these summer months is generally better (and more comfortable!) in the early morning or late afternoon. Topwater lures like Zara Spooks or Rapalas work well during these time periods. During the day, the hot temperatures will keep the bass down in deeper water and anglers need to use dark-colored worms in june bug, black shad, or red shad or shad-colored crank baits. Depending on the depth and current, you may need to add a little weight to get down to where the fish are.
We are receiving reports of a few butterfly peacock being caught in the Cypress Creek Canal system, a welcome sign that they are finally recovering from the 2010 winterkill. Peacocks should be off the bed and hungry and anglers may want to try small (3”) minnow imitating lures such as silver and blue or black and gold Rapalas to catch one of these scrappy fighters. Topwater lures such as Heddon’s Tiny Torpedo are good for early morning or late afternoon bites. Small shiners are always productive bait for butterfly peacock and largemouth bass. Butterfly peacock may also be guarding young during this time and it is especially important this year to immediately release any adults to increase the survival of the young. With a couple of mild winters in a row, anglers should be able to enjoy good catches of butterfly peacock throughout Broward County. Snook and tarpon can be found in the North New River (84 Canal) and South New River Canals and anglers may want to use 10-15# test line with a 20-30# test leader and either freeline or put a bobber 2-3 feet above a medium large shiner and fish around the spillways and bridges, particularly when the water is moving. Wigglers, red worms, crickets, or doughballs are excellent baits for catching bluegill, redear sunfish, Mayan cichlid and oscar in urban Broward County canals. A good set-up for bream is to tie on a #6 hook, add a small split shot a few inches above the hook, then add a bobber 2 or 3 feet above the hook and hang on! Any of the backyard or county park lakes in Broward County are a good destination for summer fishing fun.
Palm Beach County: Afternoon thunderstorms can provide some good largemouth bass action once the rain stops. Find water flowing into a canal from a culvert or smaller canal and try a rubber worm such as Culprit’s 8 inch worm or Reaction Innovation’s “flirt worm” in red shad, june bug, or watermelon seed colors. Many of the canals have little structure on the shoreline so look for areas like rip-rap around bridges, culverts, and overhanging trees that may concentrate fish. Butterfly peacock fishing has been on fire in the Lake Ida-Osborne chain of lakes and associated canals so anglers can fish for these popular sportfish without making the long drive to Miami!
Native and exotic bream (particularly Mayan cichlid and oscars) are caught on a variety of baits and nightcrawlers or wigglers are good bets for some great freshwater action. Anglers have lots of choices for destinations including the West Palm Beach Canal, Boynton Beach Canal, Lake Osborne (has excellent shoreline access), Lake Ida, and any local canal or pond with public access.