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.
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
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
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!
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.