Brazil Checkout Trips–The Early Days

Brazil and Amazon Map[Editor: this article first appeared on www.ronsfishingblog and may only be used by permission of Ron Speed]

This week we are going to talk about peacock bass in Brazil. This past week our group had a great trip with 60 fish over 10lbs; last week the group had 110 fish over 10lbs; this week they had 23 fish over 10 lbs and they had 10 fish over 20lbs with a 26lb monster as the biggest. It was a very good week.

We started taking groups to South America almost 20 years ago and it has been a great adventure for our clients. We started on Guri Lake in Venezuela and I found out right away that the peacock was one of the toughest, meanest, most aerobatic fish I had ever caught. I fell in love with the peacock fishing and began to look around for places where we could catch bigger fish. On Guri, you could catch pretty good numbers but the 15 to 20lb fish were hard to find. My biggest in 3 years was an 18lb fish that I caught on a 3/4 oz jig fished 20 ft deep.

The operation at Puepa Fishing Club left a lot to be desired so I made contact with Scotties’ sport fishing over in Brazil. The organizer was an older guy with tons of experience named Morgan McDonald and his son Ian McDonald. Morgan leased an old houseboat that had no rooms. We had to sleep on the floor or in a hammock. I chose to sleep on an old cot outside the covered top, which was a mistake as the next morning I would be soaking wet from the heavy dew.

We flew to Belem, where the Amazon empties into the ocean. We spent the night and flew out the next day to Santarem, which is half way from Belem to Manaus. Morgan met us and we boarded the worst houseboat in South America. Our destination was to fish a little-known river called the Trombetus. This was truly a checkout trip as Morgan had only heard stories about big peacock. We fished 2 days without a bite and heard all kinds of excuses as to why the fish were not biting.

The second night we stopped at a government check station about 11 pm and everyone was asleep. I woke up but didn’t get up, just listened to a lot of Portuguese and some loud talking. Next thing I know 2-55 gallon drums of gasoline were unloaded from our houseboat. After the gasoline was unloaded, the houseboat began to move on up river. I found out later that Morgan had bribed the government guys to let us fish in a sanctuary but we were not to get out of the boat and set foot on the sandy beaches. It seems that the ridley turtles were laying eggs in the sand. As they were on the endangered list, there was no walking on the beaches.

About midmorning we found a stream of water pouring into the main river. Three boats chose to follow the stream and yes, they had to get out and push the small boats into a big lagoon. I chose to go on the other side of the river and pull the boat into another big lagoon. It wasn’t long before I realized that this lagoon had been hit hard by poachers as drying racks were all over the banks. No peacocks but I did foul hook a huge Pirarcu that pulled our small boat all over the lagoon for about 10 minutes before it broke my mono line.

We finally pulled our boat back out to the main river just before dark and met our buddies coming back from the secret lagoon. They had hit the MOTHER LOAD as they had caught scores of big peacock. They said it was a fish every cast for almost 2 hours and they were exhausted. Since this was our last day, we had to turn the houseboat around and head back to the Amazon River.

Other than those two great hours of peacock fishing, the 7-day trip was a total failure, which is what happens on most of the checkout trips all over the world. It’s gold mine or famine and mostly famine.

Next time we will talk about two more checkout trips to different rivers in another part of Brazil.

Good luck with your fishing and remember to wear that lifejacket!