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): 1
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: 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 casting small, minnow imitating lures by Matzuo, Yo Zuri, and Rapala are 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 especially as the water temperatures rise. 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. Tamiami, Snake Creek and Parkline canals are good angling destinations for this time of year.
Broward County: 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 year around to help protect this valuable sportfish.
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. Switch from topwater lures early in the morning to plastic worms fished in shady areas as the day progresses. 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, Tradewinds 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 Yo Zuri’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 frogs or 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 bait on the surface and hold on! Good catches of butterfly peacock, both in numbers and size, are occurring 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. Small shiners or shad (2-3 inches) are always a good bait for butterfly peacock and largemouth bass, and the unusual appearing clown knifefish. Clown knifefish seem to prefer shady areas under cover such as fallen trees or by the pilings under bridges. Freelining the live bait is a productive technique. 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 canals around Lake Ida, Delray Canal (C-15), West Palm Beach Canal (C-51) and the E-4 Canal system are places anglers should give a try.