DESTINATION PANAMA:

For the past three years I have received an invitation to fish Panama’s remote and unbelievably beautiful ‘Wild Coast’, from my good friend Doug Olander. Doug, editor of the excellent American based Sport Fishing Magazine, is a keen kayaker and Panama Kayak Adventures, with whom we would be fishing, specialise on inshore fishing aboard state of the art Hobie kayaks. For the first two years prior commitments have meant I have been unable to accept the offer, but this year the trip coincided with a free week, which in early June saw me arriving at Panama City.

DSC_0065

The Doug Olander school of knot tying excellence is officially convened!

Early the next morning, 0330 early, we set off on a six hour mini bus drive to meet Pascal Artieda, our host and the owner of Panama Kayak Adventures. When finally we arrived at out our departure point, a remote beach 20-30 miles west of Pedasi, the weather was far from perfect. We were greeted with a heavily overcast sky spitting rain and a sloppy swell washing the beach, conditions that would set the theme for the week.

DSCN4910

Throughout our week we did experience an occasional ‘shower!’

Undeterred we loaded our mountain of equipment onto a couple of pangas and headed a further one hour west to Tembladera Lodge, a rustic camp set amidst a back drop of dense jungle at the entrance to Cerro Hoya Nation Park. Accommodation here is basic yet entirely adequate, while the food and standard of service is better than that I have experienced during previous trips to other more ‘substantial’ operations around the world.

DSC_0068

Tropical paradise!

When we arrived at the beach immediately in front of the lodge, the size of the swell crashing onto the black volcanic sands posed a big problem. Basically landing there was simply too hazardous, so our panga captain ran us to a small rocky cover several hundred yards to the west, where still the swell and waves were crashing wildly against the coast. At first I could not see what his game plan was, but what followed was probably the finest example of small boat handling in rough seas I have ever been privileged to witness. Spinning the boat around he reversed the panga into a narrow rocky gully that was barely wider than our beam, all the time displaying a confidence and level of skill that really had to be witnessed to be fully appreciated: it was an awesome experience.

DSC_0038

Fancy running into that gully in reverse? In this image it actually looks a lot calmer than it was.

The weather the next day was not much better but we set off regardless and eventually launched the kayaks into a messy sea, a few hundreds yards from a rocky headland that was being smashed by a huge Pacific swell. Three kayaks were launched and Doug, along with Brad Genter and Rob Sherman, the remainder of our crew, set off.

DSCN4823

I think we need a bigger boat!

DSC_0279

Safety is always paramount when fishing afloat, but never more so than aboard a kayak. Icom waterproof hand held VHF radios are widely regarded as being the industry standard.

And me? Well my previous kayak experience is slightly above zero and this and a seriously painful lower back resulted in me staying aboard the panga for the day and, indeed, the rest of the trip. After all I had the choice, spend the day seated aboard a small piece of plastic, or fishing from my own personal panga; what would you have done!

DSCN4895

And todays plan is…?

DSC_0307

Kayak or panga, what would you do?

Starting off casting a large stick bait I was soon tight to my first fish of the trip, which quickly came off. A few casts later produced another violent strike, which resulted in a solid hook up and ultimately a very nice Pacific jack crevalle. Pound for pound these hard fighting and for some obscure oft decried game fish are the equal of any GT, or indeed other trevally/jack species, if only they grew to a similar size!

DSCN4831

First fish of the trip, a nice Pacific jack crevalle.

Throughout the week we enjoyed a mix of weather that ranged from thoroughly nasty to absolutely perfect, and invariably included everything else in between aside from snow! The fishing was mostly good, occasionally very good, but the ever changing weather frequently restricted where and when we could fish. June is the early part of the main rainy season in Panama but we were experienced the kind of weather more typically associated with much later in the year.

DSC_0073

Good morning Panama! Thankfully we did enjoy some good weather.

A huge variety of fish were caught, including plenty of jacks, crevalle and horse eye, numerous stunning bluefin trevally, rainbow runners, Sierra mackerel, various species of snapper and grouper, amberjack, pompano, yellowfin tuna, bonito and black skipjack tuna and sharks along with several others. We even had a sailfish attack a popper just a few hundred yards off the rocks.

DSC_0349

A pompano for Brad.

DSC_0124

And a nice rooster.

DSC_0252

Pascal Artieda with one a many bluefin trevally we caught.

DSC_0301

Sierra mackerel, aka ceviche!

Of course the two definitive species targeted along this coastline are the iconic and totally stunning rooster fish, and the mighty cuberra snapper, and several of both species were caught each day. I happily boated a couple of roosters, a fish I never tire of catching, the largest a barely average 12-15lb, with the biggest ‘pez gallo’ being a hefty 50lb+ slab caught by Brad. Fish of the week for me was a monster cuberra of over 60lb that inhaled a live blue runner, then proceeded to try its best to bust me off in the reef. A new personal best for this species, it is always a pleasure to release such fantastic game fish in the hope of encountering them once again some time in the future.

DSC_0327

I love rooster fish!

DSC_0225

A new personal best cuberra snapper, 60lb plus of angry muscle and teeth!

DSC_0234

Releasing a nice cuberra snapper.

DSC_0246

The last thing many small fish get to see!

DSC_0386

And yet another nice one for Brad.

Panama Kayak Adventures can be contacted at http://www.panamakayakadventure.com/index.html. They certainly offer exceptional value for money, and I hope to fish with them again one day soon.

DSC_0188

Hooked up in Panama! Why not give it a go?

Anglers World Holidays offer fishing at several other camps in Panama, to which I occasionally host trips. For more information Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: http://anglersworld.tv

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “DESTINATION PANAMA:

  1. Seems like an awesome trip! Looks like you got into all the fun species!

    I am actually going to be in the San Blas islands for 4 days or so on a chartered sailboat at the beginning of August. I plan on bringing a rod or two down with me and have been researching online some background of the area and what I can expect. There is relatively little information from what I’ve discovered. What I did find was that Sport Fishing Magazine photo album by Doug Olander where you were referenced:

    http://www.sportfishingmag.com/fishing-panama-san-blas-islands

    I wanted to reach out to you to see if you had any info on maybe certain islands or regions of San Blas that were more productive than others, any tips on tackle set-ups to bring, lures that worked well, what to expect, etc. That Sport Fishing Magazine article I found has been the best resource so far but that said that a lot of the time was spent canvassing the area. I’ll be there with my girlfriend on a chartered sailboat so we’ll be able to go where we want each day. Not to say I want to fish the entire time or make it entirely about fishing, but it would certainly help the hit rates if I influenced the captain to go to certain spots that were better for fishing than others! 🙂

    Any info you can spare would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks,

    Anthony M.

    • Hi Anthony, you are in for a great trip, and I really would like to hear how you get on…

      When we visited the weather was not great, very windy, and this restricted where & when we could fish. I am unable to recommend specific islands, other than to say the further you can get away from local communities the better, as there is a fair amount of netting. The best areas were in deep water outside of the reef, where jigging produced plenty of fish of all species. Surface poppers in shallower water caught some nice jacks. We did see several permit on the flat, and plenty of small jack and possibly bonefish, but we only caught jacks. Good luck. Dave

      • Awesome, thanks for the info!

        In terms of deeper water, are you meaning the drop-offs right near the islands or a bit more offshore in open water? Like how deep / shallow?

        I’m bringing at least one casting rod rated for 20 lbs…it’s like a medium weight inshore rod with an abu Garcia Reno with braid on it…you think that would get the job done for a lot of the local species or am I likely to be outgunned for some of the Jacks?

        Thanks again for your help!

        -anthony

  2. Yes, just outside the main reefs, typically depths 60-200ft, ideally over rough ground. The rig you have will cover most species, including jacks; let me know how you get on…Good luck, Dave

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s