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Prospecting for
El Dorado
FRESHWATER DORADO are built like a spectacularly-colored King Salmon with ‘roid rage, They come stock from the fish factory with both a bad attitude and bad orthodonture. The creature has only two modes of behavior: kill, and reproduce. Apparently they can multi-task and are often found in the kill and spawning modes simultaneously.
In Spanish, the name means goldfish (oro for gold combined with pescado for fish). They’re fearless, aggressive, and so mean they’ll eat anything that swims with- in range, including each other. Dorado eat their young, and in the juvenile stage swim in small circles chewing at each other’s tails. In fact, it is rare to find a smaller Dorado that doesn’t have part of it’s tail chewed off and hasn’t been scarred physi- cally and emotionally by a relative.
These migratory predators spend their entire life in freshwater, spawning or chas- ing baitfish. The most common prey are sabalo (a migratory baitfish the size of a shad) and one of several common tetras (like giant guppies).
However, as voracious as they are, they’re not always easy to catch. They’re a smart predator, and often become selective feed- ers, focusing on prey in situations where they can maximize their assault and kill as many baitfish as possible while expending the least amount of energy. Sabalo range in size from a few inches to several pounds. Though there are resident Dorado in nearly all of their natal streams and rivers, the majority of these fish follow the annual migration of the sabalo up and down- stream, often positioning themselves below impoundments, rapids and other structure where their prey tend to collect. They show no mercy and will chase baitfish into inch- es of water.
Dorado are highly adaptive creatures and can thrive in tiny mountain creeks, clear freestone rivers and streams, as well as enormous, muddy water rivers.
Fishing situations vary greatly and range from sight casting in shallow riffles, casting to fish that are in the midst of maniacal feeding frenzies, hunting for large bachelors lurking tiny pocket water (often like trout fishing in New Zealand), swinging streamers through runs and pools like salmon fishing, or casting to fish that lie in ambush behind or between trees, logs, and rocks.
The legendary A. J. McClane disagreed out loud with Lee Wulff who claimed tar- pon and Atlantic Salmon were the top sportfish on Earth. An outspoken author and the fishing editor for Field & Stream for four decades, McClane was emphat-
ic that “tied tail-to-tail, a Dorado would pull the scales off either fish, or just turn around and eat it.”
The strike of a mature Dorado can be either subtle or violent, but when the fish feels the steel, all hell breaks loose. The battle is usually violent, with the fish going airborne immediately. Combat is charged with explosive bursts of power, a relentless series of line-stripping runs and breathtaking, acrobatic leaps, all punctuat- ed by tailwalking attempts to toss the hook. Broken rods are common, and the fish can literally rip the rod from your hands. Dorado are exceptionally strong and range in size from 5 to 50 pounds. The record is 70. These aren’t just big fish. They’re voracious creatures that hammer topwater flies and attack streamers with reckless abandon.
Large Dorado are ferocious animals that just don’t give up, even when the battle is over. They’ll often add to the excitement during the obligatory hero shot by trying to take a chunk out the angler long after they’ve been landed.
These predators move into the Tsimane region from May through October and the season peaks in the marshlands and rivers of Northern Argentina from October through April.

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