The prime fishing waters are contained within a very restricted half-mile section of river downstream from the Salto Grande Dam. The section extends from the Argentina riverbank to the Uruguay riverbank. The huge dorados of La Zona concentrate near the dam and feed on baitfish being washed down from the spillway, especially the sabalo. The waters near the dam can produce turbulent currents that fluctuate to very torrid when the dam turbines are open. When the turbines are not open, often large boulders are seen protruding away from the dam.
The best fishing usually occurs when the turbines are open producing the very fast currents. The fishing day will be eight hours long. There are only a few privileged people who have encountered the size of Dorado found at La Zona. This is an area where 20lb fish are becoming commonplace and many of La Zona’s visiting anglers will experience the thrill of fighting a dorado of over 40lb.
Depending on the depth of the water and current flow, the ferocious dorado can be taken on surface lures, ranging from poppers to propeller baits; to subsurface jerkbaits, spoons and jigs and even will aggressively take flies.
The boats our anglers fish from are new 21-foot centre console, stabile, crafts with 70-HP outboards and 15-HP kicker motors. The guides are some of the finest in South America and know how to handle these fish. Lures are available at the lodge to buy.
The Golden Dorado, often called the ‘River Tiger’, (Salminus maxillosus) is rapidly becoming one of the most prized fresh water sport fish species in the world.
This aggressive and powerful migratory gamefish is constantly on the prowl for schools of baitfish to ravage and this makes them susceptible to both plug and fly angler alike. Its scientific name is broken down as follows: Salminus refers to trout-like and brasiliensis makes reference to the country where the first scientist found and described this species, on the Parana River basin.
The Dorado is primarily a pescavore, meaning that its primary diet is other fish. One of the Dorado’s favorite prey species is the sabalo, a schooling fish weighing two to six pounds. It is also cannibalistic and will attack smaller dorados as well. The Dorado, therefore, will readily attack an assortment of lures and flies that resemble large, fleeing forage species.
The aggressive nature of the Dorado, its spectacular leaping ability, fantastic strength and stamina has created the ultimate freshwater gamefish. Although the Dorado is not actually a member of the trout family, it behaves similar to the trout in that it lurks behind boulders, rock piles and other underwater obstructions ready to pounce on other, unsuspecting, smaller fish species in the river.
The prestigious Angling Report, an unbiased publication detailing trip experiences of its publisher and its subscribing anglers recently reported: “La Zona is a place where the normal rules don’t apply. These awesome fish are so huge and numerous it is like something out of prehistory….”
Since La Zona became available to anglers, literally scores of fish exceeding the largest caught IGFA record have been caught. A La Zona fish caught recently by Angling Report subscriber Darden Daniel weighed a mind-boggling 61.6lb. However, amazon-angler.com’s own client Andrei Bylchynski caught a fish in December 2013 estimated by three separate La Zona guides as exceeding this and weighing between 63-65lbs. The gigantic fish bottomed out the 60lb boga grip, but was released at the boat immediately.
“What keeps things exciting is the surface behaviour of the Dorado. There is almost always something happening on the surface, if not on the part of large fish, then on the part of school after school of small fish that slam the surface near the dam. The feeding frenzy is reminiscent of that displayed by bluefish in the open Atlantic.”
Not only does the Dorado possess teeth sharp enough to puncture through plastic lures, strike a lure or fly with a ferocity of a much larger saltwater gamefish, but also performs aerial gyrations that are more reminiscent of acrobatic saltwater species. Interspersed between these high flying leaps are long, drag-screeching runs.
Currently, more than 10 fly fishing world records have been broken in these waters and an estimated 300+ fish over 40 pounds have been landed in the last three seasons on fly and artificial lure.