If you fish the canals, brackish water ponds, and feeder creeks here in Southwest Florida you’re bound to come across all manner of cichlids with the misnomer of Tilapia. It’s the generic name given to a whole clan of cichlids with duller, more neutral coloration than their brighter fire-mouthed, black-barred, or yellow-green South American relatives. Tilapias are of African origin, and are a major focus of aquacultural fish-based protein farming. Tilapia are very climate-tolerant fishes and can be raise successfully in tropical, subtropical, and even desert artificial pond environments. In the Middle East aquaculture is a staple of its relatively low-cost protein production. Tilapias feed and reproduce very well on a diet of food pellets made of vegetable, chicken, goat, lamb, and other animal byproducts. Waste not, want not! Tilapias also forage on the grass-bound phytoplankton and zooplankton, nipping nutrient rich microorganisms that thrive in warm water environments. All this makes for an outstanding fish for pond farming.
A downside to tilapia as a food source is they, unlike other fishes, are a poor source of omega-3 fatty acids, thus aren’t as heart healthy as other fishes. If you’re in a region where there aren’t any MacDonald’s, a nice tilapia burger sounds pretty good to me.
Getting back to angling, a careful, moderate harvesting of the many cichlid species—considered invasive species here in Florida—is a fun and environmentally useful pursuit: simple tackle—a cane pole will suffice—and no fishing license is required, as far as I know; a cup of wiggler worms, bits of night crawlers, a variety of canned or fresh veggies will make for good bait. Small is the secret to getting these critters to suck up bait. More on technique later! I just put carrot in for fun and I’ll get you a recipe for matzo ball tilapia bait.
Capt. Ron Kowalyk: 239-267-9312