Peacock Facts - All about the Peacock Bass
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Colorful prowling peacock. Note the
large hump on the actively spawning male peacock.
| It was the late 1950's
or early '60's that the first accounts of peacock bass were
told by the late Field and Stream angling editor A.J.
McClane. His text and stories described huge, hump-backed
fish that had a resemblance to largemouth bass, but were much bigger
and were brightly colored. McClane referred to those
fish as pavon, the local Venezuelan name, which loosely
translated to peacock in English.
Some believe that the bass moniker
was either tackled on to peacock by Florida Fish and Game personnel
that were involved in the early stocking programs, or perhaps an
early American fishing tour operator, believing that not many "gringo" anglers
would be interested in fishing for a fish called pavon.
In actuality, the peacock bass is not a member
of the bass family at all. It is just one of the some 1,600 plus
members of the family of fish called cichlids. There
are some striking similarities to the largemouth bass however, such
as basic body contour, cavernous mouth, ravenous appetite and a strong
propensity to attack prey and fishing lures with a ferocity that
is more reminiscent of much larger fish. One striking difference,
immediately apparent to the first-time peacock bass angler,
is that this fish is much more vividly colored in varying shades
of green, blue, orange and gold.
"Don't let this ''Fancy Dan" appearance fool you, though" says
author, writer and National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame angler
Spence Petros of McHenry, Illinois. (www.spencepetros.com) "The peacock
bass is much
more aggressive than the largemouth, often pursuing lures or prey
larger than itself. Peacocks routinely break lines,
shatter rods and destroy tackle that would subdue the toughest largemouth.
peacock bass has evolved as a world class gamefish,
one that has learned to flourish in an environment that possesses
of vicious piranhas, giant Amazon catfish the
size of Volkswagens, 12-foot long armor scaled pirarucus, alligators
and an assortment
of other unsavory characters that possess fangs, stingers, toxins
and never-ending appetites."
While four distinct species of peacock bass (known as pavon in Venezuela
and Colombia or tucunare in Brazil and Peru) are generally recognized,
some fish biologists suggest that perhaps as many as 12 or more species
might actually exist throughout South America.
A black circular "eye spot" - dramatically rimmed in a
fluorescent gold - on the base of the tail fin is a common characteristic
shared by all the many subspecies of peacock bass. It is said that
this "eye spot" resembles that found on the tail plume
of the peacock fowl and perhaps this is the reason that South American
anglers called the fish pavon or peacock.
Another spawning male peacock bass,
specifically, a royal pavon. Note the prominent hump on its head. |
Another unique difference between peacock
bass and their North American counterparts is that the largest of the largemouth
species are always female, while either the male or female peacock
bass can grow to large portions. Actively breeding larger male peacock
bass possess a prominent hump on their head, its purpose the source
of much speculation, including: a natural weapon used as a battering
ram when engaged in battle with other males and to protect fry and
territory, a fat deposit that the male uses to nourish himself when
guarding fry and not actively feeding or a hormonal induced structure
that might make him more appealing to the females of the species.
The peacock pavon has three vertical
bars and black cheek blotches.
The peacock pavon or tucunare (cichla temensis), often called "grande," "acu" or "black
barred" peacock, is dusky green on the dorsal surface, blending
to a golden or greenish yellow on its sides. It is characterized
by three black vertical bars along each side, and black irregular
situated behind the eye on the cheek. This species can grow in
excess of 27 pounds. Some biologists believe it is the same subspecies
the speckled version. The IGFA currently groups them together for
|The Speckled Pavon
Note the white or pale yellow speckles
in addition to the three dark vertical bars of the speckled pavon.
The speckled pavon or tucunare (cichla
temensis), often called the "tiger,"
tigre" or "paca," is typically the darkest of the peacock
bass. This subspecies possesses three dark vertical bars, as well as
a series of white or pale yellow spots or broken lines, running in
horizontal rows along the length to their bodies. The world record
peacock bass - a 27 pound monster - was a speckled variety. Many experienced
peacock anglers believe that this is the most powerful of the subspecies.
|The Butterfly Pavon
The butterfly pavon might be one of
the most colorful subspecies in the peacock bass family.
tucunare (chichla ocellaris), also called mariposa, is the most colorful
and plentiful member of the peacock bass family. It can be distinguished
from other pavon subspecies by three black circular blotches (called
rosettes) along each side of the body. Butterfly peacocks typically
average 2-4 pounds.
|The Butterfly Variant
This is a record-class butterfly pavon.
Note the lack of clearly-defined rosettes.
Keep in mind however, that in some regions
of South America and Florida, the rosettes are not as obvious as in
some clearer water fisheries, making them quite difficult to distinguish
from the temensis. In some cases, the markings will be a cross between
a bar and a rosette. I believe the most common way to distinguish them
is that the butterfly will not have the black, irregular cheek blotches
of the temensis species. During my early years fishing for this gamefish,
I know I lost out on registering possible IGFA record class butterfly
peacocks because I failed to correctly identify them as the butterfly variety. Note how this butterfly
peacock bass does not have the Classic
appearance often described Found in Venezuela and Colombia.
|The Royal Pavon
Note the irregular 7 to 9 bars along
the side of the royal pavon.
The royal pavon (chichla intermedia), also referred to as the black-striped
peacock, is comparable in size to the butterfly. It
possesses an irregular, dark line running laterally along the length of its golden
or olive green body. It has seven to 10 faint black vertical bars along each