Clown knifefish (Chitala ornata) are invasive species that can be found in South Florida, and they most definitely look the part. Still, there are many anglers from across the globe who are curious about how to catch clown knife fish.
This is because they are impressive fighters. They fight exceptionally well, plus they make majestic jumps on the water. What’s even more exciting is witnessing the fish deep dive and then swim backward.
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How to Catch Clown Knife Fish
Clown knife fish are very elusive creatures. Those who try to catch some of them often get frustrated.
To make your fishing experience easier and even more enjoyable, follow these expert tips:
Fish Strategic Locations
Stagnant or still water is the preferred habitat of clown knife fish as it gives them an advantage over their natural food source.
The fish can breathe through the air and they’re not slowed by low oxygenation in the water. They’re often found around fallen trees, docks, and other structures. They lurk around a structure to wait for their prey and ambush small fish when they get too close.
The clown knife fish inhabit swamps, lakes, and moving backwaters of rivers of varying sizes. The younger fish gather in schools around submerged roots and aquatic plants.
The adults tend to become loners and they are found where there are docks or overhanging vegetation. The fish utilize air in order to survive in warm and stagnant water with little oxygen.
If there are fish feeders installed around a certain body of water, you can fish around them as the clown knife fish quickly learn to feed more on pellets.
Find Their Natural Food Source
How big do clown knife fish get? Depending on the abundance of their source of food, they can grow up to 3 1/2 feet or 100 cm and weigh up to 11 lbs. or 5 kg. when they are in the wild.
So, what do clown knife fish eat? Clown knife fish aren’t originally from the tropical waters of the United States, which means they don’t have a natural food source in the country.
However, they have learned to feed on anything in an area similar to largemouth bass. The diet of a clown knife fish consists mostly of shad. It will, however, feed on anything that’s small enough to fit in its strange, large mouth.
The clown knife fish is a carnivore. When the species is found in the wild, it’s a predatory animal, primarily a piscivore, feeding mostly on fish. You can try hooking it with worms as most anglers have found they’re as effective as shad.
Learn the Most Effective Tactics
Expert anglers would advise you to use live bait. Small shiners or a medium-size shad will do the trick.
Jigging a live bait is best, but you can also use a bobber. Make sure you muster up some patience when trying to land the fish.
You’ll experience better success when fishing West Palm Beach’s C51 canal system. It covers Lake Osborne, Lake Clarke, and Lake Ida.
The best time to target the fish is at night as it’s when the species is most active. It’s, however, not restricted to being nocturnal. There have been sightings of them breaking the surface to breathe air during the day just like a tarpon.
Bring the Right Gear
You can use a spinning or baitcasting reel with a 30-lb test braided line. A 30-lb fluorocarbon line as the leader is recommended.
As for the rod, the ideal would be fast action with the reel having a smooth drag as the fish can bolt when it gets hooked.
As mentioned earlier, the fish can swim backward plus it can force you to deal with long runs, making it even harder for you to get your catch into a landing net.
Secure the Appropriate Fishing License
You also need to secure a fishing license if you want to know how to catch clown knife fish.
Who needs a fishing license?
In Florida where you’re most likely going to try catching the elusive clown knife fish, all residents and non-residents over 16 years old and under 65 are to apply for a fishing license.
Take note: even if you’ll just be helping another person to catch a fish by baiting the person’s hook, you also need the right fishing license.
Clown knife fish reside in fresh bodies of water, but it’s best to secure both freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses.
This is because if you fish in an area that has both freshwater and saltwater fish, you’ll have to be careful as you may catch a fish you’re not covered to catch. You can avoid hefty fines and penalties by getting both licenses.
Generally, fines are at least $50 each. A penalty can be much stiffer, however, for a repeat offender. It can go as high as a few hundred dollars and even imprisonment. Obtaining the correct fishing licenses will be a lot cheaper than risking fines by rolling the dice.
The clown knife fish is a distinct-looking gamefish. It’s a species of fish that’s named after its unique physical features, such as the black and white spots along its body and its long anal fin that’s shaped like a sword.
This fish is one of the most unforgettable ones you’ll ever hook, especially since it’s highly elusive. Naturally, the clown knife fish is very popular among anglers.
You may be wondering; can you eat clownfish or the clown knife fish? Yes! As a matter of fact, it’s a popular dish in certain parts of Asia, specifically Vietnam and Thailand.
If you’re feeling an urge to catch a unique, crazy-looking fish that’s on the bucket list of millions of anglers, remember the aforementioned tips on how to catch clown knife fish and you’ll certainly boost your chances of success!
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