Panama Adventure

The focal point of the trip was to fish the mysterious Coiba Island and Hannibal Bank regions on the Pacific side of Panama, each having a fabled history surrounding the amount of fish species they offer to the traveling angler.  The possibility of catching a dozen species of fish on a fly rod blew my mind.  Needless to say, I was pumped for this trip. I was joined by five other hardcore fishermen.

We met the Pesca Panama crew and their fleet of 27’ Ocean Masters in the city of David to get transferred down the Chiriqui River to board “the Hannibal.”  After the scenic boat ride, I arrived at the barge where I was to spend the week.  The crew was quick to help me get my luggage on board and take it to my cabin. 

The food on the boat was outstanding. Each day started off with a hearty breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, juices, local Panamanian coffee, cereal, or eggs to order.  After fishing, I grabbed a well-deserved cocktail from the fully stocked cash bar along with appetizers of ceviche or sashimi prior to dinner being served.  

Out of all the fantastic meals that I had, the one that topped them all was the fresh tuna steak.  Each thick steak was marinated and prepared to everyone’s liking, served with mixed garlic vegetables and potatoes. Dinner was then followed up by dessert which was always a treat and a perfect way to end the day. 

Following each day of fishing, we discussed what worked well that day, shared bad jokes, and determined what the plan was for the next day.  Most of the days started by chasing a school of bonito to use for bait depending on the game plan, but the captain would do whatever you wanted to do. 

A couple of the days started by fishing inshore and throwing flies to structure or submerged rock formations, which was my favorite.  It was not out of the ordinary to have four or five snapper all jockeying to eat my fly.  Snapper wasn’t the only species to eat a fly.  In the week that I was there, I knocked eight species off of my bucket list (cubera snapper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail, jack, pompano, bluefin trevally, cuda, hound fish) and that was just on a fly.

Their five Ocean Master boats were perfect for whatever style of fishing you wanted to do (troll, cast plugs, jig, fly), as each captain and mate were comfortable doing any method.  They truly wanted to please the fisherman; they consistently asked if we needed anything (water, snacks, cerveza, etc.). 

The highlight of my trip, however, came in the middle of the week.  As we were trolling along one of the numerous beaches in hopes of roosters, we noticed a flock of frigate birds on the horizon dropping into the water for their next meal.  As we approached the commotion, we quickly figured out that a school of jack crevalle was busting baitfish.  We pulled up along the beach where the action was happening, hauled a crease fly in the mix of baitfish, and instantly hooked a jack.  Once I got the fish to the boat and released it, the action had moved down the beach near the mouth of a river.  As I was false casting to the boiling water of baitfish getting bombed by frigates and jack, I noticed a large object that appeared to be a log.  The log turned out to be a crocodile that joined the blitz to snatch whatever he could.   To see the food chain work right in front of your eyes was a sight I will never forget.  I made my second cast to the blitz and again instantly hooked up.  Catching jack on a fly was something I could have done all night but the sun was fading and we still had to make our way back to the barge.  

My first trip to Panama was a huge success!  Even though the fishing was considered by the captains to be “slow”, it was still off the charts!  Panama truly lived up to its meaning, “abundance of fish.”   And will definitely be on my list to fish again.  If you like throwing big flashy streamers, Panama is for you….