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5 Rare and Exotic Fish Species in the U.S. (and How to Catch Them)

There are more than largemouth and bluegill in American waters, so set your aim for these five.

You don't have to fish for the same old thing day after day. If that's your thing, more power to you, but the variety of fish available to Americans is pretty impressive.

In fact, did you even know you could catch each of these five in the U.S.? Check it out, and find out how you can get on them with a rod and reel.

Blue Tilapia

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

A nonnative fish in the United States, the blue tilapia is found in Florida across the state in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and canals. As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissionputs it, "In Central Florida, anglers can assume every tilapia they observe in freshwater is a blue, and any tilapia over 3 pounds is also likely a tilapia." They are also tolerant of saltwater, so they may be found in freshwater near shore marine regions. They're fun little guys to catch and are delicious to eat as they have a white flaky meat.

While they're not traditionally catchable fish, you can get it done with live worms and human food like hot dogs. Bow fishermen also love to head out for the blue tilapia. While rarely caught on artificial lures, a true fisherman can get it done with some basic topwater baits.

Peacock Bass

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Another nonnative fish to the United States, the peacock bass is originally from the Amazon River. Being a freshwater cichlid, it found an easy home in Florida by heading to the middle of lagoons and areas of slow-moving water. The peacock bass actually isn't a member of the bass family, so catching it for that reason alone is exciting. When you reel one in, check for the "false eye" near its tail, which works to deceive predators.

Again, topwater baits are a goldmine for lures to bring in the peacock bass. A topwater plug and walking stickballs are your best bet for reeling in this Amazonian fish.



The invasive lionfish is actually a threat to the Atlantic, a good enough reason to catch them alone. Their venom can be potent, but is rarely fatal. If it's handled and prepared correctly, lionfish is actually a really great white fish comparable to grouper in taste. They've shown up in numbers in Florida, and are being reported as far north as the Carolinas.

Many have turned to their scuba and spearfishing gear to target lionfish, but live pinfish or evendiamond jigscan entice a bite. They're not easy to find or catch, but they're simply one of the most gorgeous fish you can pull out of American waters (even if they are causing some serious environmental problems).

Alligator Gar


This prehistoric fish can be found all over the southern US, and in reservoirs, lakes, and even brackish bayous and bays. Want to catch a dinosaur? The alligator gar is as close as you'll get.

A strong, up to 100-pound steel leader (we're not kidding) will be needed to defend against all those teeth, and circle hooks like you'd use on a shark are common. Scaled mullet seems to work the best, since it's easier for the gar to swallow.

Golden Trout


Like the gold medal in the Olympics, catching the golden trout is the highest honor a freshwater, backcountry fisherman can earn. Found above 10,000 feet in California, Montana, and Wyoming, the golden trout is famous for being a finicky catch.

They're finicky because they primarily eat very smallmidges, which is why small flies in that category can work when they finally decide to bite.

Now that you've added to your list of bucket list fish, see what else Cabela's Tackle Shopcan help you with before you head out on your next trip.


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5 Rare and Exotic Fish Species in the U.S. (and How to Catch Them)