The much maligned invasive South American and African species, cichlids, are becoming a very popular roadside attraction for resident and visiting anglers. Never look a gift fish in the mouth; long-time farm pond and lazy small creek fisherman, especially kids, love panfish fishing; that’s where it usually begins if you’re lucky. Kids and anglers of all ages love a hard bite, strong fight, and bent rod battle. Nothing else can compare to ditch fishing in swamp areas and pothole ponds in southwest Florida.
This area is a great place for fly rodding mini cork poppers or, better yet, cane poling with a float and tiny hook to get into some fun easy boy action. Now I know that doesn’t sound glamorous but I bet yah if you try it with your kids you’ll be hogging the rod from time to time. Although they won't admit it some of my “hot shot” peacock bass fisherman will enjoy a nice photo opp with a pound-and-a-half Mayan cichlid about as much a big boy buster butterfly cock. If you’re really lucky, a big peacock will make for an even wilder adventure when a hungry bump-headed critter busts into the cloud of mixed bag chum intended to attract lesser cichlids and slams your tiny bait-dressed number # 8 hooks, maybe even a scented dough ball “killer on the loose”!
The “cichlid antipasto” can consist of a vast number of food items; most cichlids are omnivorous. Many species of cichlids will prefer eat a variety of herbal matter. Tilapia are basically herbivores, preferring algae and fallen bush berries that drift in the water column. Thus reasonable baits for tilapia can include peas, corn, scented dough balls, and cheese balls. An easy source of dough ball material can be had at your local grocery store; Pillsbury Doughboy biscuit dough in cardboard tubes is cheap and ready to use; just add scent if you’re particular. Scents can include garlic, strawberry jam, fish oil, Gulp juices, olive oil, bacon grease, and anisette, to name a few!
If there are populations of various cichlids and competition for food is serious, about any of a number of small bite-size earthworms sections, meal worms, common maggots, and shrimp bits will fill the baiting bill.
Other off-he-wall “good old boy” bait options, include small strips of fat back bacon, baloney, salami, and one guy from Golden Gate swears by Polish kielbasa. I guess you can bring an extra sandwich and use the bread and meat for a picnic lunch and baiting all at once. Multi-tasking; I like it!
Capt. Ron Kowalyk; 239-267-9312