|Artificial though they may be—often lacking natural vegetation or wood cover—these small urban waters collect profusions of fish around manmade spillways, bridges, culverts or the odd submerged shopping cart; any object creating current and oxygen or cascading a blanket of shade. To intercept larger, especially cautious fish, accomplished urban anglers prefer to hit the water at dawn, dusk or well after dark. They do their reconnaissance online (spot-scouting on Google Earth) and aren’t afraid to hike in a few miles to check a juicy little sweet spot away from the crowd. And because these waters are mostly shallow, sight fishing and staying alert for “signs” pays rewards.|
“Instincts are everything with this style of stealth fishing,” suggests Pat Kohler, a frequent canal sneak who pursues an eclectic collection of gamefish in the southern tier of Florida. Like most of his buddies, Kohler has developed a keen interest in conquering some of Florida’s newest fresh- and brackish-water arrivals.
“Over the last couple decades, these canals have been illegally planted with a bunch of different exotic species, most of them ex-aquarium inhabitants native to South America and Southeast Asia,” notes Kohler. The extraordinary clown knifefish, for example, is a native of Thailand and Vietnam. Kohler says numbers and size of knifefish in various Florida canals has slowly expanded. To date, he’s caught specimens up to 10-pounds, with larger fish up to 15 possible.
He explains that while largemouth bass previously dominated these flood-control canals, exotics such as peacock bass appear to displace native largemouth populations. “These days, if I catch five largemouths, that’s an epic outing. Peacocks are just crazy predators. While largemouths lurk and ambush their prey, peacocks can both ambush and actively hunt away from cover.