Hooked black marlin rising to the surface with lure in mouth

Marlin Fishing in Panama at Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge

Marlin fishing in Panama at the Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge, the closest lodge to the marlin hotspots in the Gulf of Chiriqui, consistently produces.  We are closest to the marlin hotspots at the Hannibal Bank, Isla Montuosa, and the 100 fathom line that runs along the southern edge of the Gulf of Chiriquí. These locations consistently tend to be the best areas to find Black and Blue Marlin. The underwater bathometry (or bottom structure) at these offshore spots rises up from thousands of feet and provides cover and slack current that baitfish like to congregate near. These baitfish are the staple food of these big Pelagics. And, when there is food around…chances are that the Marlin will be too!

Mate holding large black marlin alongside the T.O.P. CAT, with excited angler giving thumbs up sign
Close up of black marlin alongside the T.O.P. CAT, after being tagged and ready for release

Although we catch Black Marlin every month of the year, the best time for Marlin here tends to be November through February and July through September. November though March we see the most quantity of Marlin while Panama Marlin fishing. Black Marlin, Blue Marlin, (the occasional Striped Marlin), and also Pacific Sailfish are found in numbers these months around the bait concentrations at Hannibal Bank and Isla Montuosa. July through September, the beginning of the “wet season”, tend to be great months for BIG Black Marlin. We see many these months at the “high spots” around Hannibal Bank and Isla Montuosa as it is believed to be the time when the big Females come around to spawn. Also a good time to fish…as there is less boat traffic offshore this time of year.

Hooked black marlin airborne in the Gulf of Chiriqui

We use a few different methods here when Panama Marlin Fishing: live bait, dead bait, or trolling artificial lures. Depending on the conditions, all of these methods can be highly effective. Most Marlin fishing days usually go like this… On our way to the fishing grounds we will always keep our eyes open in hopes of spotting baitfish. If baitfish such as Bonitos, Skip Jacks, or small Yellowfin Tunas present themselves we will try to catch a number of them and store them in our Tuna Tubes. The Tuna Tubes are a type of live well that will keep the baits alive until we go to fish with them. If we are lucky enough to find, catch, and fill our Tuna Tubes with enough baits then we will go and scout out a “fishy” area. Once we have determined the area to fish we’ll rig the live baits and slow troll them in hopes of attracting a Marlin to eat. And nothing is more exciting than watching a Marlin rising up and crash a live bait! If the live bait method is not productive then we have the option to troll a combination of dead baits (rigged Ballyhoo) and artificial lures. Trolling artificials, in conjunction with rigged Ballyhoo, is just as effective as live bait. It gives us the ability to cover larger areas to find the fish as we troll much faster than we would with live baits. It is still common, and equally exciting, to see a Marlin come up behind a trolled artificial lure but you have to pay close attention as the action happens much faster!

Black marlin trying to throw lure and jumping in Gulf of Chiriqui
Black marling alongside the T.O.P. CAT, tagged, and ready for release
Mate holding black marlin alongside the T.O.P. CAT, ready for release - Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge
Mate holding black marlin, ready to release

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