As January 2014 ushered in its cold weather, 18 anglers were visiting the tanning salon to get a little color before their big adventure. Their destination – the Brazilian Amazon River for world-class peacock bass fishing. Join D&R Sports Center owner, Randy VanDam on this exciting trip!
This was my sixth Peacock Bass trip with Ron Speed Jr’s Adventures. What started as, “I have to do this once in my lifetime,” has turned into an every-other-year excursion. It was so awesome I couldn’t do it just once!
Our trip started with a flight into the river city of Manaus, followed by an hour and 10 minute flight to Barcelos, where we met our boat, “The Otter.” From there we set off on our six-day adventure on the Rio Negro arm of the Amazon River.
The boat we stayed on had comfortable air-conditioned rooms with private bath/shower. There was an open bar (which we hit nightly) and a seating area with plenty of room for the evening card games. The top deck of the boat featured a large sundeck with a 360o panoramic view. The boat was truly luxurious.
Besides the great fishing, the Amazon Rainforest is a beautiful place! We saw a lot of wildlife on our adventure, including gators, otters, monkeys, birds of all kinds, and much more. We had dolphins (freshwater porpoises, actually) follow us and ambush our peacock bass as we released them from being caught. We learned to go to the bank or bushes to release the peacocks when the porpoises were around.
The Amazon is an eat-or-be-eaten place for the fish. It’s where most of the world’s freshwater tropical fish come from, as well as parakeets and “toucan sams.” The Amazon Basin contains the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world – more than 3,000 species! The Amazon is also the largest native territory for the peacock bass.
Peacock bass are a beautiful animal. Their coloring varies greatly, from a dark brownish green through deep yellow to almost silver. They received their name due to the large black spot on their tail. They have three vertical black bars on their sides, with blood red markings on their bellies and lower fins. One common color variant, referred to as “paca” has dotted white lines running horizontally down the sides. This pattern is generally seen in non-reproductive fish, which are believed to be even stronger and more aggressive than other members of their species.
Regardless of color pattern, peacock bass hit the lure harder than you can imagine, and pull like no other freshwater fish for their size. Their powerful strikes can propel water up to 10 feet in the air! When I describe how they fight, I tell people to imagine how a 5-pound smallmouth bass fights and jumps, then multiply it by 10… then put it on steroids! They straighten the heaviest hooks and tear open split rings with their fast and powerful runs, which unfortunately happened to us numerous times.
All of our fishing was done from 17’ Triton aluminum bass boats, equipped with foot-control trolling motors for maneuvering. The water levels were low but rising this trip which made navigation more treacherous, as we did find several shallow sand bars. We traveled several miles in the boat, fishing many different areas. The boats offered us access to backwater lagoons and smaller tributaries where the giant peacocks live. We had a variety of exciting experiences and collected many stories about the one that got away.
With temperatures running in the mid-80’s, it was sometimes exhausting work ripping that large topwater lure all day. At times it was hard to stay focused, but the thought of a giant peacock smashing my lure on the next cast kept me going.
The fishing was a little slower than some of my other trips, but the average size of the fish we caught more than made up for that! We had nine fish that were 20 lbs or larger, and a whole lot between ten and twenty pounds. We ran into rising water on a full moon, and I think that slowed the small fish down a bit. That’s okay though, I’ll take big fish any day!
It’s hard to describe this trip in words – it’s incredible! The fishing was spectacular. Check out the pictures, they tell a lot of the story. The camaraderie on the trip was equally as great. Fishing with my son Jonathon (JVD), my brother-in-law Tom Hunt and friends Mike Bosma & Mark DuPui, plus having both old and new friends on the boat, made this trip very special. Jon and Tom both told me they can’t wait two years to do it again, so we will try again next Jan 2-11.
As I try to write these thoughts, I cannot help but get more excited about planning my next trip in January 2015! If you are interested in going, or would like more information feel free to contact me. Thank you to Ron Speed Jr. for making this trip so enjoyable!