Most common fish species in the Pantanal

Este post também está disponível em: Português English

The species of fish found in Mato Grosso’s Pantanal are not large, but the quantity of fish is great.

Although there are currently around 260 described species in the region – a modest number compared to the 1,800 in the Amazon – there are fish in their thousands.

The explanation for this abundance is simple.

Fish in the Pantanal
Fish in the Pantanal

During the rainy season, between November and March, a large area of the Pantanal is under water.

The bays, however, remain shallow, which means there is an intense incidence of light, making the environment favourable for the growth of plants, microalgae and macrophytes, the basis of the food chain for small invertebrates and fish, which find plenty of food in the Pantanal waters.

Partially isolated from the big rivers, the bays are an excellent nursery for small fish, which are safe from predators.

Fishing in the Pantanal, including sport fishing, is showing signs of being seriously jeopardised by over-exploitation.

There is speculation that the current model may not be sustainable, as it concentrates on around twenty species.

The size of the dourado, for example, is decreasing, as is their quantity. Inspections of fishing boats, meanwhile, have become stricter.

It’s worth remembering that the waters of the Pantanal are also home to caimans, capybaras, giant otters, among other animals, as well as aquatic birds, which makes the region especially rich and interesting.

Hence the necessary and obligatory preservation of the environment and the maintenance of the respective habitats of all species.


  1. Chacara ou Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum
  2. Curimbatá ou Prochilodus lineatus
  3. Dourado ou Salminus brasiliensis
  4. Jaú ou Paulicea lutkeni
  5. Jurupensém ou Sorubim lima
  6. Jurupoca ou Hemisorubim platyrhynchos
  7. Lambari ou Astyanax spp
  8. Pacu ou Piaractus mesopotamicus
  9. Mandubé ou Ageneiosus brevifilis
  10. Piavuçu ou Leporinus macrocephalus
  11. Pintado ou Pseudoplatystoma corruscans
  12. Piranha ou Serrasalmus spilopleura
  13. Piraputanga ou Brycon hilarii
  14. Traíra ou Hoplias malabaricus


(Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum)

Other popular names: surubim, surubim-cachara

Chacara or Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum
Chacara or Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum

Leather fish with an elongated, plump body and a large, flat head.

A species of great commercial value, it is very resilient when caught.

During the day it shelters in deep water and at night it concentrates on beaches and shallow banks.

It feeds on small fish. It can reach a length of up to 1 metre and weigh up to 70 kilos. In general, the specimens caught today do not exceed 20 kilos.

To catch it, use medium/heavy tackle and natural or artificial mid-water and bottom baits.

Watch out for the spines on the fins.


(Prochilodus lineatus)

Other popular names: curimatá. curimba and papa-terra

Curimbatá or Prochilodus lineatus
Curimbatá or Prochilodus lineatus

Fish with scales. In Brazil, its meat is widely used in cooking by Japanese descendants.

The curimbatá consumes a variety of detritus, as well as mud, algae and small invertebrates from the riverbed.

It lives in large shoals, mainly in calm waters.

It reaches a length of around 40 centimetres and a weight of 5 kilos.

It is best fished from the ravines at the edge of rivers, with very simple and light equipment. This fish is not attracted to artificial baits; the use of wheat flour dough is recommended.

3. Dourado

(Salminus brasiliensis)

Dourado or Salminus brasiliensis
Dourado or Salminus brasiliensis

A voracious predator, it lives in waters with currents, of varying depths, preferably in mid-water to the surface, with open waters, in the middle of rocks or in waterfalls.

Dourado can measure up to 1 metre and weigh 20 kilos.

Equipment should be medium or heavy, with artificial mid-water lures and so-called spoons, made of metal and shaped like a shell, for both trolling and casting. Natural baits are also recommended.

When the goldfish hooks one of these, keep the line taut so that it doesn’t come loose.

4. JAÚ

(Paulicea lutkeni)

Other popular names: pacamum, pacamão

Jaú or Paulicea lutkeni
Jaú or Paulicea lutkeni

Leather fish. It feeds on other fish and usually lives in rough waters, waterfalls, the depths of rivers and places with a high concentration of rocks.

Large in size, the jaú can reach 1.2 metres in length and weigh 100 kilos. It takes cover between rocks when hooked, which makes it difficult to catch.

The equipment used to catch them must be heavy and the baits – natural ones – must be at the bottom of the water. It is easier to catch at night, when it is more active.


(Sorubim lima)

Another popular name; duck-billed

Jurupensém or Sorubim lima
Jurupensém or Sorubim lima

Leather fish that feeds on small fish and invertebrates. It lives in shoals, below the rapids or in the pools.

The Jurupensém fish can reach a length of 70 centimetres and a weight of 15 kilos.

To catch it, you should use light to medium equipment and natural baits, which are more efficient in this case.


(Hemisorubim platyrhynchos)

Other popular names: jerepoca, braço-de-moça

Jurupoca or Hemisorubim platyrhynchos
Jurupoca or Hemisorubim platyrhynchos

Leather fish whose meat is highly prized.

The jurupoca fish eats fish and invertebrates and lives in bays and on the banks of rivers. It can reach 50 centimetres in length and weigh 3 kilos.

The most suitable baits are fillets or pieces of small fish, and the equipment is light to medium.


(Astyanax spp.)

Another popular name: piaba

Lambari or Astyanax spp
Lambari or Astyanax spp

A scaly fish, quite light, it tends to take bait easily without being hooked.

The lambari has a maximum size of 15 centimetres and weighs no more than 50 grams.

For this reason, the equipment used to catch them must be very light and they are also used as bait.

The lambari feeds on flowers, fruit, seeds, insects, algae and other animals and plants.

It lives in diverse habitats, generally on the banks of rivers and bays. The best baits to catch it are flour dough, worms, insects, small fish or pieces of cheese.


(Piaractus mesopotamicus)

Other popular names: pacu-caranha, caranha

Pacu or Piaractus mesopotamicus
Pacu or Piaractus mesopotamicus

Fish with scales. Its meat is considered very tasty. It feeds on fruit, flowers, crabs, aquatic plants, fish and snails.

The pacu lives near fruit trees, in river banks, among fallen branches or in deeper water.

It can reach 50 centimetres in length and weigh around 15 kilos.

The equipment should be medium and the baits natural (berries, seeds, aquatic plants and crabs) or artificial (small, mid-water or deep).

When the trees are fruiting, it’s best to use fruit and imitate the sound of it falling into the water to attract the fish.


(Ageneiosus brevifilis)

Other popular names: palmito, fidaldo

mandubé or ageneiosus brevifilis
mandubé or ageneiosus brevifilis

Leather fish whose meat is considered as tasty as that of the guinea fowl.

It feeds on fish and invertebrates and lives in the backwaters of rivers. It can reach a length of 50 centimetres and a weight of 2.5 kilos. To catch it, you need to use light tackle and, as bait, pieces of fish, worms and insects.


(Leporinus macrocephalus)

piavuçu ou leporinus macrocephalus
piavuçu ou leporinus macrocephalus

The piavuçu has scales.

It feeds on other fish, fruit, flowers, crabs, aquatic plants and snails.

The piavuçu is concentrated on the banks of rivers and canals, in bays, in areas close to vegetation or under waterfalls.

Very fast, it constantly snaps the line and often delicately removes the bait without attaching itself to the hook.

The piavuçu is up to 60 centimetres long and weighs 3 kilos.

Use medium-sized tackle, as well as a reel or spinning reel. A bamboo pole is recommended for fishing in the ravine.

The most effective baits are snails, crabs or flour dough, although worms also work.


(Pseudoplatystoma corruscans)

Other popular names: cambucu, surubim-pintado

pintado or Pseudoplatystoma corruscans
pintado or pseudoplatystoma corruscans

Leather fish. The most sought after by fishermen in the Pantanal, it feeds on small fish, tuviras, muçuns and worms, as well as small rodents, snakes and lizards.

It inhabits river channels, the mouths of bays and wooden structures at the bottom of rivers.

It is very large, with specimens up to just over 1 metre long. Although there are old reports of fish weighing up to 80 kilos, in recent years it has become rare to catch specimens over 20.

It requires medium or heavy equipment. It is most easily caught with natural fish baits. Among artificial lures, mid-water and bottom lures are recommended. Care should be taken with fin spines.


(Pygocentrus nattereri and Serrasalmus spilopleura)

Other popular names: catarina, pirambeba

Piranha or Serrasalmus spilopleura
piranha or serrasalmus spilopleura

Piranha has scales. There are several species of piranha, whose diet is quite varied.

In general, they feed on pieces of other fish, such as fins, as well as the corpses of other animals – which is why they are considered great cleaners of the Pantanal’s waters.

They attack wounded animals that have difficulty moving in the water. They live in shoals in rivers, lagoons and lakes.

They can measure up to 50 centimetres in length and weigh around 2 kilos

The material you use to catch them should be medium-sized. Use chunks of fish or mid-water artificial lures. Be very careful of possible bites when removing them from the hook.


(Brycon hilarii)

piraputanga or brycon hilarii
piraputanga or brycon hilarii

Fish with scales. The piraputanga fish, one of the most common fish in the Pantanal region, is very skittish.

It feeds on seeds, fruit (ingás, wild figs, guava), fish and invertebrates.

It lives in rapids and backwaters, under fruit trees, near aquatic plants and on riverbanks or in the middle of vegetation (these, incidentally, are the most suitable places to catch it).

The piraputanga fish reaches around 50 centimetres in length and 2.5 kilos.

Light equipment, with light or medium action rods, guarantees good fishing. Baits can be natural (small fruits, small fish, green corn) or artificial (spinners and small mid-water plugs).

The piraputanga fish has an alarm substance in its skin.

When caught, it releases the alarm substance into the water, which drives away other specimens of the species. That’s why it’s very difficult to catch more than one in the same place.


(Hoplias malabaricus)

traíra ou hoplias malabaricus
traíra ou hoplias malabaricus

The traíra fish has scales. A voracious predator, it is mainly active at night. It feeds on other fish and insects.

Traíra fish can be found in still, shallow waters, in bays, in corixos and in marginal areas of rivers, among aquatic plants.

It reaches a length of 60 centimetres and a weight of 3 kilos. It can be caught with light tackle and natural baits (fish and chicken giblets) or artificial ones (spinners-baits, spinners, poppers or rubber frogs).

Traíra must be carefully removed from the hook to avoid bites, which often cause accidents. Its flavour is much appreciated by fishermen, although the preparation requires care to remove the numerous thorns.

See the following publications on the Pantanal of Mato Grosso:

  1. Watching Mammals and Reptiles in the Pantanal
  2. Fishing in the Pantanal – Best places, baits, methods and seasons
  3. Most common fish species in the Pantanal
  4. Bird watching in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  5. Most common bird species in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  6. Flora of the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  7. Fauna of the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  8. Mato Grosso Pantanal – Geography, Climate, Soil and Rivers
  9. History of the Mato Grosso Pantanal – Discovery and Economic Development
  10. Southern Pantanal Region
  11. North Pantanal Region
  12. Why go to the Pantanal in Mato Grosso?

Comments are closed.