Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui is one of the premier saltwater sport fishing destinations in the world! A remote tropical environment, home to more than 20 Pelagic and Inshore game fish species. No big industrial commercial fishing operations, and governmental protection of all billfish are a few of the reasons why Panama fishing is so great. Epic Marlin and Tuna action at nearby Hannibal Bank and awesome Inshore fishing right at our doorstep are just a couple of reasons why Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge is the ideal island location.
The Gulf of Chiriqui’s diverse fishery is remarkable because of it’s unique bathymetry, dominated by undersea structure and currents. These banks and pinnacles around the various island groups, like the fishing grounds at the famed Hannibal Bank and near Isla Montuosa, are fed by the nutrient rich waters of the Humboldt Current. This strong underwater current flows north, along the west side of South America, up into the Gulf of Chiriqui. This drives the cold, nutrient-rich water from the ocean floor bringing it to the surface. These nutrients support abundant microscopic life, which in turn supports a chain of ever-larger baitfish bringing the larger predatory Pelagics here to hunt. It’s the perfect environment for more than 20 game fish species we catch here. It is common to come across huge schools of boiling Yellowfin Tuna or to see Black Marlin exploding on the surface feeding on these offshore banks. The scenic inshore fishery presents seemingly endless opportunities as well. Miles and miles of rocky coastline surround our lodge on Isla Paridas and the many island groups that are encompassed within the Gulf of Chiriqui. These spots are the perfect environment for large predators to thrive, and are only a short boat ride from our island lodge.
The fishing regulations in Panama are the strictest of all Central American countries. These laws regulating commercial fishermen insure the future sustainability of our fishery. The Panamanian government realizes that the sport fishing tourist dollars are stronger and more important than the exporting of dead fish. Panama passed into law on August 20, 1997, Executive Decree No.33, protecting all billfish species in the Republic of Panama. The law prohibits killing of any billfish including Black Marlin, Blue Marlin, Striped Marlin, White Marlin, Spearfish, Sailfish, and Swordfish. Further it state that these fish are reserved for sport fishing only by catch and release. This Panama fishing law additionally prohibits the commercial export of any billfish caught in Panamanian waters. The government also banned large industrial long-lining operations, and Yellowfin Tuna purse seiners. Panama’s Executive Decree 486 signed into law on Dec. 28, 2010, prohibits longline vessels of over six tons from operating within our waters. Due to this lack of heavy fishing pressure the offshore fishing action here is legendary! Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge is also committed to the sustainable use and conservation of our fishery and all of the precious natural resources. We’d like it to be enjoyed for our family’s generations to come. We practice catch and release of all Billfish, Roosterfish and only keep fish we intend to eat. The rest are released to fight another day!
Our private island lodge is located 12 miles off the Pacific coast of Panama on Isla Paridas. Our centralized location, in the heart of the Gulf of Chiriquí, is one of the greatest advantages we have over the other lodges on the mainland. We are 45 minutes closer to the offshore action at all the hotspots such as Hannibal Bank and Isla Montuosa! Exploring the numerous island groups here in the Gulf of Chiriqui such as Isla Ladrones, Islas Secas, and Isla Coiba is very easy from our Panama fishing lodge. We also have great inshore fishing right at our doorstep here at Isla Paridas!
Our fishing “season” typically runs from November through August. These months typically have the calmest seas due to being the height of the “dry” season. This is also when the majority of bait is concentrated at the many fishing grounds in the Gulf of Chiriqui. When there is bait around…the large predators we are hunting will not be far behind! The Black Marlin, although caught here year-round, concentrate in larger numbers following the bait as their food source starting in November. Pacific sailfish that top the 100-pound mark move in to join the feeding frenzy, generally starting in December. Shortly there after the large pods of Porpoises, with huge schools of Yellowfin Tuna, move in and invade the Gulf of Chiriqui. Also year round residents, but the peak Tuna bite occurs February through August as they work together with their friends the Porpoises, feeding on spawning baitfish, squid, and crabs. 50 to 80-pound Tunas are the norm while 100 to 200-pound plus cows are common. Dolphin or “Dorado” are encountered any day of the year. The biggest bulls are often encountered November through March, while trolling larger offerings for billfish or near floating debris. Inshore species include Cubera Snapper, Roosterfish, Grouper, Spanish Mackerel, Blue/Black Trevally, African Pompano, Amberjack, and Almaco Jack. Inshore fishing seasonal like the offshore scene, and is a great option for our anglers when the “bite” offshore is slow or anglers who are looking to specifically target inshore species.
Popping, jigging, artificials, live bait, or dead bait. The species targeted, and what most interests our client is really what dictates what bait, gear, tackle and method we will fish. Our boats are ready and fully equipped with all top-of-the-line tackle and gear needed for any situation. We want to make our client’s Panama fishing experience the best it can be and get our clients ‘hooked up’ whatever it takes.
Our preferred, and without a doubt the most productive, method of fishing Panama at Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge is using live bait. Bridling live Blue Runners (Green Jacks), Bonitos, Skip Jacks, Little Tunnys, Sardines, and small bait sized Tunas, is the ticket to catching big fish. Whether it be Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, Roosterfish, or Cubera Snapper a bridled live bait is like candy to these guys when in Panama fishing! Blue Runners, or sometimes called Green Jacks, are our staple bait. Readily available near the lodge, we generally have Blue Runners caught and ready in our pens to fill the livewell for the next day’s fishing. Sometimes bait is scarce and/or difficult to catch around the island so we have to go out in search of other types of bait or just go find it in different areas.
The type of fish we are targeting, the area we are fishing, will determine exactly how we will present our live baits. For example…targeting inshore species like Cubera Snapper and Almaco Jacks at an underwater seamount… we drift live Blue Runners over the “high spots” by dropping down live bridled Blue Runners with weights and also by setting out bridled baits without weight…to see what is most productive. If we are at Hannibal Bank and fishing for Marlin and/or any other Pelagic species…we will normally fish two bridled Blue Runners on the outriggers and two bridled Bonitos on the flat lines. This combination of different types of live baits gives us a great shot at any of the fish that may be hunting in the area.
Another common example of live baiting techniques, is setting baits in front of a feeding school of Porpoises with Yellowfin Tunas. Of all the types of Panama fishing this is by far the most exciting! We run and position the boat in front of a working pod of feeding Porpoises and Tunas to drop a rigged live Blue Runner, Bonito, or whatever live bait is available in front of them. It is hard to hold back the emotion for anyone, and not at least crack a smile…as the frenzied mass of diving birds, busting Tunas, and rolling Porpoises moves toward us. Time seems to stand still for just a moment as we wait for a Tuna to inhale one of our baits. Hooking up on a Tuna in the middle of a feeding frenzy is an exciting experience for any fisherman. Tuna fishing doesn’t occur this way very many places in the world. But every year, like clock work (between the months of March to June) Tuna frenzies like this happen pretty much on a daily basis in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama.
Nothing gets anyone’s blood boiling quicker than a top-water attack on a popper! And fishing here in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama is without a doubt a popping paradise. We always keep a rod armed and ready with a popper…as many opportunities arise during the day’s fishing where casting a popper can pay big dividends. Throwing poppers while slow trolling live baits along the many rocky shorelines of inshore territory, for species like Roosterfish and Cubera Snapper, can produce vicious strikes. The chance to cast a popper into a boil of frenzied Yellowfin Tunas offshore will surely result in a top water explosion and blistering run. And be sure to keep your eyes open. If we spot any floating logs or debris offshore you may get your chance to sight cast to a big Dorado. Hold on!