Not a Bass?
The Butterfly Peacock Bass (Cichla ocellaris) is not a bass at all and neither are any of the Butterfly Peacock Bass. The name came about in the 1950s from Florida.
When Florida lakes and rivers were being stocked with the fish during the 1950s, the names bass was chosen because it was felt that Americans would not be interested in a fish with the name pavon.
The Butterfly Peacock Bass has a body shape that is similar to a largemouth bass hence the name Butterfly Peacock Bass even though they aren't related to each other. While the Butterfly Peacock Bass is similar to the largemouth in some ways, it differs in some many others such as the ability to spawn throughout the year; seeking out the sun rather than hiding from it; and it is far more vividly coloured that any of the North American bass.
Above: Butterfly Peacock Bass; top, Largemouth Bass
The Butterfly variety is native to the South American Amazon river basin, in jungle rain forests, rivers and reservoirs. Due to it's reputation as a great fighting fish and its huge size, it has been introduced to Hawaii, British Guyana, Florida, Puerto Rico, Panama, Guam and the Dominican Republic.
They have been further introduced to more states as their popularity grew even more. They have been transplanted to several other states including Texas and Montana. They are a great fighting fish and are also renowned for their table fare.
All in a Name
The Butterfly Peacock Bass is also known as the butteryfly pavon, pavon mariposa, pavon amarillo, pavon tres estrellas, marichapa in Spanish and tucunare in Portuguese. It is the most colourful and plentiful member of the Butterfly Peacock Bass family being distinguished from other pavon subspecies by three black circular blotches along each side of the body.
Above: three dark circular blotches
Butterfly peacocks typically average two to four pounds although the record Butterfly Peacock Bass ever caught weighed in Florida was 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) and the world record being 12.6 pounds (5.7 kilograms) from Venezuela.
While the average Butterfly Peacock Bass weighs in the two to three pound range, they can get up to 12 pounds and are a viscous fighting fish to make sure your gear can handle the stresses. In no way should ultra-light or light tackle be used to catch this fish. Anglers should also set their drag appropriately to make sure that a lunker does not snap the line when it strikes.
This might seem small compared to the size of the Florida Largemouth Bass and it is. But the Peacock is something to behold as it is rather exotic in appearance - appearing more tropical that is normally found in North American Waters. But do not let its smaller size put you off. Experience the fight for the first time and you will be hooked.
People Mix Up Butterfly and Speckled Butterfly Peacock Bass
The Butterfly Peacock Bass is native to tropical America through much of the Amazon and Orinoco watersheds. Bassfishing-Gurus.com has coverage of three species. These are considered the most popular and are the only species to have English names.
- Butterfly Peacock Bass
- Speckled (Spotted) Butterfly Peacock Bass
- Royal Butterfly Peacock Bass
Currently, there are six recognised species:
- Cichla temensis (speckled peacock)
- Cichla ocellaris (Butterfly Peacock Bass)
- Cichla intermedia (royal Butterfly Peacock Bass)
- Cichla orinocensis (no English name)
- Cichla monoculus (no English name)
- Cichla pinima (no English name)
While we have only three species on this site, it is believed that there as many as 12 different species within the lakes and rivers of the Amamzon catchment. The main reason we focused on three species is there is so much confusion over the ones already identified. Many lable the speckled peacock (Cichla temensis) as the butterfly peacock (Cichla ocellaris): the butterfly clearly has three blotches whereas the speckled peacock has three bars. The butterfly also does not have any markings on the opercula, whereas the Speckled peacock does.
Above: Speckeled Butterfly Peacock Bass opercula (gill cover)
The Butterfly Peacock Bass has a wide range of colour though it is not as pretty as the blackstripe Butterfly Peacock Bass but it is still a beautiful fish compared to many of the North American fish.
The very top of the Butterfly Peacock Bass along with its dorsal fins is dark lime green broken up by a few yellow patches. It's head is mostly green, but broken up by a red and yellow iris. This is absolutely remarkable as the eyes match the anal, pelvic and pectoral fins bright red/orange. And from the fins up, there is a orange yellow that moves up most of the fish's body mixing in with the green. It's just a truly stunning fish to look at. And in clear water, this fish is just stunning.
Perhaps that is part of its strategy is to stun the angler as it tries to get away. No, this is one incredible fighting fish and if you are not careful it will get away before you even have a chance to wonder what went wrong. Ok, let's get back to describing this wondrous fish. There are dark yellow tinged blotches along the lateral midsection. These blotches intersect with faint bars that typically fade in fish weighing more than three to four pounds. And then there is the common characteristic shared by all peacocks is the black circular eye spot that is rimmed in gold and located on the base of the caudal fin. This spot closely resembles the tail plume of a peacock fowl. Hence, the name Butterfly Peacock Bass became the perfect moniker.
The butterfly peacock has a body shape that is similar to a largemouth which is in part why is was named the Butterfly Peacock Bass in the US even though they aren't related to each other. And while they weigh three to five pounds on average, with many having reached in the ten to 12 pound range.
When the Butterfly Peacock Bass small fry reach an advance fingerling stage they are no longer protected by their parent and must no head out on their own. The young fry will seek out shelter in and among weeds for the first year where they will rapidly grow to about 14 inches, averaging a staggering one inch per month, which is more than any other native fresh water fish. Unlike the Striper bass, the male Butterfly Peacock Bass grow larger than the females with females generally being half the size of the males.
They continue their rapid growth rates for the first several years until they reach three pounds at which point their growth rates slow down. The average peacock in the US is between three to four pounds, but those caught in South American Waters average between six and ten pounds, though many exceed 18 pounds.
The Speckled Butterfly Peacock Bass is the largest of the peacock series reaching a weight of 32 pounds.