Fly Fishing Miami's Canals

Monday, June 10, 2013 , , 3 Comments

The canal system within Miami provides one of the most unique urban fishing experiences available to anglers. During the 1980's the city stocked Butterfly Peacocks in the canal system, in an effort to control invasive fish species while still providing sporting capabilities. Now Butterfly Peacocks are native to South America, so the logic of stocking one invasive species to control another is beyond me, but regardless the situation is what it is. Beyond the Peacocks the canals are famous for, anglers will also have opportunities to catch Oscars, Midas Cichlids, Tilapia, Snakeheads and various other fish the residents have released into the canal system when they outgrew their home aquariums. The plebeian Largemouth is another standard within the entirety of the canals and at various times Snook and baby Tarpon may be taken as well. 

I had one day to fish the canal system and of course it was storming off an on all day with winds in excess of 15 mph. I caught only a few fish but given it was the first time fishing the canals I am happy given the conditions. I also learned a lot. First to the behavior of Peacocks--they are aggressive. If you  had one following your fly and you slowed down your retrieve at all, they would turn off. The biggest difficulty fishing for them was I was often elevated from the canal 3-6 above the water. The canals themselves are generally about 12 feet deep and are often straight down with very little cover or ledge.

Fishing the shelf seemed to bring about the most follows and strikes. For flies I used a combination of wooly buggers and clousers. Stylistically, it is sight fishing so all of you who enjoy chasing fish on the flats or pursue carp would really enjoy this. From the bank you can easily see the characteristically yellow and orange of the Peacocks. 

While I am sure you could blind cast to the deep parts of the channel and get a few odds and ends, on a fly rod you are going be most effective seeing and casting to you fish. If  you have access to a kayak or boat to fish the canals take advantage of it and I am sure you will have much more success. Many of the canals are inaccessible due to them being in neighborhoods or have banks filled with excessive vegetation. Wet wading isn't really an option either due to the steep drop of the canals and the fact that many of the canal areas I fished had signs posted for alligators. 

The greatest difficulty though would be where to start fishing. Especially, if like me you have very limited amount of time to fish and don't want to waste a lot of time driving around the nightmarish traffic of Miami. I fished two canals, C-2 and C-100. On C-2, also known as Snapper Creek, there is a very accessible portion at Dadeland Mall. 

In addition to Peacocks, this area had lots of small Largemouth as well. Though I reserved most of my casts for Peacocks as they are loads more fun. Think of a Smallie on steroids. 

On the C-100, the most obvious place is The Falls Shopping Center. I didn't see near as many Peacocks or Largemouths there but did see hundreds of Midas Cichlids though how to catch them alluded me the entire day. Also I saw many Oscars there but they were incredibly skittish and would leave for deep water the moment they saw a shadow. 

A more enjoyable section on the C-100 is the Coral Reef regional park where the C-100A and C-100B come together. Easy to cast, a place to park and lots of Peacocks with many Midas present as well. 

I only fished a day, so I am by far not an expert, but hopefully this will help you get a start and limit some of the research you have to do on your own. But please, if you are in Miami and have some spare time, throw some line in these canals. It truly is a very unique, challenging, and rewarding fishery. 

One last note: the Peacock Bass in the Miami Canals are Butterfly Peacocks--Cichla ocellaris. While they can still get 10 lbs + most are far smaller. Often it has been confusingly stated that Miami has its larger cousin Cichla monocles.  


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Atlas said...

Oh it made me nervous for sure. I didn't get too close to the canals, especially if the water wasn't too clear. But I never did spot one.