As I stood in downtown Miami admiring the gasping peacock bass I’d just caught, it occurred to me that the fish and I had something common: Neither of us really belonged in that urban setting. I’ve lived in Punta Gorda for more than three decades — more than long enough to become accustomed to the relatively slow-paced life enjoyed by the residents of this beautiful and friendly small town. Miami, the home of more than 2.5 million people, is internationally renowned as a hub of multicultural activity and is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but I don’t really belong there among the hustle and bustle of a big city.
Peacock bass don’t belong in Miami either. The butterfly peacock bass is native to South America and was introduced to Florida waters as early as the 1960s to provide recreational fishing opportunities. Despite repeated attempts at introducing them in other areas, they’ve managed to thrive only in a small corner of Southeastern Florida — primarily in the Miami area. This means that much of the fishing for these brightly colored and hard-fighting fish is done in citified surroundings, which are in stark contrast to the jungles and rain forests which surround much of their native water. Every once in a while, someone claims to have caught a peacock bass in Southwest Florida, but I‘ve never caught or even seen one of the pretty fish in our region.
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