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    Home > Peacock Bass Fishing - Frequently Asked Questions
Peacock Bass Fishing in the Amazon....
Frequently Asked Questions
About Going Fishing.....
What's the best season? - The answer isn't simple, because seasons in the rainforest do not correspond to specific seasons as we temperate zone dwellers know them.  The best season is the "dry" season.  Rivers in Amazonia all experience an extended cyclical period of low rainfall sometime during the year, when the rivers reach their minimum flow.  This relatively dry, low water period is the only productive time to fish for peacock bass.  During the long "rainy" season, Amazonian rivers typically overflow their banks and inundate huge areas of lowlying jungle   This flooded jungle (known as 'varzea' in Brazil) offers superior forage for various species of baitfish.  Their predators, especially peacock bass, follow them into the flooded vegetation.  During the almost eight months of high water, rivers can occupy a surface area often hundreds of times larger than during the dry season;  peacock bass become all but impossible to catch.
    When the rains stop, the rivers begin to withdraw within their banks.  The baitfish head back into the main river bed and connecting lagoons to avoid being stranded in the rapidly drying 'varzea'.  The peacocks follow as well and begin to gorge on the now concentrated food supply.  This 4-6 week pre-spawn period during the early part of the 'dry' season is when their accessibility and their aggressive feeding make them the most exciting freshwater fish in the world. Once the fish get onto their spawning beds they can be much more difficult to catch.  Although the post-spawn period also fishes well, the fish will have lost some weight and the rivers can begin to rise.  These periods vary in their timing from river to river.
    The dry season begins in the southern part of the Amazon basin in July and August.  Southern rivers such as the Rio Marmelos or Rio Jari begin to provide great fishing in August.  As the dry season progresses on these rivers, the well-fed peacocks begin to set-up to spawn (after about six weeks).  As the fishing diminishes in the south, rivers further to the north begin to get dry.  The dry season moves slowly north during October and November placing other rivers such as the Matupiri and the Caures among the optimal destinations for peacock bass in Brazil.  By December, the dry season moves north of the main body of the Amazon itself and rivers such as the Juferi, the Mucucuao, the Tapera and the Araca provide the best Brazilian peacock bass fishing on into March.
    Venezuela’s dry season corresponds with Brazil’s ‘northern’ dry season, starting in December and running through March.  The peak here is late December through January.  Peru’s peak season is August through October.  Bolivia’s peak season is December 15 through the end of January.   Although the answer is complex, it simply means that great peacock bass fishing is available somewhere in Amazonia from August through March.  To keep it simple, Acute Angling will make certain that you're a properly advised angler who takes advantage of the seasons by fishing the right rivers at the right time.

Where is the best place? - As the dry season moves north, secondary and tertiary tributaries of some of the Amazon's main arteries, (the Madeira, the Negro and the Branco) will hold great concentrations of of aggressive peacock bass.  The best locations to fish for them are typically well upriver from habitations and deep-water access.  The locals love to eat peacock bass and gill-netters, commercial and subsistence fishermen all provide stiff competiton for the sporting angler.  Areas with deep-water access allow commercial fishing boats easy access to peacock bass.  The sport fisheman will do best travelling well into the headwaters of the smaller, shallower rivers.  The isolated lagoons and untouched structure in these areas provide superior fishing grounds while the pristine surroundings and profound isolation serve to greatly enhance the Amazon experience.  Acute Angling knows the destinations that will put you where the fish are and the crowds aren't.

Where are the biggest fish? - The largest peacock bass in the world are found in the Amazon basin.  Anglers seeking true trophy size peacocks should be aware that the primary fisheries for these oversized lure smashers exist only in equatorial Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia.  Of the several species of peacock bass, Cichla Temensis is by far the largest, commonly reaching weights well over 20-pounds.  C. Temensis cannot thrive in waters that don't maintain a minimum temperature of 72 degrees.  While several other species of peacock bass, notably the much smaller C. Ocellaris and C. Monoculus have been succesfully transplanted to Florida, Mexico, Central America and Hawaii, the giant C. Temensis has, so far, been unable to survive outside of its native Amazonia.
    Giant Amazonian peacocks, called tucunare in Brazil and pavon in Venezuela and Columbia, can be identified by the black markings on their gill plates, absent in other species.  C. Temensis'  body markings can vary significantly even within the same population on the same river.  Markings range from a yellow-gold background with 3 distinct vertical stripes to an olive-green body with white horizontal bars.  C. Temensis also often displays brilliant blue and red fin colors.  Perhaps the single most enjoyable identifier, however, is the nerve jarring crash when a giant peacock bass explodes all over your bait.

Where can I  find the most fish? - Some anglers are more interested in catching big numbers of fish over trophy fish.  If this is the case, we recommend several ‘southern’ Brazilian fisheries like the Marmelos or Jari Rivers.  These rivers can produce high numbers of small to medium peacocks and still hold out the promise of an occasional 15 pound plus trophy.  Venezuela’s Cinaruco River is also a good choice for large numbers of fish.  Peru and Bolivia, while not offering a true trophy fishery, can produce great volumes of hard fighting smaller peacocks.

Is this a trip for non-anglers? - Not really.  Although the sights and experiences of the Amazon alone are worth the trip, you really won't access them fully without spending time on the rivers and lagoons.  For the most part, remaining in camp is bland, and frankly, boring.  If you are a non-angler planning to travel with a fishing partner, perhaps this would be a good time for you to give fishing a try.  I can't think of a more rewarding way to become involved in the sport than to experience the excitement of tangling with big, tough and aggressive peacocks right from the start.  You don't have to be a professional fisherman to enjoy yourself here.  Even if you don't catch as many as your more experienced partner, you'll still have fun trying.  Moreover, you'll be surrounded by the most awesome ecosystem in the world!

What about fly fishing? - Peacock bass are a terrific fly rod adversary.  They aggressively strike flies and provide a tremendous physical challenge for the angler.  Under the right conditions, and on the right rivers, fly fishing can be the most effective of peacock bass techniques.  The key point to keep in mind, however, is that proper conditions and locales are necessary for success.  Without them, fly fishing for peacocks can be difficult, if not downright unproductive.  For this reason, fly casters need to be especially careful choosing fisheries with the right water types/conditions.
    Clear, or blue-water rivers generally provide the best overall fly fishing conditions.  Streamers fished on 200-300 grain sink tip lines are far more effective for large peacocks, but smaller fish will aggressively take poppers and streamers on a floating line.  Unless you are an extremely strong fly caster, we recommend that you also bring along backup conventional tackle as well.   It makes a great way to find a change of pace for your tired body and provides excellent back-up in case conditions change unexpectedly.  With the right planning, peacock bass can be the greatest fish you've ever experienced on your fly rod.

How do I arrange a trip? - Contact us.  We'll be happy to discuss your needs, concerns and goals and help you to select the trip that's right for you. ACUTE ANGLING OFFERS COMPARATIVE INFORMATION ON VIRTUALLY EVERY PEACOCK BASS DESTINATION WORLDWIDE.  You can book a trip to a luxurious fixed lodge, an air conditioned river yacht or a remote safari style camp, depending on your preferences.  We can provide remarkably inexpensive, no-frills trips as well as exclusive, comfortable fishing get-aways.  For anglers focused on optimal fishing opportunities, Acute Angling features many trips each season that are hosted by the authors of this website.  We will be there with you, to make sure that your experience is as pleasant and successful as it can possibly be.  For more information about available fishing trips for peacock bass & other exotic species,  contact us;  By E-mail, through this site: Garrett VeneKlassen

How do I prepare? - Build up your muscles, these suckers are strong!  There are several important things necessary in order to prepare for a trip to the Amazon.  The first item is paperwork.  You must have a currently valid passport and a visa (obtained no earlier than 90 days before first use) in order to enter Brazil.  You can obtain the passport through the U.S. Passport agency and the visa through your nearest local Brazilian consulate.  Or, if you prefer, we can help you obtain both documents through one of our affiliated travel documentation services.
    We strongly suggest that you consult with your doctor regarding inoculations (especially Hepatitis) recommended by the I.A.M.A.T. (International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers)  (716) 754-4883 / 417 Center Street, Lewiston, NY (see "What about Tropical Diseases?" below).  Based on the advice you receive from these qualified sources, arrange for any shots, pills or doctor visits you decide upon.  Give yourself enough time before your trip so that any immunizations you get can take effect.
     Next, far in advance of your trip, start collecting the gear and clothing necessary to assure your comfort on the trip.  Pack as light as possible.  Most anglers bring too much clothing.  Almost all camps offer a daily laundry service, so plan accordingly.  A soft tackle box packed with your essentials and a duffel bag (that you can handle in the airport) should hold everything you need.  Keep in mind that charter planes involved in in-country transfers (if used) have stringent weight limitations.
    Finally, make sure you pack a good, weatherproof camera and plenty of film.  No one is going to believe your tall tales unless you can back them up with pictures!

What kind of tackle do I need? - Most anglers will do fine using tackle they already own.  Bringing two complete outfits is a good idea for several reasons.  For the big peacocks in Brazil and Venezuela, a  sturdy baitcasting or spinning outfit, rated for at least 20 to 30-pound test line will do for casting the heavier lures  Also pack a lighter rig, rated at about 14 to 20-pound test to handle smaller baits, to take a rest from the heavy rig and to provide back-up in the event of a broken rod or reel.  These lighter rigs are also standard for the smaller fish found in Peru and Bolivia.  A wide array of lures are effective on peacock bass, including several very big surface lures and several fairly small subsurface jigs and spoons.  Having two rods rigged and ready to go enables you to effectively respond to fishing conditions and situations.
    Fly fishermen will also be well served with two outfits.  For the larger peacocks, a 9 or 10-weight outfit rigged with a 300-grain, 24-foot sink tip Cortland (Salmon/Steelhead Quick Descent) or a Teeny 300 24’ sink tip line is best under most conditions.  An 8-weight rod rigged with a bass bug taper floating line is best suited for fishing poppers and sliders.  A variety of poppers, sliders and  especially, large streamers will wreak havoc with peacocks under the right river and water conditions.
    Proper tackle for peacock bass fishing can be obtained through the larger catalog houses, larger sporting goods stores or directly through Acute Angling Garrett VeneKlassen.  We can prepare a complete, basic, peacock bass tackle package for under $500.00 as well as advise you as to what gear and lure selection is best suited to the particular river or location you have in mind.

...Camps and Conditions...

Isn't it dangerous? - Emphatically, no!  The camps, the boats, the gear are all operated and maintained by expert, experienced staff.  Clients are well cared for in a safe and secure camp environment.  The Amazon during the dry season is a relatively benign environment.  Typically, the most common dangers are sunburn, dehydration and fishooks.
    Just as in any camping situation, a detailed knowledge of ambient conditions and local wildlife is important to enable the safest and most enjoyable experience.  All of our camps are staffed by native Amazonians.  They are as familiar with the exotic Amazon environment as local experts are with your own regional wilderness.  This staff makes all aspects of the trip easy, comfortable and non-strenuous, making it readily accessible to youngsters and seniors alike.
    As safe as we know our trips to be, it is still important for certain anglers to consider the true remoteness of our camps.  Individuals with potentially dangerous medical conditions should be aware that rapid transportation to medical facilities often requires the use of a float plane and can take many hours.

What about piranhas and anacondas and all the other nasty Amazon Critters I’ve heard about? - Piranhas and anacondas make terrific Hollywood movie fare.  Undoubtedly you've seen plenty of horrific movie scenes where the intrepid explorer is either consumed, dismembered or flayed by these almost mythical jungle terrors.  Well folks, that's Hollywood!  Boring movies don't sell.  The reality is much less exciting.  These critters don't really pose any risk at all to the peacock bass fisherman.  Piranhas are the panfish of the Amazon – perch with fancy dentures, so to speak.  People eat piranhas, not the other way round.  (They also make terrific catfish bait.)  There are over 100 species of Characin in the Amazon and 90% are vegetarians.  The rest are toothy little scavengers that subsist primarily on a diet of fish or carrion.  One can safely swim or bathe in any of the rivers we fish.  Piranha are happy to swim away whenever they can.
    Anaconda provide a rare but exciting sighting on the rivers we fish.  These beautiful reptiles feed primarily on large rodents, cayman, and aquatic birds in the riverine environment.  Anacondas do not eat people and when disturbed, will avoid humans by taking shelter under water Although peaceful and normally retiring, they are large, wild animals and must be given reasonable space.  Like any other wild creature, they will bite or defend themselves if they feel cornered or threatened.
    This holds true for all the wildlife in Amazonia.  People are just not on their natural menu.  Treated with reasonable care and respect, they are happy to go about their business and avoid contact with humans.  Observe and enjoy them without interfering in their activities and they are no more dangerous than the wildlife in your own regional wilderness.

What's the weather like? - Well it's hot, but not any hotter than Texas in August.  And though it's usually fairly dry, it can get humid, although not any worse than New Jersey in July.  For the most part, it's a little bit easier on the human comfort zone than Florida in the summer.  Daytime temperatures can range from 75 to 100 degrees while the nights are generally cooler, from 70 to 80 degrees.  The dry season in Amazonia is noted for its relatively benign conditions.
    The sun is an altogether different story.  Amazonia is located essentially astride the equator.  Nowhere on earth is the sun more powerful and more capable of causing sunburn than here.  Make sure that you bring and use plenty of sun block and, especially for the sun sensitive, cover up with good quality tropical clothing.  We recommend light-colored, long sleeve shirts, pants, a wide brim hat and good quality polarized glasses.

Won't the mosquitos eat me alive? - In most cases, no. You'll probably get more bites changing planes in Miami.  There are actually relatively few mosquitos in Amazonia during the dry season (Bolivia is an exception).  The river waters are generally too acidic to allow mosquito reproduction.  The annoying critters can only effectively increase their numbers during the rainy season, when soft, standing water becomes available in the hollows of Bromeliads (jungle plants), in the flooded 'varzea' and in tightly interwined root systems in the primary forest.  Make no mistake about it, they could probably lift you by the shoulders and carry you away during the rainy season, but fortunately, we don't fish for peacock bass at that time.  Some of the rivers do have small biting gnats and horse flies, but never in oppressive numbers.  Bees and wasps are also encountered, generally in numbers similar to those found in the United States.

Will I get sick from the water? - No, not in the camps.  You won't be drinking river water.  The camps are supplied with canned soda and beer, bottled wine and liquor.  Purified water for drinking, juices, ice cubes and cooking is provided by micro-filtration of spring water.  Filtered water is free of all particles larger than 2 microns, thereby eliminating bacteria and virus.  You're not likely to contract any exotic tropical diseases from camp beverages.  Traveler's diarrhea, however, is a fairly common occurrence.  As careful as we are about providing purified water, many people still manage to get a case of the runs.  They forget and perhaps order a drink in the hotel (their water is generally not purified), or a juice, or maybe swallow some water swimming.  We recommend carrying a good antibiotic such as Cipro (check with your physician) to quickly nip the condition in the bud.  A good anti-diarrheal, such is Immodium is also helpful to suppress the symptoms.  Although traveling overseas and being exposed to new foods, different conditions and foreign ambient flora can upset one's normal routine, most of our anglers experience no problems at all.

What about tropical diseases? - A reasonable amount of care is advisable.  Ask your physician for his recommendations. The U.S. Public Health Service or I.A.M.A.T  also publishes periodic advisories for all foreign countries, providing recommendations for immunizations. We recommend an anti-malarial and any inoculations that your personal physician might suggest.  We fish in the headwaters of remote Amazon rivers, generally well upriver of any permanent habitation.  Typically, diseases are passed from human to human when they are in close proximity.  Your chances of coming into contact with any diseases are far greater on the airplanes and in the cities than they are in the camps.

What do we eat? - Most Amazonian camps are  staffed by experienced and skillful personnel.  As good as the staff might be, however, the cook is always better.  In our hosted camps, the food is ample and tasty, and there's always more than you can eat.  A hot breakfast is provided every morning with coffee, milk, juice, toast, eggs and pancakes or French toast. Various breads and rolls and other specialties are generally  included.   Most anglers pack a box lunch with sandwiches they make themselves from a selection of cold cuts, cheese and often a pate' of local fish.  Topped off with cookies and a fruit, lunch is usually eaten on the river.  If desired, anglers are always welcome to return to camp at noon for a hot lunch.  After fishing, most anglers make their way to the camp's screened in dining room to trade tall tales and perhaps enjoy a cold beer or aperitif.  Our cook makes terrific appetizers ranging from pizza snacks to pocorn to savory fish tidbits to brighten up our jungle version of happy hour.  Dinner is served at seven each evening.  Dinners consist of a soup, salad, an American style entree (steak, chicken, lasagna etc.), and some native entrees (including native fish, wild  paca, duck, etc.), vegetables and beans and rice.  Wonderful desserts are served after dinner.  The staff is also able to accommodate most special dietary needs if advised in advance.  No one goes hungry in our camps.  Our problem is that we usually enjoy the food so much, it always means a period of dieting upon returning home, to get back to a reasonable weight.

Where do we stay? - Accommodations vary from camp to camp.  Depending upon the chosen destination, one can stay in plush fixed camps, air-conditioned riverboats or exotic safari camps.  We can supply you with more details depending upon
your specific interests. Most of our hosted trips are with safari-style camps.  One of our clients dubbed them "Jungalows".  It's a pretty good name.  We've recently upgraded our accommodations from safari style tents to our new, comfortable, floating bungalows.  Built onto fiberglass pontoons, the roomy bungalows have carpeted wooden floors and are fully screened and rainproofed.  Featuring two beds, storage space and a table and chair, the living space is ample and pleasant.  Each bungalow has its own private bathroom with a toilet, pump-driven sink and shower.  The sleeping areas are equipped with lighting and fans, powered by gel batteries.  Our staff clean the bungalows, make the beds, recharge the batteries and wash and dry laundry on a daily basis.  The only thing missing is the little chocolate treat on your bed at night.  Considering how remote our fishing locations are, the accommodations are surprisingly good.  All the comforts of home with a little touch of jungle elegance added.  
How do we fish? - Almost all Amazonian camps fish two anglers per boat.  20-40-horse outboards and electric trolling motors are standard equipment throughout the Amazon.  Specifics on non-hosted trips are available on request.  The trips we personally host always fish two anglers per boat, with an experienced Brazilian guide.  We use stable 16 foot Lowe tunnel boats (in certain locations, we may use longer, narrower, flat bottom, canoe-shaped aluminum hulls to take advantage of their superior manueverability).  Each boat is equipped with a 40 hp Yamaha outboard (or a new, four stroke Honda) and an electric trolling motor.  The guides will take you up or down river to locations that they know to produce fish, or, you are welcome to explore and try new waters.  Most fishing is in the still water of  lagoons connected to the river.  Occasionally, under the right conditions, you may fish in the river itself, in locations which provide cover for structure loving peacocks.  Your guide will start off each day with a plan so that you have an opportunity to fish new waters.  Of course, if you've found a spot that you want to return to over and over, feel free to have your camp manager adjust the plan to accommodate you
    The guides are all expert peacock fishermen.  They will help you to locate fish and they can guide you in lure selection.  Peacocks relate to structure, making it very productive to cast to some tough spots.  Don't worry if you get hung up or into the trees, your guide will promptly recover your lure for you.  The guides are all native to the Amazon, are very well trained and know the rivers in great detail.  They can always make their way back to camp in the evenings, no matter how far you've wandered or how lost you might feel.  They are also well versed in the operation and upkeep of their equipment (as well as your fishing tackle) and can be counted on to make sure that everything works as it should.  All that's left for you to worry about is where to cast and what to do with that wild thing on the end of your line once you hook up.

What exactly is Amazonia? - The Amazon basin has thousands of tributaries with a drainage area of almost 3,000,000 square miles (this incorporates Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Suriname, Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela), which is nearly twice as large as the area drained of any of the other great rivers worldwide.  At its discharge point in the Atlantic, the river's overall volume is estimated at over seven times that of the Mississippi!  ‘Amazonia’ is an exceedingly diverse combination of specific niches within one giant ecosystem.  Wildlife, insects, birds, fish and vegetation vary greatly depending upon soil type and proximity to fluctuating water levels.  The Amazon's overall watershed encompasses 1/5 of all the world's fresh water.

What types of mammals can I see? - The Amazon is home to a great variety of mammalian life.  Although many species are reclusive or nocturnal, most eventually cross, bathe, drink or visit the rivers for one reason or another.  Some make the rivers their homes.  Fishermen are very often treated to sightings because they spend their day at the interface of river and jungle.  Commonly sighted Amazon mammalian life includes the species listed below.
    The Oddballs - Among the most unique of Amazonian animals are the tapir (anta) and the capybara.  The Brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris), a relative of the rhinoceros, is a large ungulate inhabiting jungle watercourses throughout Amazonia.  Feeding on fruits and leaves, this big, strange, almost hairless creature can sometimes be seen walking along banks or swimming across rivers.  Even more aquatic, and often sighted in similar habitats, the capybara is the world's largest rodent, often exceeding 4 feet in length and 120 pounds.  The paca (Agouti paca), a smaller cousin to the capybara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris), feeds on vegetation along riverbanks at night while the agouti (cutia/Dasyprocta sp.) is more often encountered on jungle trails.   All of theses species have learned to be very wary of man because of their popularity as menu items for the local population.
    The Cats - The most thrilling and probably rarest sighting in the Amazon is the jaguar (Felis Onca).  Largely nocturnal and solitary, the great cat of the Amazon is now on the list of endangered species.  The onca's only predator, man, has severely reduced the population of these magnificent animals in order to make profits from their beautiful spotted pelts.  Several other, smaller species of cat are significantly more common and easily seen.  The ocelot (Felis pardalis) and the margay (Felis wiedeii), both under 35 pounds, range throughout the Amazon.  Although primarily nocturnal, sightings of these cats often occur in areas of dense cover.  The puma (Puma concolor) and jaguarundi (Felis yagouroundi), although not common in Amazonia and not riverine in their habits, have also been reported here.
    Up in the Trees - If you turn your attention up into the trees at the edges of the rivers, you can spot monkeys and sloths.  Over forty species of monkey are found in Amazonia.  Ranging from the good-sized howler monkey (up to 35 pounds) down to the tiny marmosets and tamarins (weighed in ounces), New World monkeys share one common characteristic, they all have tails.  Look quickly, because their acrobatic skills allow them to move rapidly through their arboreal environment.  Sloths (pregisa), on the other hand, hardly move at all.  The three-toed sloth, and its larger two-toed cousin, may take days to move from one tree to the next.  Once you've spotted one, you can observe it at your leisure.
     In the Water - The rivers are home to two species of fresh water dolphin and a giant manatee.  The large, pink boto (Inia geofrensis) is a most unusual looking dolphin with its long snout, external ears and flexible neck.  The smaller, gray tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) looks more like our idea of Flipper, the TV star.  Both species are widespread, not hunted, and very commonly seen by anglers.  Swimmers are often treated to curious tucuxi circling and peeking at them when they take a dip in the river.  The Amazon manatee (Trichechus inunguis), a giant reaching over 1000 pounds is now endangered because of hunting for its meat, oil and hide.  Giant otters or ‘ariranha’ (Pteronura brasiliensis), as big as a man, inhabit the lagoons of Amazonia.  Although also on the endangered list, they are fairly commonly seen by anglers.  They forage in groups and won't hesitate to let you know by splashing and barking, just how unhappy they are to have you invading their territory.  A smaller species of otter, locally called ‘lontra’ (Lutra longicaudis) is very widespread and also often sighted .
    On the Banks - Anglers can also see two species of armadillo, including the Amazon giant, (tatu).  Two species of anteater are found in Amazonia.  The giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is totally terrestrial and its smaller cousin (Tamandua tetradactyla) is mostly arboreal.   Closely resembling small wild pigs, peccaries (Tayasu tajasu) roam Amazonia in small herds of twenty or so individuals.  They can occassionally be seen rooting at rivers edge or even swimming in the river.  Three species of Amazon deer or 'Viado’ (Mazama sp./Odocoileus virgineanus), the racoon-like coatimundi (Nasua nasua) , bush ‘dogs’ (Speothos venaticus) and the 'Tayca,'  (Eira barbara)  a  mink-like member of the weasel family, also often treat the visitor with a sighting.

What types of Reptiles and Amphibians can I see?- Throughout the world, reptiles and especially amphibians are becoming extinct or endangered at alarming rates.  Among the most specialized and ecologically fragile of species, they are falling victim to habitat reduction and the effects of pollution.  The Amazon, although by no means an untouchable haven, remains a stronghold for many of these disappearing creatures solely because of its vast size and relative freedom from pollution.  Anglers can see many of the species described below
    Crocodilians - Three species of cayman, close relatives of the alligator, inhabit the freshwaters of Amazonia.  The spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus), up to almost 6 feet in length and the smaller dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus)
abound throughout the rivers we fish.  Sadly, the giant black cayman (Melanosuchus niger), often reaching lengths of over 18 feet, is now also a member of the endangered species list.  Although, extensive hunting for their skins has resulted in serious population reductions throught South America, we still occassionally sight giant specimens in Amazonia.
       Snakes - Although the Amazon is home to a great variety of snakes, it takes some fair amount of effort and knowledge to actually find them.  The popular imagination always associates the jungle with hordes of snakes writhing everywhere.  The reality is that snakes are not commonly encountered due to their secretive and nocturnal natures.   Under most circumstances, anglers rarely see them in the riverine environment.  For those who are interested, properly equipped and prepared, a wide array of species can be sighted by exploring in forest areas.  Although most species are non-poisonous and not aggressive, viewing them from a distance without contact is recommended for the non-expert, just as it would be in North American forests.
       Lizards  - Many varieties of small lizard, including species of anole, skinks and geckos are common in Amazonia, chasing small insect prey.  The larger Ctenosaurs (black iguanas) and Iguanidae (the green type we know as pets) browse on fruits and leaves and any accidental delicacies, such as birds eggs or mouse nests that they might stumble upon.  The large (up to 4 foot long), fast and wary ‘jacareranha’ (Tupinambis nigropuctatus) can often be spotted on riverbanks, poking among downed tree limbs and brush piles.  The tegu, the largest of the South American lizards (almost 5 feet in length), lives in forested areas.
    Turtles - In light of the Amazon's great biodiversity, the relatively small number of turtle species found there (less than 20) is surprising.  Added to this, their desirability as food has made them relatively scarce in populated areas.  In the remote reaches of the rivers we fish, however, visitors can still spot a variety of interesting species.  The matamata (Chelus fimbriatus), a prehestoric looking giant,  is an angler just as we are.  Laying camouflaged on the bottom with their cavernous mouths opened wide, they wiggle their wormlike tongues in order to attract curious fishes.  I know a lot of plastic worm fishermen who wish they could do the same thing as effectively.  The arrau turtle (Podocnemus sp.), reaching up to 100 pounds, can be spotted basking on the banks in remote areas.  The jabuti (Geocholone sp.), a large tortoise, forages for fruit in the forest.
    Amphibians - A tremendous variety of the world's most unusual frogs reside in the Amazon.  Showing diverse life cycle specialization and modes of reproduction, Amazonian frogs, toads and tree frogs represent the most complex levels of amphibian development anywhere.  The famous poison dart frog has the unusual mating habit (for amphibians) of guarding their eggs.  Upon hatching, the female carries each tadpole to its own water holding bromeliad (a tropical plant) while the male stays on guard duty.  When all the young are dispersed, the female makes regular rounds of the nurseries, depositing an unfertilized egg, as food for the developing tadpole, in each one.  Other remarkable species of Amazon frog give birth to live young, while some even skip the tadpole stage and emerge as fully formed miniature adults.  Visitors can't miss the presence of the frogs.  The chorus begins every evening at sundown and contains a cacaphonous mix of voices closely resmbling chainsaws, motorcycles and Budweiser commercials.  After a few nights, I can't get to sleep without it.

What about bird life? - Welcome to the birder's paradise!  The Amazon has some of the most diverse bird life on the planet.  Just seated in your fishing boat, you can see dozens of species every day.  The most common sightings include numerous species of parrots, parakeets, spectacular blue and scarlet macaws, toucans, muscovy ducks, hawks, falcons, eagles, owls, egrets, herons, weaver birds, guans, tinamous and curasows.
    This is a land where kingfishers escort you into and out of their territory, while freshwater terns fly "shotgun" as you cruise the rivers.  Anglers often see the giant Amazonian stork, the 'Jabiru'.  Strikingly marked tiger herons, sunbitterns and jacanas keep an eye on you from the shorelines.  One of the strangest of all birds, the prehistoric 'hoatzin' makes it's home along Amazon riverbanks.  Several species of ibis and bittern abound.  At nightfall, nightjars and nighthawks patrol the air above the river in search of unlucky insects.  Occasionally, very lucky anglers are treated to a sighting of one of the rarest, the most memorable and the largest of all raptors, the great harpy eagle.
    The surrounding jungles host strange mixed species flocks, creating noisy disturbances and eating the disturbed insects and other small critters.  Strikingly colored trogons and antbirds can be found here.  Flycatchers can be seen from a distance.  Gnatcatchers, creepers and hummingbirds are visible to the sharp-eyed observer.  There are countless varieties of smaller birds too diverse to go into in this introductory statement. Brazil alone is home to over 800 resident and 250 migratory species.  Bring your binoculars. This is the place to add to your lifelist.

Are there other species of fish? - You wouldn't believe how many!  Ichthyologists have identified almost 1000 species of freshwater fish in the Negro River system alone.  In the quiet backwaters and shallow lagoons, you can see dozens of small, brilliantly colored species that brighten aquarists home aquariums; tiny corydoras, strange hatchetfish, neon tetras, even the elegant and beautiful discus.  In the deep holes and channels of the rivers, weird and rarely seen species such as electric eels and armored catfish lurk. Many species as yet unknown to science undoubtedly remain in the Amazon.
    There are also dozens of other great gamefish throughout the Amazon depending on the specific fishery.  Each river in the Amazon system has it’s own particular mix of game fish.  Among the more notable Amazon denizens are the huge arapima (pirarucu) and the silvery, prehistoric-looking aruana.  The arapima must come to the surface periodically to gulp air in order to survive.  Picture a 100 pound plus scaled giant surfacing near your boat in a glass smooth lagoon!  Many of the rivers contain giant red-tailed catfish ('pirarara'), sometimes exceeding 100 pounds.  These monsters can be caught using a piranha as bait (you'd better have stiff gear or be prepared to follow these leviathans down the river).  Some fisheries contain the fast and acrobatic 'matrincha'.  Suribim are large, aggressive catfish that happily strike a plug.  Amazon rivers are also home to beefy 'pacu', toothy 'bicuda', streamlined 'pike cichlids' (Crenicichla sp.) and lots of small but feisty piranha.
    Some of the best trophy peacock bass rivers do not offer a wide variety of ‘incidental’ species.   If you’re after a mixed bag and not specifically seeking trophy-sized peacock bass, consider Bolivia,  with it's peacocks, payara and dorado all accessible from one camp or Venezuela’s Cinaruco River or any of the camps located on Venezuela’s Ventuari river system.

Are all the rivers alike? - Each river in the Amazon is quite distinct, with it’s own water color, clarity and bottom substrate.   Some rivers have hard sand bottoms, others are rock filled, while others are mud bottomed.  Fish, insect, bird and mammal species can vary greatly from river to river.   Soil type and topography dictate what type of vegetation grows near the river.  Some rivers have cypress-like flowering trees growing right in the water along the bank.  Others are palm lined, while still others boast towering deciduous trees reaching hundreds of feet above the river.

What is the jungle like?- Jungle substrate varies greatly from river to river.  Some rivers have trees with a high canopy adjacent to the river’s edge.  In these areas, one can walk about in the jungle with little effort.  Other rivers have extremely impenetrable, thick low-lying brush along the rivers edge.   In all cases, vegetation changes the further one travels from the water’s edge.   The jungle floor also varies from place to place.  Some jungles have smooth sandy bottoms with a light covering of leaves, while other locations have spongy bottoms consisting of several feet of dead leaves.
    Most rivers allow access to a variety of jungle and forest types along their banks, from floodplain jungle to primary forests.  Guides will be happy to take you exploring in the forest if you're interested, but don't wander off by yourself.  Hiking in the jungle without an extremely knowledgeable guide is not recommended – it is very easy to get lost.

Isn't the Amazon endangered? - Yes, seriously so.  The Amazon covers a huge expanse of territory, as large as the continental U.S..  Many of the countries that encompass the Amazon have rapidly growing populations of urban poor that are expanding into the jungle seeking economic survival.  Local governments, in a misguided search for economic benefits, are also eager to subsidize ranchers, loggers and farmers to help expand their operations into the jungle.  Miners are polluting and disturbing the pure waters.  Road builders and developers are burning the edges of the forests.  All these factors are slowly taking their toll and will unquestionably continue to alter the Amazon’s pristine state.  Luckily, the Amazon itself is an extremely harsh environment that floods for several months and then dries up with little or no rain.  This environment makes expansion and settlement difficult and almost always economically unproductive. It has taken decades for any understanding of this counterproductive reality to be accepted.  Ultimately, these economic realities may offer ways to help save the Amazon.
    Slowly, we are seeing an increasing awareness of the Amazon’s value in its natural state.  Governments and businesses are recognizing that there are productive uses of the Amazon that do not contribute to its destruction.  Eco-tourism, birding and catch and release fishing are just a few among the many personal uses that engender profits for the countries and peoples of Amazonia without damaging the ecosystem.  Selective harvesting of valuable plants and collection of pharmaceuticals are corporate uses with great potential value.  It is an international, national and individual responsibility to help further protect and preserve the Amazon.  Many organizations are focused on helping in this effort.   National parks are springing up throughout the basin.  Encouraging more of these protected areas will help ensure the survival of this incredible, international natural treasure.  Wider acceptance of non-destructive uses and careful mangement of extractive reserves is a positive direction for the future.  Each individual who takes even the smallest step or makes even the smallest contribution to assist these efforts ultimately lends more momentum to a world-wide movement to keep this essential planetary resource intact for future generations.  Help if you can.  Get your government to help, if you can.  Spread the word, if you can.


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