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Fishing For Peacock Bass in the Amazon

Aug 17, 2007
These are some of the things we saw and did while fishing for peacock bass on the Nanay River. I wish I could show you the pink river dolphins, the strangler fig, the red spotted green discus, the big fish that got away.

We began our adventure expedition in the riverboat, Dawn on the Amazon, at the confluence of the Nanay and the Amazon River, departing Iquitos, Peru, at first light.

We motored upstream past Padre Cocha, home of the wonderful Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm we had visited the day before. Past Santo Tomas, the Iquitos waterworks, Llanchama, the Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve, and eventually the village of Santa Maria, last outpost of civilization.

In Santa Maria the electrical generator is turned on at 7:00 p.m. and turned off at 10:00 p.m. The beer is always skunked. Very few people live in the jungle upstream of Santa Maria.

As we fished our way upstream it was as if we were going back in time to a way of life that disappeared in most of the world over one hundred years ago. We were sport fishing, everyone else was survival fishing. Four days and three hundred kilometers later we realized we were sport fishing for survival, living on what we caught.

To do it like a native, we would have had a fire platform on a sand base and cooked yucca and fish over a charcoal fire. We used a Coleman stove and supplemented yucca with rice and potatoes and ripe, juicy, tropical fruit. With a glass or two of wine from Chile.

Over the course of time, as the Nanay River meandered through the rainforest for thousands of years, many of the ox-bow bends were cut from the original stream bed by the annual floods. These natural banana shaped lakes are called cochas. It is in the black tannic acid water of the cochas, that we sought the holy grail of sport fishing, the peacock bass.

In a lifetime of fishing, only a few days stand out from all the rest as distinctly memorable. One of those days occurred on this voyage. I only caught three peacock bass that day, but fought several big, fierce, toothy fazaco for hours.

I caught five of the largest fazaco I have ever caught on six consecutive casts during part of the feeding frenzy. I was exhausted. The fishing was so great we decided to stay and fish that cocha again the next day and never got a bite.

Our catch for the trip was 140 peacock bass, but we lost count of the fazaco, black piranha, pike cichlid, acarahuasu, and other species. I am guessing they totaled two or three times the number of peacocks.

The most productive lures were spinner baits, in line spinners, and Excalibur's Pop'n-Image, in that order. We fished the Pop'n Image hard in two colors. The blue shade caught fish, the green shade never caught one.

As always the peacock bass relates to cover. Find submerged timber in the shade, and make several casts around it. Spinner baits are good to search the thick cover with because they do not get hung up very often and can be fished faster than many lures.

One way to catch peacock bass is to find where they are feeding. Listen for their distinctive splashing sounds and watch for them to follow your lure back to the canoe. Once you find fish, slow down, make more casts, try different lures.

Start out slow and quiet. If that does not work switch to a popper, chugger, rattle, or propeller bait. The native fishermen slap the water with their poles or paddles before they give up on a place. When in Rome, do as the Romans.

In my opinion, inch for inch and pound for pound, the peacock bass is the hardest fighting fresh water fish I have ever encountered. I also believe the peacock bass is one of the smartest and most difficult species of fish to catch, especially in the high-water months from November to May.
About the Author
Bill Grimes owns and operates Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises, custom cruises on the upper Amazon River and its tributaries from Iquitos, Peru. For details, visit his website at http://www.dawnontheamazon.com.
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