Every fisherman in the world has the same question. “When is the best time to go fishing?”

Every fisherman in the world, deep down in his soul, also knows the answer to this question. Fundamentally the answer is always the same.

“When is the best time to go fishing?” Every chance you get.

It’s a solid life plan to go fishing whenever you have the opportunity. This is especially true when the fishing trip involves staying at a beachfront cabin on a private island—while eating incredible food.

The answer about timing becomes a bit more nuanced when the question is posed a bit differently. “When is the best time to go black marlin fishing?” “When is the best time to go yellowfin tuna fishing?” “When is the best time to catch roosterfish?” 

The answers to these questions can help you plan your 2024 visit to fish with us. If the dates you’re after are booked this year, reserve them for 2025. Before getting too far into the details, there are a few fundamental things about the fishing here that you might want to consider.

For more than a decade our team has been making fishing dreams come true for guests from all over the world. We’d love to do the same for you. Here’s a special invitation….

A Great All-Around Experience

Before getting into the specifics of “high seasons” and best times for this and best times for that, we’d like to offer a bit of background. The Gulf of Chiriqui, the place that we fish, is home to some of the best sportfishing opportunities in the world.

It is one of the best places to catch black marlin and big yellowfin tuna in the world. It is also among the best places on Earth to target big roosterfish and big cubera snapper. We are blessed by not only an incredible array of targets, but by the ability to consistently produce well-rounded, quality fishing trips throughout the year.

whale tail in water in panama

This is an important consideration. After all, you can never guarantee that on a given day that we will catch a marlin, a tuna or a roosterfish. But because the area is so diverse and the fishing is so good, we are consistently able to produce great trips for our clients.

The great experiences are not only a function of the fishing. The places we fish are beautiful. We get to see all kinds of natural beauty. Our chef keeps the sashimi coming and the coolers stay full of cold beer. The experience is kind of like what you might expect from an all-inclusive resort, only with great fishing and more fun.

A Bit of a Qualifier

This type of perspective is also important when considering “best times” or “high seasons.” The Pacific Ocean is a big place. The fish that we target are pelagics—they travel thousands of miles over the course of their lives.

The same powerful tails that propel marlin out of the water when hooked take them thousands of miles across open ocean.

Where fish like marlin, tuna and sailfish take themselves is a function of many things. Water clarity, the presence of bait, and currents. The ocean is a dynamic environment that is changing all of the time. A school of yellowfin that is here today, might be 50 miles away tomorrow.

When we talk about best time to catch this or that, it is based on our experience and when the fish tend to be most prevalent in our corner of the world. While it generally rings true year to year, fishing is far from a sure thing.

While we can’t promise that you’ll catch 9 black marlin if you come down during the “best time to catch black marlin,” we can promise that we’ll be rigged, ready and prepared when the opportunity arises. We can also guarantee that our lodge, fishing team and culinary crew will provide the type of experience that’s been bringing clients back to fish with us year after year for more than a decade. 

With that background and qualifier, here’s a breakdown of what to expect and when. Come fish with us… 

November and December: Great All-Around Months

Ho ho roosterfish!

If you live in the Northeast or Midwest, November and December are great months to come down to Panama. The weather back home includes wintry mix and extended cold.

The forecast in Panama? Tropical and awesome. The only thing cold here is the case of beer in the cooler on the boat.

No matter where you live, November and December are great fishing months. The black marlin are here in numbers. They’re congregating around Hannibal Bank and other high spots and eating the swarms of black skipjack that hang around these pinnacles from November through January.

The consistent presence of bait on structure is ideal for live baiting. We can typically catch bait and deploy it, without spending time looking for the action.

Dorado come through in waves. Their presence can be harder to predict than other species, but when there’s bait around, you can usually figure that these voracious animals are not far away.

November and January are also peak months for roosterfish and cubera snapper. Roosters are here year-round, but the fishing for these beautiful creatures is best from November through January. Cubera fishing peaks November through March of each year. 

Yellowfin Tuna Fishing

Yellowfin tuna are here year round. Their consistent presence, and the size that we catch, are one of the things that make the Gulf of Chiriqui such a world class fishery.

Peak time for yellowfin typically runs from around Mid-April through August. This is the time of year when we are most likely to encounter tuna frenzies—when yellowfin stack up bait balls on the surface. This is perhaps the most exciting thing the world and it produces incredible fishing. It’s pure chaos and its awesome.

We catch lots of tuna throughout the year. A good one is 200-pounds, but we catch plenty of fish that are bigger than that. 

Black Marlin Fishing

Black marlin season has two peaks. That said, we catch plenty of them beyond these windows. When we find a ball of bonito that look fishy, we’ll deploy live baits around it no matter what the calendar says.

For the purposes of planning, November through January are great black marlin months. This time of year there are lots of bonito around high spots. With bait holding consistently on fixed structure, these months can produce some great marlin fishing.

July and August are really good black marlin fishing months too.  This is the other peak.

Beyond these windows, we also catch quite a few of these fish on May and into June. If you’re keeping score, that ticks most of the calendar. That’s why we’re always rigged and we’re always ready. If we come upon black marlin feeding on bait or see a free jumping marlin or two, our boats are always prepared.

That’s one of the wonderful things about marlin fishing here. Any day could be the day.   

Inshore: Roosterfish and Cubera Snapper

Roosterfish and cubera snapper are not simply the headliners of the inshore fishing in Panama, but two of the most highly prized inshore gamefish in the world. The Gulf of Chiriqui is among the best places in the world to target these fish—especially if you’re after big ones.

Both cubera snapper and roosterfish are here year-round. The best time to catch them coincides with the peak of black marlin season from November and into March.

A good roosterfish in this part of the world runs in the range of 50-60 pounds. We catch plenty of fish that are this size, and some that are quite a bit bigger.

A good cubera for our guests runs in the range of 60 pounds. As with roosterfish, we catch plenty of this size of snapper as well as some that are really big.  These fish are amazing and powerful. They have giant teeth that can maul a bonito. If you’re lucky enough to have a cubera eat a popper, it looks like a hand grenade exploded on the surface of the water.

Come Fish with Us

2024 is a big year for the Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge. We fish four boats these days and many months in 2024 are largely booked to capacity. If you’re super serious about catching a certain species, you might consider booking sooner than later.

We hope that this calendar provides some guidance about what’s around here and when. That said, the best time to go fishing is when you have the opportunity. We’d love to take you fishing anytime you can make it.

We catch most all of the fish listed above in just about every month of the year. We also catch plenty of fish that we didn’t discuss—blue marlin, sailfish, wahoo, and others. Our corner of the world is a fisherman’s paradise and we’d love to show you around.

The first step is a phone call. Contact us today.