Speckled Peacock Bass (Cichla temensis) are one of the world's hardest fighting fish, much in the same way as the largemouth bass and is caught using similar methods. The speckled peacock bass is native to South America in the jungle rain forest rivers and reservoirs. Due to their size and popularity, they can now be found in North America through stocking efforts in Florida and Texas. They are favoured for their table fare and willingness to take lures, strike hard and provide a strong and exciting fight.
Above: 28 pound record peacock bass caught in the rio Negro in Brazil by Bill Gassmann of Indianola, Iowa.
The Speckled Peacock Bass is also know by the names pavon cinchado, pavon pintado, pavon trucha and pavon venado in Spanish and tucunare-pavon in Portuguese. It was not introduced into Florida until 1985, long after the Blackstripe and Butterfly bass were introduced.
Pavon or Tucunare
The name "peacock bass" is a misnomer in many respects. However, in Spanish speaking countries, the fish is known as pavon or tucunare in Portuguese countries like Brazil. While four distinct species are generally recognized, some fish biologists suggest that a dozen or more varieties might actually exist throughout South America. And there is an abundance of large speckled peacock bass that sustains the sport fishery is susceptible to low rates of exploitation in this remote region of Brazil.
Like many other fish called bass, peacock bass are not bass. They were given the name when it was introduced to Florida as part of a planned stocking programme. While it has some similarities in appearance and feeding habits to that of the largemouth bass, the speckled peacock bass is not a bass at all, or a sunfish as some bass are. It is from a completely different family.
Annoyingly, many Americans believe the fish to be a bass, but it is in fact a pavon transplanted from South America. The peacock name came from the eye spot on its tail. This eye spot is common to all varieties.
The speckled peacock bass is most popular in South America. The middle portion of the Rio Negro River in Brazil, near the equator, supports a popular recreational sport fishery based on the speckled peacock bass.
The Speckled Peacock Bass (Cichla temensis) and Spotted Peacock Bass are thought to be different species when in fact they are both the same species. The Speckled Peacock bass comes in a variety of colour variations. Some variations are based on the size of the fish while others and just genetic. More on this later in Features and Size.
The Speckled Peacock Bass is most common in South America but was introduced to Florida in 1985. And while is has been reportedly stock in other countries, research is not complete in this regard.
However, as far as tourism goes, the speckled peacock bass brings in a lot of anglers from around the world eager to take on the Speckled Peacock Bass. And, while it has been introduced to other regions, the biggest and toughest fighting Speckled Peacocks are in South America. South America has the right temperature, the right food sources: all the ingredients to grow this fish big. The end result is millions of dollars spent on tourism in Brazil. If we add up all tourist dollars attributed to peacock bass fishing world wide, it is estimated to be in the low billions of US dollars.
The Speckled Peacock Bass have dark blotches on the opercula and three distinctive vertical bars on the body that may become more pronounced with age.
Above: Speckled pattern on the opercula (gill cover)
There are light and faint spots on the dorsal and caudal fins and a hump on top of the head of breeding males.
Above: light and faint spots on dorsal fin
And of course, there is the characteristic black circular eye spot that is rimmed in gold and located on caudal fin, which is shared by all bass. This spot closely resembles the tail plume of a peacock fowl. Hence, the name peacock bass became the perfect moniker.
The speckled bass often form an opaque band on the otoliths, which coincides with the dry season between November and April. These bands form once per year.
The Speckled Peacock Bass is the largest of the peacock/pavon species as it can grow up to a three feet, four inches in length. It is slightly elongate with a large head, and it looks more like a bass than the other peacock subspecies.
There is some orange on the tail under the eye spot but the rest of the speckled peacock bass is dark to yellow down the side and white on the underside of the fish. It has three dark vertical bars and a series of horizontal rows of cream, coloured spots and during spawning, the males acquire nuchal hump during spawning.
The Speckled Peacock Bass attains the greatest size of all peacock bass with the largest one on record being a 27 pound peacock from Negro Brazil, though this record is expected to be a temporary record with some many fish being caught in the mid 20 pound range. The normal expected adult size is ten pounds, but those exceeding this weight are common in some areas.
The speckled peacock has reportedly a fairly uniform, continuous growth rate until it dies of old age. The average size of most peacock bass is around three or four pounds, but in many South American waters, several between six and 10 pounds may be taken on a good day and in a few select places, monsters over 15 pounds can be caught occasionally.
The Speckled Peacock Bass is also the largest of the species in terms of the length that it can achieve with the record speckled peacock bass reaching three feet, four inches in length.
Above: different speckled peacock bass variations