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Oscar: Astronotus ocellatus

Appearance:

Young fish have wavy white and orange markings on black background; body and fins of adults with olive blue-green and mustard colors, highlighting large dark blotches, and a bright red eyespot at base of upper caudal fin; stout more oval body shape than native bream; some have orange or red markings and all have a thick mucus coat on the body.

Range:

Most abundant in canals of water conservation areas and Everglades habitats of Collier, western Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Occurs throughout south Florida, but typically not as abundant as in marsh-related canals. Native range includes the Orinoco, La Plata, and Amazon river basins in South America.

Habitat:

Most successful in canals running through marsh habitats, although found in lesser numbers in coastal canals, ponds, and lakes in from central Florida southward.

Behavior:

Spawning Habitats: Spawning normally takes place on flat, solid surfaces when water temperatures warm to 82-91oF; female typically lays about 3,000 eggs and both parents occasionally seen guarding hundreds of young in shallow water along shorelines.

Feeding Habits: Feed primarily on small fish, insects, and crustaceans.

Age and Growth:

Two-pound fish are considered large. The IGFA record caught in Florida was an exceptional fish reported to weigh 3.5 lbs; oscars caught in the Everglades average 10 inches and 3/4th of a pound; biologists do not know how long oscars typically live.

Sporting Quality:

Hard-fighting, panfish-type fishery; especially popular in water conservation areas of south Florida, where it ranks second in popularity only to largemouth bass; strikes a variety of baits including cut fish, cut shrimp, crickets, and worms; best artificial baits include small jigs tipped with cut bait and small spinnerbaits; flyfishing also productive; described as a boom and bust fishery since periodically experience major winterkills but when abundant, angler catch rates are exceptional; no bag or size limits.

Edibility:

White, flaky meat with good flavor.

State Record:

State record is 2.34 pounds caught in Lake Okeechobee (see state records for updates).

Fishing Tips and Facts:

Additional Information:


Image Credit: Duane Raver, Jr.



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