Mayan cichlid (cichlasoma urophthalmus) have a broken lateral line and turquoise ring on the tail that is diagnostic. With a general coloration that includes six to eight bars that can be fain or dark. The body color varies greatly in intensity often with bright red on the chin, throat, and breast. They have both spiny and soft dorsal fins with a rounded caudal fin.

Native to Atlantic slope of Central and South America, they have been seen in the Florida Bay since 1983. They are now well established and abundant in south Florida and as far north as Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie Canal. The Mayan cichlid is very adaptable and lives well in canals, rivers, lakes, and marshes and tolerates a wide range of salinities. Studies have shown native fish population reductions when the Mayan cichlid increase in number.

Nesting occurs in April. The peak spawn comes in May and June. Both the male and female guard their young for up to six weeks. They spawn one a year. Their diet consists of grass shrimp, small fish, snails, and insects along with some incidental detritus and vegetative matter.

Normally they grow to 12.6 inches and weigh 1.5 pounds. Recently, the IGFA listed a new world record at 15 inches and 2.5 pounds caught in Collier County on a lipless crankbait. Their maximum reported age is 7 years.

Unlike the other invasive fish, the Mayan cichlid does have a sporting quality. Often referred to as the “atomic sunfish.” Natural baits including live worms, grass shrimp, crickets. Fly fishers have also found that they will aggressively take small artificial bait such as jigs, wooly worms, small streamers and popping bugs.

The Mayan cichlid is considered to be a good eating fish that has flaky meat with a mild flavor. There are no bag or size limits.

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