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
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. 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. Live shiners are always a good bet for largemouth bass and butterfly peacock. 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. 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.
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.