The coast of colored variety

Cuberas and more…

January 2013 .  Panama

Robert Balkow

World-famous due to the legendary canal there is nearly no one that does not know Panama. What makes this country in Central America so interesting as a travel destination for anglers all over the world? The origin of this country is volcanic, the shores are very diversified and cliffy. Strong and nutrient currents from the deep are the reason why the Panamanian waters are so rich in fish. There is hardly no other place in the world that offers such a large variety of species like the pacific shore of Panama. Inshore as well as offshore there are around 30 different species of fish to catch, baitfish not included. So you never know what is going to bite next and that’s why it is so interesting.

Only 10 month after our first trip to Panama we returned in the beginning of January 2013. After many unforgettable moments during our last trip with huge yellowfin tunas on spinning tackle, big cubera snapper, rooster and many decent jack crevalle our expectations were high, of course. Some fishing reports from December were promising a good bite and we started very optimistic. The place of departure was again David and the Gulf of Chiriquí. Our barge was already out of the river and anchoring behind the first group of small islands. So we had less time to travel on the next morning and while we were out fishing the barge would move direct to Coiba island, the biggest island in the pacific ocean and nature reserve, to spend the next 3 nights right behind it. That means less time for travelling and more time for fishing due to the “short” way to the fishing grounds.

We realized very quickly that fishing offshore would be a bit difficult during the next week because we couldn’t spot many dolphins and chasing birds and no yellowfin tunas were around. Only 2 fish were landed this week up to 60lbs. After catching some bonitos and filling up the tunatubs we went to Montousa Island for some bottomfishing. After a slow bite and 2 Mullet Snapper we ran to the legendary Hannibal Bank and put out our baits for trolling. After only 10 minutes we got in some hot action with a nice sailfish that ate the live bonito and was now doing a series of jumps behind the back of the boat. After a short fight and some nice pictures this fish was released in best condition to fight it again in future. Unfortunately our fast luck ended up after this fish and we decided to head to Coiba island to end up the day with some lighttackle fishing. We had a lot of fun with some big blue jacks and a smaller rooster that chased the lure to the boat but missed it two times. On the last spot before getting back to the barge we decided to do some bottomfishing again and a little bit of speed jigging. I got a large variety of fish while jigging including horseeye jack, rock snapper and a rainbow runner. A decent cubera snapper took the chunkbait on one of the other rods – not too bad for the first day.

During the next days the slow fishing action offshore continued. We were only able to catch one more nice sailfish, a couple of Dorado and while doing some deep jigging we got a good number of some tasty rooster hind grouper up to 25lb for dinner but yellowfin tuna were still missing. I got only a small one for sashimi of about 20lb on popper. Compared to the slow offshore bite the fishing inshore was still good. We caught numerous cubera snapper up to estimated 55lb. We spend a lot of time trying to catch them with surface lures but we got only one small one on popper and one other one following the lure back to the boat but we still had the best action with putting out pieces of bonito and drifting over some rocky structure underwater.
The Blue Jacks we caught were remarkably big this time and gave us some nice action on the light gear and at night we got some horseeye Jacks right from our barge to end up the day. There could have been no better way to end up a nice day in paradise!

A personal highlight for me was the catch of an estimated 35lbs rooster, which gave me an awesome hard fight on the light setup. I still can’t get the pictures out of my mind how the fish was following the lure for about 20m like a fox on the hunt for a rabbit to finally engulf it completely. The pure power of these majestic fish and to hold it in your hands after a successful fight is hard to explain. Something to really get addicted to!!

The end of the week came way to early again and the last half a day we spend lighttacklefishing around the islands where we started from the barge on our first day. Three smaller rooster showed some interest in our lures and followed them to the boat but unfortunately we couldn’t get tight. A bunch of sporty sierra mackerels and around 30 medium sized jack crevalle made this day very entertaining.

Although this was a relatively slow bite for Panamanian circumstances this destination stays a unique fishing destination. The unbelievable opulence of fish and number of species was again fascinating for me. This was definitely not my last visit to this one of our last fishing paradises of the world.


Species being caught during this trip:
- Sailfish
- Dorado (Mahi Mahi)
- Yellowfin Tuna
- Bonito
- Cubera Snapper up to est. 55lb
- Mullet Snapper
- Rock Snapper
- Roster Hind Grouper
- Crevalle Jack
- Blue Jack
- Horseeye Jack
- Rooster up to est. 35lb
- Rainbow Runner
- Barracuda
- Sierra Mackerel
- Needlefish