Killa's Vacation: the IFGA Museum, Lake
Okeechobee, and Peacock Bass in Miami Canals
From left: Jerry, Josh (holding Peacock bass), and Jon
Alberson (holding the "bird").
Editor's note: A few yearsa ago, I watched
Roland Martin wading the grass flats Lake Okeechobee, catching huge bass on
topwater lures. Shortly after that, I watched the first of dozens of shows in
which various television anglers pursued the beautiful and vicious peacock bass.
I mentally added those two trips to my long list of places and species I hoped
to see some day. Josh Alberson (aka Fordkilla454 on the GRF Message Board) from
Albany took a vacation last July that we all only dream about and was nice
enough to write up this little article for GRF. I hate to ruin Josh's
reputation, but he is one of the nicest folks anyone could ever hope to spend a
day on the river with, and is a fantastic fisherman. If any of you are looking
for a great vacation idea, read on...
The family decided to head out for a family
vacation and it indeed was a trip to remember. We traveled to Fort
Lauderdale for some great fishing and fun in the sun. It included my mom
Jan, my dad Jerry, my brother Jon, and myself (fordkilla454). The trip
included days at the International Fish and Game Museum, Lake Okeechobee, and
the peacock canals in Miami. Anyhow, on with the fishing stories...
The IFGA museum was an
unexpected addition to our trip. The first fishing day was a washout due
to rain. Instead we headed down to the Fort Lauderdale Bass Pro Shops…yall
know how much I love them. Anyhow we noticed the museum next door and
decided to have a look. The museum certainly held some interesting
articles included reproduced record mounts of all the game fish the IFGA
recognizes in one room, various reels and rods used by fisherman through the
ages, interactive fishing games that are surprisingly realistic, and an outdoor
swamp containing alligators, peacock bass and such. It was an unexpected
surprise for a day that looked to be a washout.
Josh with a braggin'-size Okeechobee largemouth. Guide Todd Kersey is in the
Okeechobee was an adventure on a lake unlike any in Georgia. Some
background on the lake is needed first. In the mid-1900s, two years in a
row, hurricanes created a tidal wave on the lake that destroyed two towns
killing approximately 1200 and 800 people respectively. To prevent this, a
30 foot high damn was constructed around the lakes 111-mile circumference.
This created a 25 to 30 ft trench encircling the lake. It is also an
engineering marvel for those early times. In addition, locks on each side
of the lake and a deep canal in the middle allow boats up to 120 ft to pass from
the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico.
When we took
off from the ramp I was astounded. The whole lake looks fishy. It is
full of cattails and grass from one side to the other. Like the ocean, the
opposite side of the lake is invisible over the horizon. I was lost within
a minute of leaving the loading ramp. Somehow our guide, Todd Kersey, was
able to put us on the fish. We took some early on with top water and then
reverted to my old favorite, a Texas rigged lizard. Todd realized that we
were able to fish this lure better than any other, and put us where we could
work this to our advantage. We worked across shallow flats, which is kinda
odd in this lake since it usually only gets anywhere from 5 to 8 ft deep. Oddly,
Okeechobee is totally devoid of stumps, which I asked about as we wisked across
the lake at 65 miles per hour. Later in the day we were able pull up on
schooling fish and take them quickly with Rattletraps and Senkos, including a
double hookup by Todd.
Throughout the day we got used to hearing the sounds of
gators grunting as we moved from one group of cattails to another. We only
saw one because there were plenty of hiding spots for them, but their presence
was obvious. While watching for gators, eating lunch, and running my mouth
to the guide…who good naturedly responded, as Troy (shoalieman on the GRF
Message Board) likes to do, I hooked the big bass of the day. It was an
approximately five and a half pound bucketmouth that I winched through the
weeds. Not exactly big for an Okeechobee bass, as proved by Todd’s
pictures, but it pulled harder than any northern strain largemouth I ever
fought, using the weeds to its advantage. We ended the day with about 25 or
30 bass for me, and 10 or so apiece for my dad and brother. This was
fairly good after the front the week before had inundated Florida with 10 inches
of rain the previous week. On a side note, if you fish Okeechobee bring
plenty of sunscreen…..my country @#* got fried.
Jerry Alberson with a nice Peacock bass. Josh is to the right, undoubtedly
The canals of
Miami were our ultimate goal. Fishing Okeechobee proved to only be an
appetizer. After years of seeing peacocks slam stick baits on television
in Brazil, I yearned to reel in a peacock. Since the trip to Brazil is
about $2000 dollars, the canals of Miami were a happy alternative. Some
background on peacocks is in order. Originating in Brazil they were
introduced into the canals of Miami to control taipai, a tropical fish itself
that feeds on bluegill and bass eggs, released from cargo ship bilges and
peoples' aquariums. Like the largemouth they are not really a member of
the bass family, but are actually a member of the chichlid family. The peacocks
are truly a warm water fish and cannot exist much further north of the Dade
county line, where water can fall under 65° F.
Now on to the
fishing. We launched out of a city park on Blue Lagoon in Little Havana
where we were the only English speakers in the area. I met 8 year olds who
did not know one lick of English. This completely blew my mind like many
other facts I would learn that day. We immediately started fishing here
with my dad and brother pitching shiners and me throwing a Tiny Torpedo. I
was the first to hookup and what do you know I catch a largemouth! Ole
bucketmouth and the peacocks are able to coexist happily feeding on different
fish. As we moved down the bank my dad hooked into his first peacock.
It was caught 10 yards from the Miami turnpike and 50 yards from the fence for
Miami International Airport.
After his hookup we continued along the bank and fishing out
of the back my dad somehow hooked into several more. Before too long my
brother joined into the action and caught his first. His landmark, the
biggest Burger King there is, the national headquarters, was 20 yards away!
After releasing this one we continued down a seawall with Jon and Dad picking
them off left and right. As you can guess, I’m desperate to get in on
the action, and Todd suggests switching to shiners. Being the hardheaded
person I am and my aversion to spinning reels, I state I want my first one on a
top water plug. He smiles and needles me as Dad continues to pull them in,
giving me the heck I doled out the day before. My luck was not to change
though in Blue Lagoon. My only attempt to hookup there came while casting
to jack crevalle as we idled into the true canals of Miami.
As we entered the canals proper we were astounded by the
view. Todd raced his boat down the canals as if I was Crockett and he was
Rico. He sure would have made them a good stunt driver as he drove the
Team Skeeter boat under bridges we had to duck under at 70 mph. At one
point we were running in a canal not 20 yards from the turnpike passing people
in the left hand lane. I simply waved and smiled. As the canal
retuned to the residential areas, my dad, brother, and I were astounded.
People used the canals simply as a dumping area for yard trash. While it
made good structure it sure was ugly. Stolen cars were simply stripped and
run into the canals. At one point my brother caught a peacock off the rear
seat of a former white suede Cadillac. In this structure were also some
interesting animals. We saw iguanas that weighed at least 40 pounds and
could have gnawed off Uga's head in 5 seconds flat. At random times they
would come flying out of oak trees from 30 ft up landing with a splat in the
canals as if they were Georgia moccasins. Troy dream about them now!!
Gecko were also well represented with geckos running all over the place on their
two hind legs. Unfortunately they were too fast for me to catch a picture
with my camera. Finally as we idled down and got back to fishing I hooked up
with my first peacock on a Tiny Torpedo. As fate would have it, I should
have let this one shake off. IT WAS THE SMALLEST FISH OF THE DAY!
Little brother strikes back!! Jon gets a Peacock. Check out
the high-rise in the background!!
I was happy to be on the board though as my dad now had me
down 7 to 1 at this point. I went to work though trying to erase this
deficit. As we trolled along in this canal into another small lake I went
back and forth between the Tiny Torpedo, a Yozuri jerkbait, and a Rapala Shad Rap.
If I didn’t get hit in the first 20 seconds of the cast I reeled in quickly
and threw again. Casts had to be well aimed because the peacocks were
right on the banks in the sun getting warm. As we moved through this lake
I narrowed the margin and overtook my brother in the fish catching count as he
swapped to artificials. Dad was still putting them in the boat and made
catching up hard. Finally, as we exited the canal, a shiner we had been
trolling behind us began to click off line on the Abu. Being the closest
my brother grabbed the rod, reeled up the slack, and slammed the hook into a
feeding tarpon. The tarpon quickly stripped line but as my brother went
for the backup hook set the tarpon threw the hook ended our exciting moment.
The chance at a bonus fish was missed again quickly when a 12 to 15 pound snook
narrowly missed my teeny torpedo at our feet.
With the day getting along we decided to circle the lake one
last time. It was time for my revenge. Tossing the Yozuri I hooked
into a nice fish and managed to bring a nice 3 and a half-pound peacock in the
boat. I don’t care what Troy says, this thing could have out pulled two
West Virginia citation smallmouths like they were standing still.
After reeling that bad boy in, the peacock is now my favorite
“bass”. Looking to cool down we headed out looking for bigger
peacocks. We found one sitting on the bed ready to be caught. Unlike
the largemouth, peacocks will aggressively attack anything near their nest.
Todd held us 6 ft off the bed as dad and I flipped shiners onto the bed, which
the peacock would quickly bite, then spit out as fast as the shiner hit the
water. I counted 20 hits by the same peacock before I quit counting.
Finally I hooked her, released her, and she went back to the same bed, ready to
As the day wound down we found some deeper water. I had
narrowed the count on dad but wasn’t catching up quick enough. Luckily
he was running out of shiners so I still held an outside chance on him. As
we fished along passing time I hooked a couple more fish. Jon and I then
teamed up for a double on what was to be our last fish! Unfortunately we
forgot to snap a picture. We were all starting to tire and talk about
heading in. Dad pitched out his last shiner and to add salt to the wound
landed a nice 5 and a half-pound peacock. I’m still hearing about that.
Final tally: Dad- 15 to Josh-9. Jon ended with 6.
Lastly I would like to say thank you to Capt. Todd Kersey.
I didn’t realize how much guides work and know. I finally had to tell
him to quit tying my knots for me cause I was quite capable of it myself.
He worked hard, put us on plenty of fish in very adverse water conditions, and
his tackle was better than I have ever thrown (I want some G-Loomis rods now!!).
Lastly he put up with and verbally sparred with me with great humor both days
and y'all know how I can talk. He can be reached at www.hawghunters.net
and guides the Everglades in addition to Okeechobee and the Miami canals.