Peacock Bassin' in Kauai
We touched down in the rain. Also, it wasn't much warmer than Vancouver.
The prospect of a sunny tropical vacation had buoyed me through the painful final weeks of winter in British Columbia. Seems like everytime it seems spring is about to begin, we would get another blast of snow. It was like torture to me, and I couldn't wait to get my boat out on the water.
Before we left we'd heard a few things about Kauai, both good and bad. (1) It had the wettest spot on Earth (surprisingly Vancouver doesn't hold that title). (2) There have been a ton of famous movies filmed there (Namely the Jurassic Park series and the first Indiana Jones movie). (3) They have peacock bass.
There are only two spots outside of South America that have this cichlid (not a true bass) on steroids. A few canals in Southern Florida and the reservoirs of Kauai. My dad actually knew this before me, and it was his idea to book a charter for them. Not that it was hard to convince me, they've been my bucket list fish ever since my buddy James Jojos sent me pics of a 17 pounder he caught in the Amazon and told me how insane these fish are.
We met up with our guide Pacau at 7 a.m. on the first hot day of our trip. We followed him into a fenced property where there were two boats in a hanger. One was a beat-up old Stratos, and the other a 17 foot tin beast with an old 30 horse Johnson. We were in the tin beast. After a brief inspection of the Walmart discount combo spinning rods I realized we weren't exactly dealing with a high budget outfit here. The jerkbaits attached to the end of the lines only proved that further. They had rusty hooks, but what was more indicative of their abuse was the savage chunks missing from the baits, as if they had been attacked by something with teeth. Cool.
The day started slow. Not even a sign of a peacock for the first few hours when the guide relented that he actually hadn't even caught a peacock in the last few trips out. However, he did say the largemouth had been biting. Great. Largemouth are my favourite fish and all, but I can catch them in Canada anytime I like. We were here for peacocks.
Finally it happened. It wasn't a cast to any particular structure, just a throw out into the open that did it, but my dad tied into the first one. It was a feisty tucunare (peacock bass) of about 2 and a half pounds. Man, they're cool looking fish. Bright chartreuse with a vicious looking hump on their backs, peacock bass look as angry as their personality proves them to be. I was jealous.
My dad would catch the next one as well. This one was about 3 pounds and fought like a freight train. Finally it was my turn, we pulled into a shallow bay that I had my eye on all day. There were little bushes in the middle of the water and clusters of weeds scattered throughout. Perfect bass country. Unfortunately, the rods weren't exactly the best tool for the job. While I would have preferred a flippin' stick with 65 pound braid in this scenario, I was paired with a 6'6 spinning rod with 10 pound mono. Unrelenting, I Texas-rigged a Chigger Toad and aimed for the middle of the stuff.
Bam! It hit like an explosion. I wrestled it for about 10 seconds before it wrapped me up on a stick and escaped. Not too surprising, but still a major disappointment.
Fortunately, it was only the beginning. I stuck two peacocks in the next few minutes, both in the 2-3 pound range and both relentless fighters. We caught a few largemouth that day, and the peacocks made them look about as aggressive as a suckerfish by comparison. My first peacock!
We had fished most of the lake and landed about a dozen bass, half peacocks and half largies. I had one big largie break me off and one more reason to curse my cheap Walmart rod and 10 pound test. My reel had seized early in the fight and my line snapped like sewing thread under the weight of the fish as it thrashed near the shore. My kingdom for a flippin' stick.
All too soon it was over and we were headed back to the condo. Despite my complaints over the gear (I am a total gear Nazi), this was one of the most amazing fishing days of my life. The scrappiness of a peacock bass is unlike anything we have in Canada. They would literally beach themselves and flop back into the lake as they chased schools of tilapia through shallow water.
If you ever find yourself in Kauai and want to experience something new, try peacock bass fishing. You'll never forget these fish.