There are many different species of non-native fish in Florida’s waters but one of the more exotic looking is the Clown Knifefish. This long thin freshwater fish is native to southeast Asian and Indo-China and was most likely introduced into south Florida waters as a by-product of pet aquariums.

The Clown Knifefish has a very thin tampered sliver-gray body with a tiny dorsal fin, a long extended anal fin and 5-10 back spots ringed with white on the lower portion of its body. Though they can weight in excess of 15-lbs in Thailand, here is south Florida they generally are do not exceed 10-lbs. The largest concentration of Knifefish in Florida is found in the waters of Lake Ida, Lake Osborne and the adjacent canals which cut through the areas of Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, and West Palm Beach. In additional to Palm Beach County, some one-off specimens have been caught in lakes as far north as Winter Haven.

The Knifefish feeds on small fish, insects, grass shrimp, crustaceans and small amphibians so they will typically be found in areas with structure where they can ambush their prey. Structures like bridges, dock pilings, submerged trees, submerged vegetation, deep culverts, and deep ledges off shallow water banks are great places to find these fish. Since the Lake Ida chain of lakes typically has very little current, when heavy rains create current and spillways, these are some of the best times to fish for Knifefish. Knifefish is another species that can withstand low oxygenated waters by gulping air, so don’t overlook stagnant ponds and backwaters.

When fishing for Knifefish, shiners, minnows, and especially shad produce well but they will also take small artificials that mimic baitfsh. Knifefish are very aggressive feeders so artificials like silver Rapalas and Youzuri’s in chrome or chrome/blue work well as do small soft jerkbaits when you find moving current. Being Knifefish feed on the same baitfish as bass, you’ll often catch one when targeting bass.

Knifefish are strong fish and their first runs are pretty exciting and they are also known to
be very acrobatic like tarpon. They have a unique skill of being able to swim backwards so when you’re ready to boat one, dip you net deep below the fish and cut-off its retreat.

Though Knifefish may be commercially viable in southeast Asia, they are not considered a highly sought after species for consumption in the U.S. The fish is long, thin and boney so the flesh is generally minced and formed into patties or fish sticks.

If you’re into fishing for exotics, the Clown Knifefish is one that you should add to your list of targeted species.