Fishing for Exotics and Where to Find Them

Take a walk on the wild side down to south Florida for Amazonian exotics.


Exotics in the Backyard

South American exotics are readily available all over south Florida. But with so much water ranging from canals to spillways, culverts and ponds, how do you know where to look?

It’s actually a lot easier than you think!


Locating Fish 

Your success in finding and targeting fish greatly depends on your method of fishing. However, there can be some crossover, so I will break each location down with details about tactics and species.



From Cape Coral to Miami, canals crisscross the bottom half of Florida and provide habitat for numerous different species. The challenge when fishing these bodies of water is in depth. Some of these canals can be 30 or more feet deep!

My recommendation for fishing these bodies of water on spin is to either use a heavy sinker with a live bait on the bottom, or a heavy, diving plug. If you want to use soft plastics or flies, quietly approach from the sides and check the shallows. Fish in shallow water will often be staging next to bridge pilings or be right up against the rocks.


Exotics in Palm Beach

In the image above you can see the pipe and pilings running across a canal. This peacock bass and his buddies were hanging tight to the pilings up shallow. They often spooked out to deeper water but would always return to their beds by the pilings. While there were about 6 fish we could see, there were no doubt dozens more sitting in the deep, dark water in the middle of the canal.



In my opinion, ponds are where it’s at for this type of fishing. Typically they aren’t super deep, and the spots that are will be too far for you to cast at anyway. Here I recommend an approach similar to canals. Walk the edges and look for fish in the shallows in beds and on limestone outcroppings. Even if you don’t see fish at first, you may encounter limestone which can harbor fish. They may not be visible at the time, but I promise you there is life.

Exotics Mayan Cichlid

In these situations, plugs and lures that dive to medium-depths such as 4-5 feet will work well. Additionally, for those using live bait, a small split shot will be effective. Just like fishing the edges of a canal, a fly with dumbbell eyes or a lead wrap will work great!


Culverts, Pipes & Spillways

An overarching theme of this post has been structure. If you find a canal or pond that has a pipe or culvert, you can find big fish. If you can get your presentation down to work the front and edges of the pipe or culvert, you’re most likely be getting it in front of a fish. As for spillways, just as snook sit in wait at spillways, so do a variety of cichlids (including peacock bass), largemouth bass and more! Fish are opportunistic feeders in many cases, this is another great area to target.


Both of the peacock bass above were plucked from storm drains.

Get After It

I’ve used all these principles to catch all these wild, exotic fish before. If you don’t believe me, you can read about it here. If you want to learn more about fishing south Florida from land for a variety of species in both salt and freshwater, I recommend checking out, “Ultimate Guide to Fishing South Florida on Foot”, by Steve Kantner. Kantner who is referred to as the “Land Captain” was just on the Millhouse Podcast to tell his story, you can check that out here.

Until next time, tight lines!

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