Florida peacock bass have more or less been a secret to those who don't live there. The peacock has a very small range in Florida compared to it's Latin American cousins. They need very warm water all year and lots of fish to eat. Unlike largemouth and smallmouth bass, they can't take the cold winter weather that most North American gets every year. Just because they don't like winter doesn't mean they aren't tough!
Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission introduced the peacock bass in 1984 and the species has done very well since then. Once they figured out the temperature that these bass can tolerate, they began to breed on their own and are listed as an exotic gamefish.
The introduction of non-native fish in America has led to many problems. Asian carp and snakeheads have caused tremendous damage to fisheries in many parts of the country. The FWC conducted over 10 years of research and found they could get a non-native to work for them. Southern Florida's coastal canals used to be loaded with spotted Tilapia. There introduction was illegal and seemed unstoppable. Enter the peacock bass. They LOVE these little guys and are cleaning them right up! The good news for anglers is a good healthy bass population and very accessible fishing opportunities. Nature keeps these bass penned in with land to the west, salt water to the east and waters that are too cold for them to survive in to the north. It's the perfect habitat and won't let these beautiful fish become invasive.
The range of Florida peacock bass is very well defined by the game commission so it's not very hard to get some good fishing in. They are found in the coastal canal system between the Pompano canal in the north (Ft. Lauderdale) to the Aerojet canal in the south (Miami). Some lesser fished areas are the Snake Creek canal and the Mowry canal. Any kind of structure such as fallen trees, rip rap shore line or intersections with side canals are good. Intersecting waterways and backwaters will prove to be even more productive than the main canals. If you want a head start there are a number of very good guide services that will help from the airport to landing the fish.
The similarities to largemouth bass make this foreign fish somehow familiar to American anglers. As a matter of fact, one cast might pull up a largemouth and the very next could be a peacock bass. Isn't it nice that they can get along? Don't bother with the soft plastics, they want fish!
Florida peacock bass will take some of the same bass lures you already have.
Start with a Rapala Skitter Pop to locate the school. Chances are you will get bit or at least bumped. If you come up short, switch to a Rapala Shad Rap in gold and use a stop and go retrieve. Stick baits like the Rapala Husky Jerk and the Original Floater will also get some hot action! You are trying to imitate a wounded golden shiner. There are an abundance of bait shops to get the real thing too.
Florida peacock bass definitely have the edge when it comes to angler comfort. You can go get a nice meal after fishing, instead of worrying about being a meal to some beasty in the Amazon jungle! With an abundance of lodging, nice folks, and Miami's famous attractions nearby, south Florida peacock bass is a great experience.