What Are Mayan Cichlids?
Mayan cichlids are a deep bodied fish with a profile that looks similar to tilapia. Their color varies from olive-brown to orange with dark, vertical stripes similar to those on a sheepshead. Some specimens have a bright, almost fluorescent, red patch on their chin and throat. They sport a distinctive eye spot on the tail that is usually encircled by a thin ring of turquoise. Mayans grow to typical panfish sizes with most under a pound. The IGFA world record is 2.5 pounds.
Mayan cichlids have been called a bluegill on steroids, and I find that to be an apt description. They are aggressive, tenacious and will give you all the fight you’d hope for on ultralight tackle. They’ll readily take worms, crickets, grass shrimp, minnows and all the other typical panfish baits, but I say, why even bother with bait. They are such aggressive feeders that lures work just as good, if not better. They’ll take jigs, spinners, jerkbaits, flies and even topwater plugs. If it is small enough for them to fit in their mouth, they’ll eat it. I target them on ultralight spinning tackle and especially fly rod. Perhaps their best feature is they readily feed throughout the day, even during the brightest sun when most of the “glamour” species develop lockjaw.