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): 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.
Butterfly peacock can often be found schooling in the fall and this should be a great time for some morning topwater bites. Anglers should watch for butterfly peacock breaking the surface then throw a Husky Jerk Bait, Heddon Torpedo, or small (3”) floating, gold or silver Rapala for some fast action. In the afternoon or if you lose the school, try switching to subsurface lures such as Rapalas, Rat’l Traps, and Pro Traps for continued success. If a cold front comes through, troll floating and suspending lures around bridges and structure to locate active schools then cast back into the school.
Largemouth bass fishing should improve as the water temperature cools off and they can also be found schooling in the morning. The same lures will catch butterfly peacock and largemouth bass and if anglers see some surface action, they should cast close to the school. If a largemouth doesn’t hit, then reel in quickly with some good rod action and a butterfly peacock may! Soft plastics like Bass Assassin, Flappin Shad, or Flukes in watermelon or salt and pepper are all effective largemouth bass baits this time of year. Live shiners are a top choice for butterfly peacock and largemouth bass no matter what time of year, especially for inexperienced anglers.
Wigglers or pieces of nightcrawler fished under a bobber are an excellent way to catch bluegill, redear sunfish, Mayan cichlid, and oscar in urban Miami-Dade canals. Small Rapalas, Roostertails, and Beetlespins are also effective lures for bream fishing. Anglers may want to try Tamiami (C-4), Snapper Creek (C-2), and Parkline (L-31W) canals for some great fall angling opportunities.
Anglers fishing for butterfly peacock should consider using minnow-imitating lures like Rapalas, Rebels and Torpedoes as well as green and yellow Roostertails late in the morning through the afternoon for some fast action. Live shiners are a very effective bait for largemouth bass and butterfly peacock no matter what time of day. Cool temps can slow the bite but consider trolling floating and suspending baits around structure and bridges to locate active fish then cast back into them. Butterfly peacock are plentiful in the southern Broward canals but they are just now showing up in Cypress Creek Canal (C-14). If we have a couple more mild winters, their numbers should continue to rise.
Cooling temperatures should improve the largemouth bass bite and make it a more pleasant time to fish. Rapalas in gold/black or silver/black fished early in the morning are a good bet for some fast action. If the bite slows down or you start fishing later in the day, you may want to try 8”-10” rubber worms in black or red shad, 4”-6” lizards in watermelon seed or cotton candy, or watermelon seed colored Flukes.
Many Broward waterways contain good bream populations and wigglers or crickets fished under a bobber is a great way to introduce kids to catching bluegill and redear sunfish as well as the non-native Mayan cichlid. Black, chartreuse, and white Beetle Spins and crappie jigs are also effective lures for bream and small bass. Cypress Creek Canal (C-14), Hillsboro (G-08) and the North New River Canal (G-15) are just a few of the great places available to anglers to wet a line.
Palm Beach County:
Largemouth bass action should improve as water temperatures cool. The bass will school up and anglers should be prepared to cast a minnow-imitating lure like a Rapala or Heddon Torpedo into the commotion for some fast action. There is a good but underutilized population of sunshine bass up in the Ida-Osborne chain-of-lakes and if we get some cool weather, the bite should heat up! Trolling a shad or shiner will help you locate the school, then carefully set out an anchor and use cut bait or live shad. Another method is to tie on a crappie jig, tip it with shrimp and drift with the wind until you find the school. Speck (black crappie) fishing should also heat up with the change in the seasons and Missouri minnows or 1/16 or 1/32 oz Beetle Spins in black and yellow or white and yellow, or white or chartreuse crappie jigs are effective baits. Look for specks in deep holes in local lakes and around fish attractors in the Ida-Osborne chain-of lakes. Native and exotic bream (particularly Mayan cichlid) can be caught on a variety of baits and as well as flies. Fly rod enthusiasts should do well using a popper and wiggler worms or night crawlers fished under a bobber with a long shank, fine wire hook is a tried and true method of traditional anglers. The butterfly peacock fishing has been heating up in the Ida-Osborne chain-of-lakes over the summer and the good catches should continue. Minnow imitating lures and live shiners are effective butterfly peacock baits. There have also been more reports coming in of catches of clown knifefish in the Delray Canal (C-15) and Ida-Osborne chain of lakes and many have been observed in the West Palm Beach Canal (C-51). Free-lining live shad or shiners is a top technique but some are also caught on topwater lures like Rapalas and Rebels. There are many waterbodies available to anglers for some fun fall action including the Boynton (C-16), West Palm Beach (C-51), Earman River (C-17), Loxahatchee Slough (C-18) and the extensive Ida-Osborne lake system.