Cichla monoculus, Peruvian name: Tucunaré; Tucunari; Tucu. Size: to approx 12-13 lbs. Habitat: oxbow lakes (cochas) and smaller rivers. Prefers shallows and quiet waters. Explosive feeder, readily taking a variety baits, both natural and artificial. Rattletraps, Rapalas, Spoons, and similar lures are extremely effective, as is flyfishing. This hook-bender has a much harder mouth and fights more savagely than the bass we fish for in the US, so bring plenty of extra lures! One of the world's most colorful freshwater game fishes. The regions number one target species for sport fisherman.
Astronotus ocellatus, Peruvian name: Carahuasú; Acarahuasú, Size: to approx. 3 lbs, usually smaller. Habitat: blackwater rivers, along brushy shorelines, and oxbow lakes. An aggressive fighter, the Oscar is the supreme panfish of the upper Amazon. Long familiar to aquarists, these colorful fishes are dynamite on a fly rig or mini-spinning rod. Baited hooks also work well. They put up a terrific struggle. Ounce for ounce these guys out-fight the peacocks!
Osteoglossum bicirrhosum, Peruvian name: Arowana. Size: to approx. 20 lbs, usually smaller. Habitat: primarily oxbow lakes and small lagoons. This is a long, slender fish that stalks its prey by day and by night. Beneath a spotlight, these ghostly white predators with huge red eyes look like something from outer space. Arowana will hit spinners like Mepps Killers, Shysters, and other crank baits. Strangely, they can often be caught at noon on a windy day...precisely when nobody in their right mind would be fishing. Prodigious leapers, Arowanas fight savagely and are adept at throwing the lure back into the boat. They are great on a fly rod! Their tough leathery mouths make them a challenge to hook.
Hydrolycus scomberoides, Peruvian name: Chambira; Payara. Size: to 59 lbs; usually 12-18 lbs. Habitat: rivers. Tarpon-like in appearance, Payaras possess HUGE spiky teeth used to capture the fish they feed on. The fang-like teeth on the mandible fit into sockets in the head, giving these spectacular fish the appearance of something from the ocean depths. Payaras have large eyes and are fierce hunters of a variety of game fish upon which they feed. Actually, there are three kinds of Payara in the Peruvian Amazon, but two are small (to about 2 lbs). These fish leap when hooked, and their bony mouths make for difficult capture....but it's worth the effort! WARNING: remove hook with caution.
Hoplias malabaricus, Peruvian name: Fuasaco. Size: to about 5 lbs, usually 2-3 lbs. Habitat: everywhere, but in quieter waters. Wolf Fish favor creeks and lagoons, or the margins of flood forest. A hulking brute of a fish, the Wolf Fish is hardy and can survive under low oxygen conditions. Thus, it turns up in very small bodies of water. Armed with spade-like teeth, these fish swallow their prey whole, and they consume other fishes, often large ones. Locals hunt them with flashlight and machete, as they lurk in very shallow water by night. Wolf Fish readily take baited hooks, but they will also hit slow moving lures like Lazy Ikes. WARNING: remove hook with caution.
Pygocentrus nattereri, Peruvian name: Paña. Size: to about 1 lb. Habitat: smaller rivers, lagoons, oxbows, and creek mouths. Prefers quieter and deeper waters. This is the infamous piranha of Hollywood fame. Abundant and successful predators, Redbellys are an easy catch during the low-water months. They will hit flies, baited hooks, and small lures. WARNING: these fish will damage lures and all but the best made hooks. Great caution must be exercised when handling these fish or with those left loose in the boat. Although the voracious habits of piranhas have been exaggerated and taken out of context, the fact remains that they are capable of inflicting serious bites. WARNING: handle with extreme caution.
Serrasalmus niger, Peruvian name: Paña Blanca. Size: to approx. 5 lbs, usually much smaller. Habitat: blackwater rivers. Found in other quiet waters, but this species prefers some current. This is one of the giants of the piranha world, and large specimens must be seen to be believed. Known locally as "white" piranha owing to its pale, silvery color, these fishes become progressively darker with age, and big ones have a blackish appearance. Although not as famous as their smaller cousins, this ill-tempered beast is widely respected in the Amazon. They readily rise to the baited hook, bit will also attack flies and small crank baits. WARNING: handle with extreme caution.
Colossoma macropoma, Peruvian name: Tambaquí; Gamitana; Pacu. Size: to about 50 lbs; usually 8-20 lbs. Habitat: adults favor rivers, but juveniles are often taken in oxbows and other quiet water sites. This is a prized fish, not only for its delicious meat, but also because it is one of the most difficult to land on rod-and-reel. Deep-bodied and powerful, pacus can smoke your line down to the knot and make you lose faith in your drag. These cousins of the piranhas have huge teeth that resemble our own. They use them to crush fruits and seeds, but also to chew up food fish. Pacus will hit lures like Cisco Kids and Creek Chubs but also baited hooks. WARNING: handle with caution, and hang on to your hat when one hits your hook!
Crenicichla sp. Peruvian name: Añashúa. Size: to about 1 lb. Habitat: there are at least five species of Pike Cichlid in the area. All favor smaller rivers, lagoons, and oxbow lakes. Lightening fast, and very colorful, Pike Cichlids are wonderful game fish. They hit spinners, small spoons, flies, and a variety of crank baits. They'll run your line back-and-forth like nothing you've ever seen before.
Heros appendiculatus, Peruvian name: Bufurque; Bujurqui. Size: to six inches. Habitat: quiet waters, especially lagoons and oxbow lakes. There are about 50 kinds of cichlid fishes in the Peruvian Amazon, but most of them are too small to be considered game fish. The Peruvian Cichlid and a few other kinds are excellent panfish, however. Males in breeding color are truly spectacular.
Pseudoplatystoma tigrinum, Peruvian name: Doncella. Size: to about 60 lbs. Habitat: rivers and oxbows This is another popular aquarium fish that reaches a large size, is colorful, fights hard, and is a delicacy at the dinner table. Shovelnose catfish will hit baited hooks, as well as slow-moving underwater lures. Better bring your heavy line for these bruisers.
Phractocephalus hemioliopterus, Peruvian name: Pez Torre. Size: to five feet and 170 lbs; averages 10-50 lbs. Habitat: rivers and oxbows Another popular aquarium fish, the Red-tail Cat is common and a frequent catch. Larger specimens tend to stay deep, but the younger fish will hit bait and lures, even near the surface. If you're used to catching catfish in the US, better brace yourself for these guys....you'll think you've hooked a Christmas tree when you see their colors.
Brachyplatystoma flavicans, Peruvian name: Dorado. Size: to over 100 lbs; average is 15-40 lbs. Habitat: primarily the deeper channels of rivers, but also strays into oxbow lakes. The Dorado, so named because of its beautiful gold color, is without a doubt the most highly esteemed of all the regions catfishe. It supports huge fisheries in the Amazon and its meat is exported to New York and Europe. It's exquisite flavor is a welcome addition to the table. These big fish primarily hit baited hooks, and long lines. They are sleek and shark-like in build.
Pseudodoras niger, Peruvian name: Turushuqui. Size: to about 50 lbs; average is 2-10 lbs. Habitat: rivers and lakes. Primarily nocturnal, this catfish likes to lay up on submerged logs and under floating vegetation by day. Distinctive for the row of claw-like bony protuberances along each side, this fish is one of the most armored of all Amazonian catfish. Hard fighters, Clawed Cats will hit baited hooks run at or near the bottom. This is another exquisitely flavored fish and is a favorite in Peru.
Calophysus macropterus, Peruvian name: Mota. Size: to about 3 lbs. Habitat: all rivers and lakes. The Shark Cat, so named because it follows boats like sharks used to do to slave ships, is perhaps the most frequently caught fish in the Peruvian Amazon. When nothing else will bite, just toss a baited hook off the stern and wait a few minutes. Shark Cats will hit any baited hook, as well as most lures. They strike hard and fight like they weighed three times as much as they do. A lot of fun on light weight gear.