HOW MANY FISH SPECIES WITHIN THE AMAZON?
A lot is the simple answer, and we have seen reports and reviews which state anywhere from 2,000 to 5,600, with the majority hovering around 3,000.
Regardless, it’s a staggering number and even more amazing is that current reports suggest nearly half of these are Catfish sp.
As with many other wildlife groups, it is safe to assume that plenty of other fish species remain to be discovered and we have seen this recently with the formal confirmation a new Cichla species (Cichla cataractae).
The list below represents the species you are most likely to catch whilst on one of our adventures, and who knows, the next fish you catch may add to our growing list, or possibly even be a completely new species!!!
This prehistoric leviathan is the famed giant of the Amazon. Arapaima can reach weights in excess of 400lb and an average sized fish caught with us is between 100lb and 300lb. These are incredibly strong fish which fight in short fast bursts which usually feature explosive jumps. Heavy tackle mandatory for these along with 'circle' hooks
The Piraiba (Lau Lau or Freshwater Shark) is one of the most powerful catfish you are liable to encounter. With their proud dorsal fin and huge tail, these monsters will strip your line in blistering runs and will continue until tired or you get 'spooled out'. These are best taken on dead baits, which can be a complete 8lb-10lb fish. Simply awesome, and one you really need to target.
Average weights, 120lb+ but they can grow to over 400lb.
Jau are the 'Sumo Wrestlers' of the Amazon and are every bit as determined as their cousins, the Lau and Redtail. In contrast though, the Jau favours well oxygenated water especially in the rocky areas below rapids. They are cunning characters which will come out, take your bait and then run back to their rocky haunt, generally trying to cut you off. Average weights 80lb-100lb, but they can grow to in excess of 180lb.
Without doubt, one of the most beautifully marked catfish you are likely to encounter and named 'Redtail' for obvious reason. Redtails will run, run and continue running with incredible strength and stamina and will strip your line in long and sustained bursts. They love 'structure' and will always aim for home. A big Redtail will be 80lb to 90lb with averages for us of 50lb to 70lb.
There are two species of Payara you can meet, the large silver Payara to 30lb+ and the smaller and rarer orange/pink tailed Payara at 8lb to 10lb. Payara live in deep runs below rapids and falls, but can also be found in the smoother waters above. Easily recognised by the large pair of 'fangs' protruding from their lower jaw, Are these the things of nightmares? you decide!!
These are without doubt the #1 sportfish throughout the whole of the Amazon. You may encounter a number of different species reaching weights of up to 17lb+.
They are stocky, muscular fish with a bucket mouth matched by a voracious appetite. They will provide explosive top water and sub-surface action with massive jumps and boundless energy. Simply wonderful fish and great fun to catch.
This fish, bar none, is the most acrobatic and fastest species within the Amazon Basin. It will hit top-water lures in a flash and make reel stripping runs punctuated with airborne jumps and sumersaults. Bicuda can reach a max of 14lb but weight for weight they are one of the most enjoyable fish to catch, just because of their behaviour. Use minnows, jerk baits and top water lures to catch these beauties.
The Arowana is a prehistoric looking fish with an elongated body, tiny tail fin (Pirarucu family), huge scales and a bony mouth and they get up to around 14lb. They are a great shallow water species to target, especially with top-water lures.
They will take most surface attractions and are wildly acrobatic and have an ability to swim backwards.
The stuff that nightmares are made of!! Black Piranha often reach up to 10lb and can be taken throughout the water column / differing environments on a wide variety of lures, dead baits, jigs and flies. With a bite of over 30 times its body weight, a 7lb Black Piranha will have 210 PSI (Pounds per square inch' of bite, and will cut clean through a standard treble, so come prepared!!
The bigger Wolf Fish, those above 10lbs (They can reach 30lb) are more difficult to find and are caught mainly using cut-bait. The smaller Wolfies will hit top water 'poppers', 'spook' type lures, sub-surface flies and minnow / spinner baits. This aged species is a tough fighter, and is known to be an acrobatic bully.
These solid, hard fighting and brightly coloured fish live in the depths and can reach weights of up to 14lb+. They can be caught jigging plastic shads and minnow baits as well as small metal deep jigs towards the bottom.
These have to be some of the prettiest little fish in the Amazon, with their beautiful full spikey dorsal fin running all the way down to their tail. There are many species, with few reaching more than 1lb - 1 1/2lbs. Caught on all small minnow lures and spinners, they always put up a great scrap.
Most species of Pacu will take small lures and fruits. The bigger, brightly coloured red and black Pacu can reach 15lb+. In late March - April, you will often see small groups of 2-3 fish chasing fruit as it drifts downstream. With a deep body profile, Pacu are powerful fish and provide great sport. Take some smaller hooks with you i.e. sizes 2, 1 & 1/0 for light tackle fun.
These little bruisers get up to around 5lb and are surprisingly one of the hardest fighting and acrobatic fish we have in the Amazon. They can be caught on sweetcorn, grasshoppers, small plastic beads, fruits and spinnerbaits. Also, small poppers and 'walk-the dog' lures cast into fast water under trees works really well for these silver ballistic missiles.
There are many species of these pretty little fish including: three spot and banded Leporinus. Reaching a maximum of 3lb to 4lb they are terrific fun to catch when fishing with a jungle 'wand' with a line tied to the end, using worms, snails, meat, fruit or sweetcorn as bait.
While obviously not wanting to handle a river monster that can shoot a 900 volt shock up your arms, plenty of anglers want to say 'I caught an electric eel'!!! These slimy 3ft to 6ft fish are NOT eels, but members of the knife fish family and will often take small in-line bladed spinners like 'Mepps', and weighted tail-blade lures such as 'Little Georges'. You need to take extreme care with these especially when landed and being unhooked!!!
This is NOT a fish you want to stand on or bump into!!! The local Amerindians call them 'man cry all day' and for very good reason. The barb has a poisonous mucus containing venom that is left after the barb has been pulled out which causes excrutiating pain and possible skin necrosis. As they are relatively harmless until disturbed, just remember, when in the water, shuffle your feet rather than walk!!
One crazy looking fish that has been caught a few times only, mainly on worms, small spinners and even 1/2oz jigs. generally averaging no more than 4lb, these granite coloured fish are almost invisible in the water when settled within the rocks.
These fish look just like mini freshwater barracuda and are pack hunters that will readily take flies, small minnows and spinnerbaits. Averaging around 1/2lb to 1lb they are great fighters on ultralight tackle and have a mouth packed with canine teeth. Take extra care when handling these especially when unhooking. They do make exceptionally good 'whole fish' sized bait for the larger catfish.
A quite nasty little catfish that gets up to between 3lb to 4lb. This critter has a painful trick up it's sleeve!!!
Never grab this fish behind the gills and pectorals as it will clamp down and lock your fingers against it's spikey fins and lateral spines....
It is easily caught on worms and small pieces of chopped fish.
This is one weird looking fish with an overlapping top lip!!
Taken on worms and small pieces of chopped fish, it provides a good fight, but man, it just looks so odd!!!
Apparently it makes very good eating and at a weight up to around 8lb would make a good meal, although I have never tried it.
A crazy looking catfish but with no whiskers. It has a pointed dorsal fin on its huge head and can reach weights of over 20lb. It has an enormous mouth and very low set eyes. It can be caught on minnow baits and deep jigged fish strips or metal jigs. Large Lau catfish often take these mid-water whilst anglers are bringing them up to the surface.
The Surubim or 'Shovel-nosed' catfish is easily rcognised by it's beautiful markings. The ones we catch generally go to about 50lb and are one of the fastest cats in the Amazon. They are normally found in sandy stretches, shallow beaches and troughs. Once hooked they will speed off to find deeper water. They are great sport fish on medium tackle and can be taken on both dead bait and lures.
A pretty little 'shovel-nosed' catfish which can be caught on worms and small cut baits.
They fight well on medium/light tackle and generally have weights of 3 1/2lb - 4lb.
Possibly one of the ugliest and certainly most unusual of the Amazonian catfish. The Ripsaw or 'Niger' catfish has a line of savage, bony 'saws' running down it's lateral line, hence the name 'Ripsaw'. These can reach over 25lb and they can often be seen in pairs at night cruising the shallows.
Fun to catch with big bunches of worms.
Without doubt one of the most perfectly shaped and coloured catfish in the Amazon. It has incredibly long whiskers but rarely reaches more than 2lb.
Great fun to catch using worms and small pieces of cut bait.
Like the Driftwood catfish, these are bite-size morsels for the bigger catfish such as Lau, Jau and Redtails.
The Flat Whiskered or 'Blinker' catfish is a powerful fighter reaching weights of up to 25lb. They look almost alien with their ribbon like whiskers that twitch once the fish is landed. They can be caught on worms, small live fish or pieces of cut bait.
This little beauty is heavily scaled and has a bright pink/red tail fin. They can be caught on bread, small spinners and fruits/beads, and generally dont go above 1 1/2lb.
Like other of the smaller species in the Amazon, they are tasty, morsel sized treats (dead or alive) for Payara, Pescada, Wolf Fish and Cats.
This 8" long-bodied fish can be caught on small flies, bread, worms and seeds/beads. It has some deadly needle-like teeth that can easily inflict a nasty would when unhooking. Being bright silver, this species is a magnet for Pescada and Payara when fished as either live or dead bait, fished on a single hook and left to flutter through the water column.