Oscar: Astronotus ocellatus
Young fish have wavy white and orange markings on black background; body and fins of adults with olive blue-green and mustard colors, highlighting large dark blotches, and a bright red eyespot at base of upper caudal fin; stout more oval body shape than native bream; some have orange or red markings and all have a thick mucus coat on the body.
Most abundant in canals of water conservation areas and Everglades habitats of Collier, western Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Occurs throughout south Florida, but typically not as abundant as in marsh-related canals. Native range includes the Orinoco, La Plata, and Amazon river basins in South America.
Most successful in canals running through marsh habitats, although found in lesser numbers in coastal canals, ponds, and lakes in from central Florida southward.
Spawning Habitats: Spawning normally takes place on flat, solid surfaces when water temperatures warm to 82-91oF; female typically lays about 3,000 eggs and both parents occasionally seen guarding hundreds of young in shallow water along shorelines.
Feeding Habits: Feed primarily on small fish, insects, and crustaceans.
Age and Growth:
Two-pound fish are considered large. The IGFA record caught in Florida was an exceptional fish reported to weigh 3.5 lbs; oscars caught in the Everglades average 10 inches and 3/4th of a pound; biologists do not know how long oscars typically live.
Hard-fighting, panfish-type fishery; especially popular in water conservation areas of south Florida, where it ranks second in popularity only to largemouth bass; strikes a variety of baits including cut fish, cut shrimp, crickets, and worms; best artificial baits include small jigs tipped with cut bait and small spinnerbaits; flyfishing also productive; described as a boom and bust fishery since periodically experience major winterkills but when abundant, angler catch rates are exceptional; no bag or size limits.
White, flaky meat with good flavor.
State record: 2.34 pounds caught in Lake Okeechobee (see state records for updates).
Image Credit: Duane Raver, Jr.